May
28

US House committee approves bill to curb doorstep mail delivery « Post & Parcel

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US House committee approves bill to curb doorstep mail delivery « Post & Parcel.

Normally, we permit groanable puns to go unrecognized.  But Post & Parcel’s headline editor has surpassed recognizable limits of what may be ignored.   A “curb”, as readers for whom the morass of English is a second language, functions as both a noun and a verb.  As a noun, it means a “limit” or “edge” of a road, usually a concrete or stone edging placed on the margins of streets and roads.  In fact, this is the locale to which the committee has agreed 1.5 million letterboxes may be exiled, in a bunch, so the letter carrier may more quickly (and economically) deliver to many addresses while actually standing in one spot.  These “clusters” of mail boxes have become a useful time and money saver, and most modern US housing developments, which are often constructed as cul-de-sacs, have “cluster boxes”.

But, digressing, we are absolutely positive that the US House committee would not have the available sense of humor to adopt a bill to “curb” doorstep mail delivery, especially when the proposal is to replace doorstep delivery with curbside delivery. And, one can’t move a doorstep to the curb.  And if you “curb” the doorstep delivery, you of course are stopping it, or dragging it kicking and screaming to roadside.  Congress could think of “substitute”, or “replace”, but “curb”?  No, no. Potentially humorous and can’t have that…After all, it could get even worse.

Yes, worse, because, you see, “curb” as a verb means to “limit” or “control”, as in dragging  your dog to the roadside so that he may accomplish what it would be inconvenient to have him accomplish on your own or your neighbor’s lawn.   Such an interpretation contains the potential for misunderstanding and finding of poor taste on the part of the lawmakers for having opened their work to an accusation that they disdained the mail which the letter carrier was delivering as so much “dog poop.” This  would be an unthinkable act of Congress.

So, as much as most of the long-suffering American electorate feels that all of Congress, or at least that part of it comprised of members from the other party,  should actually be “curbed” as you would your collie so that the products of their labors could be washed into the gutters, never to be seen again, Congress as a group would not.

And thus we complete our salute to the skill of Post & Parcel’s brilliant headline editor.

Turning to the adopted bill, we would support the union in its opposition to the bill.  Letter carriers play an important role in observing the well-being of many of our most exposed and delicate neighbors – the frail octogenarian, the veteran with limited mobility, the hard-pressed single mother with young children.  Letter carriers develop an instinct for “something isn’t quite right”.   We’ll lose that.  It is one of those un-valued social goods, or benefits, which form an important part of the USPS, in fact in any post that delivers to the residence.  Again we ask, as we have now for five years, what is the value of an address?  What are we losing in this change?

How much will this cost to implement?  Today, I pay for the letterbox on the curb myself, because I’m in a semi-rural area and the letterbox is on the roadside, a hundred yards from the house. By tradition in the US households pay for and install their own letterboxes.  But a move to cluster boxes would require the households to get together, agree model and color, and collectively fund the installation.  In the immortal words of the young woman resisting a young man, “Ain’t gonna happen.”  So, how much will this cost us ratepayers?  If done by the USPS, they will be sturdy, reliable, indestructible, and nearly immortal.  And expensive.  But if it’s going to get done, the post will have to do it.

And we have an address data concern.  The cluster box address is normally the address on the residence to which the cluster box relates.  However, it would not necessarily have to be.  The postal service could conceivably invent another form of addressing for cluster boxes and inform householders that henceforth they should use, for example, 102 Hill Street, instead of 12 Hill Street, because this would in some way create an efficiency for the postal service, such as making letter sorting faster.   In short, a drive to efficiency could rationally require a renumbering of the cluster boxes which would separate them in terms of identity and visual attachment from the residence.   Gone would be the marketing use of the residential address and data relating to it.  Gone would be the function of the address for emergency services.

Frankly, the USPS may be spending too much time and money tinkering with its delivery system.  Why doesn’t it start tinkering with its services and strengths?  Why doesn’t it provide digital services, like hybrid mail? It it’s going to provide one day service for parcel deliveries in urban areas, why doesn’t it do the same with letters?  Why not bring back telegrams?  Brazil Post makes a bundle with telegrams, used mainly by bill collectors, but also extremely effective as party invitations.  If done right, they’re capable of generating a flash mob!  And why not provide a real public service by providing basic, no frills financial services of a limited nature?  The poorest among us need that desperately.  And the USPS is perfectly positioned to provide that service, as the OIG’s paper on non-bank financial services has clearly demonstrated.

Cluster boxes. Way down near the bottom of our list of what the USPS should do.

 

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