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Don't Blame the Internet for the Post Office Blues

Don't Blame the Internet for the Post Office Blues
Photograph by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

As the U.S. Postal Service, running enormous deficits, closes processing centers, sells off real estate, and inexorably counts down to the day in August when it will cease Saturday mail delivery unless Congress intervenes, its senior leaders blame the Internet, Congress, almost everything but the Postal Service itself. Ah, the well-documented tendency to blame problems on the environment and attribute success to leaders’ brilliance. But the problem with the USPS, like problems with most businesses, is inside, not outside, the organization. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the USPS’s customer satisfaction is 75, well below the score for the consumer shipping industry, 82.

Wonder why its customer satisfaction is below competitors’? Here’s a recent experience I had (I’m sure every reader has his or her own example): I am at my local post office and there is no line—but then again, although there are two service windows open, there are no employees at either one. And why am I at the post office to buy stamps? Because the USPS has instituted a policy that it won’t accept checks for its stamps-by-mail program without printed addresses on the checks. This means I can buy a $20,000 Toyota Camry with a check, but not $36 worth of postage. In general, lines at the post office are long, service is poor, mail gets misdelivered, and, most significant, as a consequence the USPS is losing revenue and market share to its competitors.