Monday, March 26, 2007

Mail Call

On the day the US Postal Service unveiled its Forever Stamp, a couple of months before the price of first class postage goes up another two cents, Randy Fuller e-mails a good suggestion:

In light of the internet, direct deposit and on-line bill paying, the daily mail has become mostly "junk" mail. Not 1 piece of mail that I receive is so important that it couldn't wait a day or so. So, instead of raising the rates, why not cut the service?

Make residential delivery every other day. 50% of homes would be delivered M-W-F and the other 50% T-Th-S. I see this as an economic and environmental move. The Postal Service could reduce their manpower greatly, maybe not by 50% but certainly by a respectable number; thus saving on the payroll. This could be done by attrition. They could then also reduce their vehicle fleet, vehicle fleet maintenance and the fuel consumption, probably by about 50%. Just think of how many gallons of fuel would be saved annually and how much the emissions from their fleet would be reduced.
I like the idea. We get very little personal mail at our house. Most of our bills now come via e-mail, and we handle them with online banking or electronic fund transfers, never seeing a piece of paper from those corporations. For the few companies that still handle business offline, I could wait another day to get their invoices. The same is true of the bulk of our other mail, which is, well, bulk mail. Junk mail. Never opened, straight into the trash, a waste of effort and time. Why is it so important I receive that everyday?

Don't take this as attack on letter carriers. I don't envy them the job, particularly those who walk their routes, which can be like doing a half-marathon every day. I have respect and admiration for what they do, and I know their industry has been affected by competition from UPS, FedEx, and DHL. But with so much business being done online, it wouldn't bother me a bit to have the mail delivered to my home on alternate days.

There's virtually no correspondence going on, with the exception of birthday greetings and holiday cards. Being a proud member of Boy World, I'd handle those occasions with a quick e-mail message -- my brother has no problem with me remembering the day of his birthday in the middle of my show and sending him a greeting via e-mail -- but my wife lives in Girl World, where doing so is still considered a major breach of etiquette.

Sending out cards also allows my wife to engage in stamp shopping, which is different in Girl World. You see, in Boy World, any stamp with the correct postage will do (I'm leaving out philatelists and the accompanying jokes). I'm happy to buy a roll of the standard self-adhesive US flag stamps, as long as they'll get the letter where it's supposed to go, and keep using them for years and years. I can honestly say that I have never looked at the stamp on any envelope or package I have ever received. In Girl World, that's a missed opportunity -- she'll go to the post office and spend several minutes considering the possibilities and then buying whichever stamps look prettiest. All hell will break loose when I mistakenly use one of the "pretty" stamps for something as mundane as a tax return or mutual fund deposit. To me, it's a financial transaction. To her, it's a statement of beauty.

It's been more than a generation since The Marvelettes, The Boxtops and RB Greaves had hit songs about letters and postmen, because technology has helped us move forward to quicker ways of communicating. Many of us don't even check the mailbox every day. Gone are the days when a kid would send a dozen cereal box lids to Battle Creek, Michigan, and then run to the mailbox each day after school to see if their Tony The Tiger whistle had arrived. Now, that kid is running inside to the computer to see how many friends have joined their MySpace page.

When we discussed this on my KMOX show this afternoon, I heard from several letter carriers who hated this idea, claiming it would mean they'd have to deliver double the amount of mail on those alternate days. The math on that doesn't make sense to me, and I'm sure the comments section will fill up quickly. Feel free to add yours as I put the question to you -- would you really mind not having the mail delivered daily?