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U.S. Postal Service mail standards keep getting worse

Problems include services cut in rural areas but increase in big cities; processing facilities consolidated, impacting ability to meet delivery goals; new services that result in significant losses

by George Landrith     •     greenbaypressgazette.com


us postal service uspsThe U.S. Postal Service has served as a steady fixture in every American’s life. From the post office on Main Street to the postal worker who has delivered mail to our houses for 25 years, the U.S. Postal Service has been a dependable entity in our daily lives.

Recently, a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, met with the Postmaster General Megan Brennan to discuss a long list of USPS service complaints. At the top of the list was lagging delivery times that are continuing to get worse. As part of the evaluation process, Baldwin and the group maintain that declining postal standards and the consolidation of mail processing facilities is negatively impacting rural communities across their states.

Now, we undoubtedly have different means for many types of information sharing through the Internet. While many may rely on email and other Internet-based communications platforms, most still use the mail to send birthday cards or pay the mortgage and myriad other purposes.

Additionally, rural America still lags behind more urban areas in Internet use, which only makes USPS that much more important in many areas of the country.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York, while they are shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.

In recent years, the postal service has consolidated a Wisconsin processing center in Oshkosh, and the agency is also targeting the facilities in Wausau, Eau Claire, and La Crosse for the next round of closures. If each is consolidated, only six sectional center facilities will remain in the state.

Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many elected officials, including the group that met with the postmaster general this month, have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards.

In truth, USPS service standards have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. An example is the elimination of overnight delivery for local first-class mail that would arrive the very next day. Even worse, according to the USPS, first-class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within three to five days, failed to meet this standard for more than one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.

While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the USPS. Recently they expanded a service called Metro Post to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested — a 90 percent financial loss. Add this to other new ventures like grocery deliveries (their exclusive Amazon delivery deal) and a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend for the agency has been to cut back on standard mail service in order to move into other business ventures.

The U.S. Postal Service was created to provide letter mail delivery service to every American, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate. It is questionable whether or not postal customers are truly getting the service they pay for. Considering the stamp price increases, it is difficult not to wonder how much of those increases fund money-losing ventures like Metro Post in San Francisco.

Harking back to their clear core mission, as it is stated in the U.S. Constitution, mail delays should not be acceptable so that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver chocolates, flowers, or teddy bears in San Francisco.