April 04, 2001 11:00 pm

Postal Service

is at crossroads

Technology is changing the way Americans communicate, and the U.S. Postal Service is feeling the consequences. The Postal Service is struggling to find ways to survive financially, including looking at another increase in rates and eliminating Saturday service. At this stage of the game, finding solutions wont be easy.

Americans have come to take the U.S. Postal Service for granted. As much as we get frustrated with it, we still love it. Getting the mail is a daily ritual for most of us even though most of what we receive nowadays is bills and junk. We still expect the mail to be there every day. And most of us still appreciate a hand-written letter more than a quick message typed into a computer.

Through much of its history, the Postal Service charged but a few cents to carry a letter across the country and to get it there in three or four days. When the cost of a first-class stamp was 10, 15 or even 20 cents, no one complained. But now that the cost has gone from being able to send four or five letters for $1 to just three, people are more inclined to think twice about what constitutes essential mail and to look favorably upon other options such as e-mail and automatic payments. Its faster and you dont have to wait in line for stamps. Most folks dont stop to consider that they are paying $20 or so a month for the privilege.

The post office appears to be in a no-win situation. As much as people depend on and still look forward to receiving mail, higher rates are certain to convince more people to find electronic solutions to sending letters, cards and paying bills. And stopping mail delivery on Saturdays will make delivery even slower, resulting in more frustration with snail mail and more people turning to e-solutions. The Postal Service needs to be part of the solution.

Until the Postal Service finds ways to adapt, the only answer to rising rates and declining service may lie in making junk mailers pay more to deliver their messages to consumers messages that are clearly more effective in consumers hands than on computer screens. But first-class mailers shouldnt have to subsidize the rates junk mailers get to be able to do that.

Technology is changing the way information is delivered. Our institutions are having to change with it. And it appears the Postal Service has a lot of catching up to do.

Any ideas for USPS?

Do you have any ideas about what would help ensure the U.S. Postal Services survival considering changing technology and consumer habits?

Do we need daily mail delivery? How much are we willing to pay to have someone deliver mail to our homes?

Send in your thoughts and well include them in letters to the editor.