In an effort to combat its budget deficit of over $1 billion, the United States Postal Service is, allegedly, trying to upsell its premium services while hiding its less expensive options.
According to an anonymous source, the USPS has instructed its employees to stop offering inexpensive shipping; whenever customers come in with anything larger than a letter, employees are supposed to ask if they want Express Mail guaranteed overnight delivery or Priority Mail. If the customer asks about cheaper options, the employee is then allowed to discuss First Class, Parcel Post, or Media Mail. The key element here is that the customer has to mention the cheaper options, as the counterperson can't.
When I first read about this decision, I was pretty depressed. I've always been a big fan of the Post Office; while the interminable lines can be a drag, there are always interesting "Wanted" posters to study, and the commemorative stamp collections are a fun thing to look at. Beyond that, Priority Mail is a pretty good deal, especially when compared to UPS, FedEx, and DHL. The post office employees are, generally, reasonably fun to deal with, at least when they aren't trying to sell me stamps, boxes, tape, and other fripperies in the government's version of "You want fries with that?"
More to the point, I've always appreciated the fact that the Post Office offers numerous options. When I was living off my eBay sales, Media Mail and First Class were lifesavers, and I could always count on Sean, my friendly neighborhood Post Office guy, to point me to the cheapest shipping option. Sean also was careful to let me scan over the computer's list of shipping options and prices, which helped me find the best deal. Somehow, I get the feeling that gagging Sean isn't going to help the Post Office prove to customers that it's a better deal than UPS!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. When he thinks about the new USPS rules, he feels really bad for Sean. Poor, poor Sean...
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