OK, I don’t want to make light of a federal crime here so I’ll agree with the Postal Service: You better return that official USPS pen or mail tub that you swiped from the local branch.
Not only is our mail delivery system in disarray, but we (as in taxpayers) apparently spent nearly $50 million last year replacing stolen necessities. Not that taking advantage of the current amnesty period to return those items with no questions asked will bring financial solvency back. Nevertheless, check out more of the details below.
“We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense,” said David Williams, vice president of USPS network operations. “The equipment is federal property, and we want it back.”
The Postal Service is aggressively cutting costs with plans to close thousands of post offices and hundreds of mail-processing facilities. Observers expect that next week it will announce losses of at least $10 billion for fiscal 2011.
It is a federal crime to steal postal equipment, and doing so can lead to up to three years in prison or up to $250,000 in fines.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said that with more than 32,000 post offices and more than 200 mail-processing facilities nationwide, the USPS uses thousands of pallets (costing $20 each) to move crates of mail, letter trays ($2.75 each) and translucent mail tubs with “United States Postal Service” emblazoned along the side in black letters ($4 each).
The Postal Service said its amnesty program will run until Nov. 26. Customers can drop off equipment at post offices or mail-processing facilities, and organizations with large amounts of equipment can arrange for a one-time pickup.
I read a recent opinion piece in the The Washington Post about the U.S. Postal Service and the fact that no one can seem to figure out what to do to either make it a viable entity or replace it entirely.
A few interesting numbers in that story:
- USPS’s 574,000 employees trails only Wal-Mart among civilian employers
- Its more than 215,000 vehicles (the world’s largest fleet) travel 1.25 billion miles and use nearly 400 million gallons of fuel a year
- Total mail volume of 213 billion in 2006 dropped to 171 billion in 2010, with stamped mail declining 47% in the last decade
Beyond the numbers is the more troubling stance of the American Postal Workers Union, which would prefer to close its eyes rather than face reality:
On its Web site, the American Postal Workers Union disputes the notion that “hard-copy mail is destined to be replaced by electronic messages.” Mail volume was down, it says, because its principal component — advertising — had fallen in the recession. “As the nation and the world emerge from economic stagnation, hard-copy mail volume will expand,” it asserts. But that, of course, ignores the rise of the Internet, and its ever-growing use for checking bills or sending payments — with no need for that army of 500,000.
The Internet can’t be used to tele-transport packages, of course, and our use of package delivery services, including the Postal Service’s, has grown with e-commerce. But the Postal Service is running large deficits, bumping up against the $15 billion limit it is permitted to borrow, and is on the brink of default unless Congress comes to the rescue.
Is this where the Postal Service wants to make its stand, as a package delivery service, one among several providers? Does anyone really care whether the Postal Service or U.P.S. drops the package at the doorstep?