The Solution to US Postal Service Bankruptcy

US Postal Service is in trouble. If Congress doesn’t infuse large amounts of cash into the system, US Postal Service will go bankrupt. That would make America the only civilized country in the world without a national parcel delivery system.

But, here’s the funny part. NOBODY CARES!

In this post, I will focus on the number one problem and the number one solution to USPS’s troubles.

Marketing

The problem USPS is facing is that of Marketing. Nobody cares about it going out of business because nobody cares about USPS.

There was a time where we didn’t have many alternatives. Ironically, USPS was effectively advertising it’s services back then.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.

Every school child in the 50s could have recited this back to you. Being a postman meant you were a respected member of the community. Postemen of yore were presented in hero-like stances a la military Generals. Postmaster General the First, Benjamin Franklin, has been mythologized across the ages for establishing the first incarnation of USPS. But that was then…

Nowadays, “going postal” means you’re about to shoot a bunch of folks with a Uzi and being a postman is as respected as being a junkyard owner.

The Solution?

Marketing.

If USPS want’s to stick around, she has to make us care about her existence. (yes, I’m referring to USPS as a “she”..I duno…it just fits).

Collectively, we need to start seeing Post Office as something we care about on a deep, emotional level. Something we can take pride in. Something that makes us feel different from UPS or FedEx.

If they can make us care, they may be able to stay. How?

Immortalize Me!

That’s right. Immortalize me.

If you want my business, put the one face I care most about on your stamp. ME!

In other words, why not allow people to make stamps in their own image? We have the technology.

How many corporations would buy a ton of postage to put their corporate logo on the stamp itself?

Is this the entire solution? Of course not. But this is the direction USPS must take if they are to survive the future.

Do you have a better idea?

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi :-)

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  • http://betsycross.blogspot.com Betsy Cross

    Is this what you mean? http://www.squidoo.com/custompostagestamps I didn’t read the whole thing. Maybe you can’t mail them? 

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      yup….thats exactly what I mean. And a couple of things jump out at me immediately.

      I checked USPS site last night to see if something like this was available. I couldnt find it. Fail.

      It’s not offered by USPS, it’s offered by 3rd party services. Fail.

      Their marketing effort to get this info out there has been non existent. Double Fail.

      John’s and Pam’s  comment above are a huge part of the problem as well.

      This is really too bad. No one wants to see a benevolent (and actually useful) institution disappear, but their execution and overall performance has been lackluster for decades. So sad.

      • http://betsycross.blogspot.com Betsy Cross

        So what you’re saying, that I totally misunderstood, is that if the USPS took this project under THEIR wings they’d be helping themselves out instead of letting a 3rd party profit from their lack of initiative.
        http://theworldlink.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_4ea1fb7c-cf4a-5117-b392-726c31d24ac1.html
        I thought that article was interesting. If it’s owned by the US government but not funded by it…? I wonder what is keeping the USPS from being an entrepreneurial-minded “business”. A law, rule,…?

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          USPS is ruled by Congress but it doesnt get our tax dollars. It’s in that weird space between a government institution and a private enterprise.

          So, they are not quite UPS or FedEx, but they are not gov-funded either. And because they are ruled by Congress (politicians) they are not performing well as a business. Well…thats 1 of their problems anyway…there are more :-)

          • http://betsycross.blogspot.com Betsy Cross

            My poor brain! Now I’ts stuck on fixing this. Makes me want to find a phone number and get something done. I can’t stand meetings that last more than 5 minutes w/o a plan to fix something. This makes me nuts. Thanks.

  • http://www.spanishhelpnow.com Cynthia

    I thought you could already personalize your postage:

    https://www.usps.com/send/design-mail-and-stamps.htm

  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    I agree 100%! I have always thought the same thing. 

    I have an addition: How about make me not feel like I am getting a root canal each time I need to go to the post office.” I truly dread it! 

    Thanks for making me laugh this morning Dino!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      LMAO….wow, that reminds me. There was this dbag at my post office and it was exactly like you described. Root canal every time I go there. So I would drive to further to the main post office just so I dont have to interact with that dude….yikes :-)

  • http://hypertransitory.com/ John Garrett

    Hey Dino!

    I agree that marketing is part of their problem, but another big problem is that they keep raising their prices and offering crap service.

    I understand because of competition from email, UPS and FedEx they’re losing business and they need to cover costs, but there’s a reason people are using these alternative services -they’re much more efficient and trustworthy for the money.

    Frankly if not for ebay I think the USPS would already be out of business.

    Get this, their “tracking” sucks. With UPS of FedEx I can track that thing damn near hour by hour. When I put in the tracking no. it will say something like “UPS worker Frank Jones is walking your package to the truck RIGHT NOW!!”

    But USPS? Man, you try to track it and you get vague, general, barely useful updates that are usually way off. they don’t want to be held to any standard.

    Sometimes I’m actually *holding* the package which has already been delivered. Then I check tracking, and it says it will be delivered in two days? No, it won’t! I’m opening it RIGHT NOW. Sheesh!

    I don’t think they will ever get the funding necessary to raise the quality of their service to a competitive level. Which is fine with me because I never choose to use USPS, only if a client or someone else decides to use them.

    When ordering something online, if USPS is the only option I think twice if I can get it from somewhere else.

    Finally, back to marketing -they refuse to own up to their unofficial motto, too! Why? that was the best thing they had going for them!

    http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/mission-motto.pdf (PDF)

    It’s funny how ebay and the USPS are so closely linked and yet they are both in a seemingly unstoppable slump…

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      wait…what? eBay is in a slump? i had no idea. #TotallySerious

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Meh. One of these days, we’re going to have to let a poorly run organization or nation fail. Might as well be the USPS. Close to a third of USPS revenue comes from what they call “standard mail.” You and I call it junk mail. It’s basically analog spam in your physical inbox.

    In my neighborhood, we have one of those community mailboxes, where every house gets a numbered box down the block. I check it maybe 2-3 times a month. Once, I let it go a long time and got a friendly warning on my actual front door advising, if I didn’t empty my mailbox, future mail would simply be returned to sender. Orlly?

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thats the problem with bailing out AIGs and car makers of the world. Drawing the line at USPS seams arbitrary, doesnt it?

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thats the problem with bailing out AIGs and car makers of the world. Drawing the line at USPS seams arbitrary, doesnt it?

      • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

        Yup, but just like all those bailouts, throwing resources at unaddressed symptoms doesn’t solve the problem. It’s sunk cost fallacy clear as day. If the product/service is no longer in sufficient demand to sustain the business, the business must shrink.

        When fewer people utilize the USPS, the solution is not bailing them out so they can maintain the excess capacity. And what’s the point of increasing junk mail volume so as to subsidize capacity? As First Class mail demand shrinks, will that revenue be replaced by additional bulk mail garbage? What happens when the USPS is reduced to an analog spammer; pushing unsolicited advertising on people?

        They could take a lesson from Deutsche Post – DHL.

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Meh. One of these days, we’re going to have to let a poorly run organization or nation fail. Might as well be the USPS. Close to a third of USPS revenue comes from what they call “standard mail.” You and I call it junk mail. It’s basically analog spam in your physical inbox.

    In my neighborhood, we have one of those community mailboxes, where every house gets a numbered box down the block. I check it maybe 2-3 times a month. Once, I let it go a long time and got a friendly warning on my actual front door advising, if I didn’t empty my mailbox, future mail would simply be returned to sender. Orlly?

  • http://www.balancedworklife.com/blog Bryce Christiansen

    Great post.  I never thought about USPS marketing, but it makes sense.  It just seemed like one of those things that would always be around.  They probably thought the same until they started failing.

    How would you suggest they market themselves?

    Bryce

  • http://www.balancedworklife.com/blog Bryce Christiansen

    Great post.  I never thought about USPS marketing, but it makes sense.  It just seemed like one of those things that would always be around.  They probably thought the same until they started failing.

    How would you suggest they market themselves?

    Bryce

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Honestly, I think it’s too late and it’s hopeless.

      They are a big, lazy, slugging organism with the personality to match. If USPS is to survive it would have to break free of congress which would then make them into another UPS or FedEx. Which may be their only chance.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Honestly, I think it’s too late and it’s hopeless.

      They are a big, lazy, slugging organism with the personality to match. If USPS is to survive it would have to break free of congress which would then make them into another UPS or FedEx. Which may be their only chance.

  • http://twitter.com/MaKBirch MaKenzie Birchell

    Pam nailed it.  Root canal.  I can MAYBE count on one hand how many times I’ve been to a post office in the last year, and every time the person is either rude, incompetent, or seems to speak little to no English.  Oh, and according to my sources they get paid a contradictory amount to do so. So yes, all that….. and marketing.  :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Post Office did metastasize, didnt it :-)

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

    Customized Stamps! That’s one hell of an idea. But I think the money they’re losing out on comes from the side of high-end delivery – overnight and 2-3 day stuff. That’s where the innovation needs to come in.

    If I need to 44 cent stamp something, I’m not giving anybody else this money because there’s no one else in the game of mailing a letter for that low of rate. Yeah, I can buy the same stamps from Fed Ex but they charge me more than the post office does so it’s gotta be an emergency for me to break down and ask them to stamp mail for me. Overnight and 2-3 day, they’re totally my guys.

    What the post office needs to do is find a way to do to Fed-Ex what Fed-Ex did to them — beat them at their own game. And this isn’t gonna be easy but not impossible. Other competitors have come at them and taken chunks of their business which really keeps them from going to sleep at the wheel like the Post Office did and let Fed Ex in.

    Be interesting to see what happens.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I think whats going to happen is that USPS will go out of business. At least I hope they will since Im a huge fan of disorder :-)

      As for the solution, I dont think customized stamps is the only answer, but I think many answers which incorporate something USPS has (prestige when my face is on a stamp) with what people want (but often dont know they want it) could help them out of this mess.

      I think the bottom line is that they will need creative ideas if they are to dig themselves out of this hole.

  • Glenn Street

    All good comments, but definitely a he. A she? No how, no way. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosfrog Jeff Davidson

    been done, forget where (I think cafepress does it) but there are places where you can create usable custom stamps

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      3rd party vendors offer it, but not USPS. They dont know what they have, thats the problem. Buying vanity stamps from stamps.com is just not the same as buying them from USPS.

      Thnx for chiming in, Jeff.

  • http://smartboydesigns.com Christian Hollingsworth

    Would it be such a bad thing if First Class mail was available to the free market and balanced itself anyways? Seems to me a waste for government to bail out something that’s not going to change, and fall back into bankruptcy yet again.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Maybe USPS either goes all government/tax funded and starts servicing rural areas only, or they go full corporate and start competing in the free market. This neither-here-nor-there BS is not working.

  • http://moneyandrisk.com Kim @Money and Risk

    Dino,

    I believe that the USPS is important to our country and its security. There are certain infrastructures that should be handled by the government to ensure continuity.  Our energy grid, water supply, mail/communications, etc are important. 

    The main problem for USPS is that they’re not allowed to operate in a businesslike manner.  I don’t expect constant profitability but breakeven is viable.  There are services that will always be a loss such as serving rural areas.  That’s what government is for, providing basic access.   

    Revenue dropped 50% and has been decreasing for years.  The Postmaster General has requested permission to layoff workers for a decade in response to the reduced need and have been denied every year.   The unions do not allow any reduction in the workforce except through retirement or natural attrition because someone left to get another job.  Almost half of the USPS workforce is redundant.  These are costs that they continue to carry for no reasons.

    Adjustments in routes and delivery are not allowed.  Automation and upgrades should be a key focus.  There are so many areas that the USPS could be relevant yet it’s not optimized nor integrated into our country’s needs in the future especially in the cloud area. 

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Cogent argument Kim. I couldnt agree more.

  • http://twitter.com/RoyGBryant Roy Bryant

    Its very easy to save the Post Office. Like our Federal, State and Local govts, the Unions are costing  the USPS way too much money for way too little work. Mandates by the Federal Govt are also killing the USPS. Get the Unions and Uncle Sam’s big noses out of  the works of this “Business” and they can get on with delivering the mail and saving money.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      yup…I agree. Can sit on two chairs with one ass lol

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    The USPS is important. Think senior citizens and social security checks. Organizations that are government run but not funded (such as USPS and Amtrak) never seem to work too well fiscally. The problem is that we’re a big country with lots of geographically remote regions. A business just wouldn’t bother (look at cell phone coverage maps), but the USPS needs to cover remote locations.

    Dino, your solution is brilliant. Too bad there isn’t an election for Postmaster General. I’d vote for you! :-)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      You got a shout out in my reply to Bojan above.

      I was in Montreal, CA recently, and found out that Canada has the approximately the same sized population as the state of California alone.

      Servicing that many people and in so many remote regions is a challenge on many levels, least of which is financial.

      Dino, the Postmaster General…it’s got a ring to it lol

      • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

        Thanks for the shoutout, General Dino! So, how does Canada run their postal service? Is it government sponsored? Do they have less of an issue with alternate carriers?

        England has a population of about 60 million in a much more concentrated territory, but the Royal Mail is struggling fiscally as well. They close local post offices (which are often in the back of convenience stores) regularly. 

        You have definitely picked an interesting topic! 

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          Canadia is definitely an interesting example. They dont have the volume but they do have the distance. Their economy is healthier overall, and they are really really good are allowing the government to run healthcare (free) and postal services.

          So, as far as I know, they’re not struggling.

          As for England; US and England are tied together with an invisible umbilical cord. Its kinda scary.

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    @dinodogan:disqus This is interesting point of view. But as an economist I have to disagree. If the business can’t thrive on it’s own, then it shouldn’t be in the business, and all those fancy resources should go elsewhere.
    It’s a good thing that USA had great postal service, but why would people still invest time and energy into something they don’t use, and when there are better alternatives for those moments when we actually need to send something in physical form.

    Just my two cents. Efficiency over poetic sentiments :)

    Although I am really grateful to USPS, it’s gonna change my life and saved me tons of cash.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Vozdrica Bojane, kako stoje stvari :-)

      USPS is not fiscally sound and thats exactly why it’s needed. Carolyn makes that point cogently below.

  • http://www.givejonadollar.com/ Give Jon a Dollar

    We don’t need a government run postal service.  Furthermore, it will never beat the free market in the long run. Google “Lysander Spooner” to see why.

  • http://androidphotoart.com Keith Bloemendaal

    Screw the Post Office, I say let the free market dictate what happens to it!

  • http://paramountessays.com/ essay help

    good post! very nice blog!

  • http://adamsokoloff.com AdamSok

    Dino, I think you make a very good point.  Hell, everything else in the USA is practically branded.  Why not the USPS?

    In addition, what if they could put some effort on to content marketing?  Start some small business and consumer focused blogs?  What are they really doing to engage their customers and community? Unfortunately…zilch!

    Good thoughts here man! -Adam

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx Adam,

      They are doomed unfortunately, 4% of highschoolers think USPS is already out of business. Ref: aweber.com study shows.

  • http://templates.motocms.com/ Nick

    I don’t have any words to appreciate this post…..I am really impressed ….the person who created this post surely knew the subject well..Thanks 

  • http://www.TrafficGenerationCafe.com/ Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

    Good points, Dino. Except for the chauvinistic reference of the PS being female! :-)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      hehe…I know you’re joking, but by what leap of logic is USPS being referred to as a female chauvinistic?

  • http://fingercandymedia.com/ Jessica Northey

    You are all about Badassery! putting peoples faces on stamps BRILLIANT. 

  • http://www.highballblog.com Constantin Gabor

    You know what? You should put up a PayPal button saying: “If you’re a company reading this and find this idea good enough to implement it – please pay for the consultancy services I’ve just offered (4 figures minimum amount)”.

    Awesome idea, Dino!

    The problem with postal services in my country is that the service sucks big time. People are not smiling, in fact there are some operators at the custom office (where I get my stuff from Amazon) that seem to have followed “The University of Hatred and Non-Smiling”. Shit, I feel terrible interacting with them. They wouldn’t help you with anything…

    I was reading a branding book wrote by Romania’s no1 expert (Aneta Bogdan from Brandient) and she says that a company has to deliver it’s core service impeccably and that in itself can build a solid brand.  Then you ad on top of that personality (see MailChimp), communication strategy, extra services (Zappos), etc.

    The postal service fails to deliver the core service, not to mention the rest. Maybe USPS needs marketing, but Romanian postal service needs to get those parcels delivered fast and in good condition in the first place, and of course fire those arrogant asses and hire new friendly and smart people. 

  • http://webpromoexpert.com seo company

    I’m in shock!!!! You have a talant in writing skills! Amazing article!

  • http://www.demandprints.com Brandon@DemandPrints

    I hope they don’t close on Saturdays like they planned. That would kill Netflix even more than what Netflix did to itself. I wish they would open on Sundays!

  • http://pioneeroutfitters.com/AlaskaChickBlog/ Amber-Lee Dibble

    FANTASTIC idea! Wow. Dino, you are right, straight across the board. It would have to be one of the only ways that they will survive. But “something to take pride in” makes me sad on one level. I feel that too many Americans have forgotten their pride in anything that starts with United States. How can we fix that? ~Amber-Lee

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I think what you’re talking about is patriotism. I think what Im talking about is vanity.

      I think a combination of the two might do the trick but patriotism angle is bit slippery. It gets instilled in people and we all have a base level. It takes a 9/11 to change that. So, not sure how effective patriotism would be tho I think it can/should be incorporated with other triggers.

      For example. Why do writers publish books with book publishers? It makes no sense anymore economically. You can sell less and make more going the independent route. So why go the traditional publisher route?

      The answer is Prestige. It’s much easier to get secondary bookings (speaking engagements, TV appearances, etc) if you can say “Im a published author”…saying “I’m a self-published author” just doesnt have the same gravitas lol

      So the USPS has that certain something that traditional book publishers have, and they should bank on it, thats all Im saying….but they wont, because it’s a sudo-government institution and the wouldnt know creativity if it bit them on the ass.

      • http://pioneeroutfitters.com/AlaskaChickBlog/ Amber-Lee Dibble

        Dude. You just HAVE to meet my Dad. I bow to you, oh, wise one.

  • Cynthia

    As I trudged thru a snowstorm last week, past my closed local post office, “neither rain, nor snow….” sprang to mind. I feel no pity for them. They’re an anachronism that’s sapping our tax dollars. And… I’m annoyed that they don’t sell ASPCA stamps anymore!

  • Vneagle_11

    Yes !!
    – Close unnecessary USPS  centers which could be covered by the next closest ones.
    – Cut pay from the top – CEO to the lowest paid employees – 1/3 of their salaries.
    – Cut in half  payments those USPS retirees have been receiving.
    – No more insurance free coverage for retirees. Lets them purchase insurance either by Medicare or    private insurance
    – Do away 1/3 and  (+) of present delivery trucks and replace them with motocycles with small side carriers to save gasolines.