Who Wins? Who Loses? The Post Office?

How can the best and most reliable federal agency lose so much money?

I am not personally a fan of the throw-away culture that has developed in the world. The willingness to spend more money on a quality long-lasting item has been replaced by the desire to get something for as little money as possible. This means that manufacturers meet that demand for low-cost products, by making them cheap. To be more precise, I don’t mean they manufacture them at a low cost, I mean they are made with poor materials, and with poor designs. Cheap quality.

They know that the lifespan is short and their customer base is perfectly happy to just buy another one when this one breaks. I do my best to not be part of that mentality. Being a tinkerer by nature helps because I have no problem taking stuff apart to examine it. Recently one of those small aromatherapy vaporizers stopped working. Of course, being me, I investigated and after some short troubleshooting I found the problem not to be with the complication part in the middle that does work of making the vapor, but just the fan.

Here is where things got interesting, the fan was a standard part. It could be picked up at any electronics supply or computer tech store. (A 404010 12v in particular) This surprised me in two ways. One, using a standard part saves money, and two, it was easy to replace. For a $20 item, I was not expecting either of those things to be true. I could put this little trinket back into service for a small price.

The CDC has asked me to stay at home unless it is for necessary business. Fixing a little vaporizer is not that, so I needed to get my part elsewhere. Here is where the COVID-19 winner steps in. Since it is a standard part it is available in an amazing number of online shops. Whom do they all use to ship you a package with a fan? the United States Postal Service.

Who delivered to me the small fan to fix my thing? The USPS. This is one place that the Post Office is winning. COVID-19 has created a surge of shipping traffic because people are staying home and doing more and more shopping online. Shipper of choice for those companies that deal in small parts like the one I needed? Yep, the Postal Service. They are efficient speedy, and relatively speaking, affordable. So the Post Office is winning this pandemic. Or is it?

The USPS makes money on every package it delivers, but I would hardly call it profitable, especially in the age of the internet. Yet, because of the pandemic, even with the surge in additional packages delivered (one-third of every Amazon package for example) former postmaster general told a congressional committee way back in April that the new coronavirus alone could mean $13 billion in lost revenue this year.

The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, spoke to Federal News Network about the initial challenge of getting enough personal protective equipment for its employees. There are also other long term financial challenges that could mean the USPS exhausts its operating budget for next year. The incoming postmaster says “long-term USPS sustainability depends on the agency maintaining its reputation as the most trusted and respected agency in the federal government”

I trust the post office. Dozens of online shops I deal with also trust the post office. They win COVID-19 and they lose COVID-19. It isn’t a landslide victory, but there are more packages in my mailbox than coming out of the big brown trucks. While USPS leadership and Congress have called for restructuring the agency’s long-term business model, DeJoy said he will help the Postal Service develop a business operating model that will allow it to meet its universal service obligation and put it on a “trajectory for success.”

All my packages come on time, and my letters (yes I still write letters by hand because you should too) make it to their destination when expected. I feel good when I put something in the mailbox, it has a little nostalgia attached to it, and when you get a personal letter it is frankly a little exhilarating because it just shows how much someone cared. If I still sold things on eBay I would still use the USPS. One day I’ll reopen my Etsy shop, and I’ll use the USPS there too. In my mind, they are already the most trusted and respected agency in the federal government.

Oh, and I fixed that vaporizer. It works like new again.

Cover photo by Yannik Mika on Unsplash

Author: Phillip

Phillip is a dad of three boys and married to a beautiful dedicated woman. An aspiring artist and science fiction author. He has been an IT professional for the past 15+ years. He is currently working on a full-length sci-fi novel, but he also makes small drawings/watercolors for his school-age son's lunchbox and occasionally pretends to be a comedian. He also still struggles with putting two spaces at the end of sentences.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: