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The 10-Year Plan and The Virtual NPF

The unrelenting impact of the pandemic caused the National Postal Forum to be virtual again in 2021 – actually as two online events, one last spring and a second last month that coincided with National PCC Week.

However, the September session’s presentations offered less than the usual wide variety of topics and instead were dominated by a Postal Service multi-part infomercial touting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year Plan.  From the opening session to individual panel discussions, viewers were repeatedly presented with scripted “conversations” in which the PMG was fed softball questions, all designed to elicit planned answers that framed the Plan and its contents in the most favorable terms.

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USPS Claims Service Improvements

Anyone even marginally attentive to USPS service performance knows that, over the past year, the agency has struggled because of pandemic-related absenteeism, process failures, a lack of air transportation, a surge of packages, and other atypical circumstances that led to network congestion and significant declines in service.  Though some of those conditions have eased – such as a slowly stabilizing workforce and more air transportation availability – service remains subpar in many parts of the country.

The growing shortfall between established service standards and actual performance had been evident in the service scores for years, but that worsened as the pandemic took hold early in 2020, as shown in the quarterly scores beginning in PQ II/FY2020 (January-March 2020).

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USPS Reports Small Net Loss for PQII

In its Form 10-Q released May 7, the Postal Service reported an $82 million net loss for the second quarter of its 2021 fiscal year (January-March).  Adding its $318 million net income for PQI, the USPS is $236 million in the black halfway through FY 2021, nearly $3 billion better than it had planned and over $5 billion ahead of where it was in the middle of FY 2020.

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Suspension of Disbelief

For anyone reading a novel, or watching a play, television show, or movie, a requirement applies that the individual participate in the story by setting aside any logical analysis, in favor of accepting the premise of what’s being presented. This voluntary engagement is referred to as “suspension of disbelief,” a term coined by Samuel Coleridge in 1817, based on one used by the Roman poet Cicero centuries earlier.

Of course, the story need not be purely fictional; in The Crown, for example, the characters and general plot are factual, but “suspension of disbelief” is necessary to accept that events and dialogue occurred as re-enacted. For the viewer, how the writers and actors present the story can shape perceptions of the factual background and, in turn, the conclusions the viewer reaches about the history being portrayed.

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How to Make a Plan, USPS Style

There was a commercial for Toyota that aired several years ago that had the tagline “You asked for it, you got it.”  What “it” was hasn’t been remembered as well as the tag line, but the utility of the line persists.

In this case, given that the Postal Service finally issued its 10-year plan last week, the agency can say “you asked for a plan, you got a plan.”  Congress and the mailing community have been waiting for years for The Plan that the agency’s been promising, and now we can all see whether the result has been worth the wait.

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The Right Audiences Need to Get the Message

Over the past few months, and especially over the recent holiday season, there were many occasions on which a postal customer – a representative of a commercial mailer, a mailer’s client, or just a retail customer – delivered a message of dissatisfaction about service (to put it nicely) to a frontline postal employee.

Whether a retail window clerk, a city or rural carrier, an employee at the local BMEU or DMU, a customer service rep, or a call-taker at the Business Service Network, that person neither had anything to do with the reasons for the customer’s dissatisfaction and likely had little to go on to offer an explanation or information about the reported service problem.

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PMG’s Comments to MTAC Raise Concerns Over Price Increase

On January 26, speaking to the virtual meeting of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy gave a broad overview of his developing plans to get the Postal Service back on track after months of worsening service that culminated in a historically bad holiday season.  As transcribed from his recorded remarks:

“... Calendar Year 2020 has been a tough year for the nation and a tough year for the United States Postal Service.  The causal circumstances continue to plague us in early 2021.  As a result, the consequences to many Postal Service customers have been significant, and we acknowledge the impacts our service decline has had on your businesses and our responsibility to restore.

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Parsing the Causes for an Historic Service Collapse – Analysis

Usually, after the busy fall mailing season and the holiday rush, things return to normal for the Postal Service and its commercial mailing customers.  As everyone knows, however, the current environment is anything but normal.

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Will Postage Rates Jump in 2021?

In the wake of the Postal Regulatory Commission’s issuance of a final rule amending the rate-setting process, rumors began to circulate that the Postal Service would seek higher rates by mid-2021 and that the increases would be over 7%.

These stories may have some relationship to facts but are not entirely factual or accurate. Just the same, given that rumors travel faster than facts, it’s important that commercial mail producers have the necessary information to convey to their clients – who may already have heard the rumors.

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When a Monopoly Is No Longer What It Was Meant to Be


Once upon a time, there was a company that was given an exclusive charter to build and operate a railroad between two cities that were quite far apart.  That charter required certain levels of service to the cities and to each town along the route and, in exchange, afforded the company the exclusive right to carry certain types of freight and passengers.  To be sure the fares the company charged weren’t excessive, an independent panel was established to review the company’s income and costs.

For decades, the railroad thrived, with more passengers and freight every year.  Even though it was the only railroad allowed to operate the route, the company’s customers still were satisfied with its fares and service.

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PMG Comments Offer a Few Insights

As is typical of a meeting of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, the public session is a series of scripted formalities devoid of the candid remarks and discussion that likely were part of the preceding closed session.  So, during the open session on November 13, the chairman and postal executives read their prepared remarks that, as would be expected, said the right things but offered little of substance.

The closest anyone’s statement came to providing a look at where the agency’s leadership was taking it might be the remarks by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

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The Post-Election Postal Service, Part 2

Part two of two in a commentary, originally published in the most recent issue of Mailers Hub News. Click here for part one

 

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The Postal Third Rails

As many people know, the third rail in a subway system is the one that’s electrified to provide power to the train motors; touching it would be fatal.  In politics, a “third rail” is an issue that’s equally dangerous and that, if tackled by a politician, can be fatal to the person’s political career.  Changing the social security system is often cited as a “third rail.”

The USO

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Questions Mailers May Ask

Commercial mail producers and others whose businesses have regular contact with postal services may be aware of a price increase but not really understand why it happens or what it means.  As we did last year, in an attempt to offer answers, below are some of the questions that commercial mail producers and their clients may have.

Price changes generally

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Advocacy Group Urges New PMG to Act on Old Challenges

When a new leader is appointed to any significant government entity, it’s not unusual for groups to contact that individual to urge action on the writers’ key issues.  So it was when Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative DC think tank, wrote on June 19 to new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, urging DeJoy to take his recommendations on topics of interest to that group.

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High Costs and High Overtime: USPS Reports Challenge Insight

In its May financial data (see the article on page 8), the Postal Service reported mail processing costs that were 8% over plan and workhours that exceeded plan by 8.5%.  The agency commonly attributes this situation to the workload associated with higher parcel volume.  However, while it’s reasonable that more work hours are needed to handle surging parcel volume, there’s been no indication whether the USPS is concurrently capturing workhour savings because of greatly decreased letter and flat mail volume.

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Congress Asks USPS to Recast its Projected Losses

Last April, the Postal Service, and its commercial customers feared the decline in mail volume driven by pandemic-related business shutdowns would turn into a freefall.  Early in that month, the agency shared initial volume and revenue projections with members of the House and Senate committees having postal oversight responsibilities.

Billions in losses

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April Results Show COVID Impact

As the economic impact of the COVID pandemic came into full force, the consequences for mail volume, and Postal Service revenue, were reflected in the agency’s April financial results. Overlaid on this was the burden of various prefunding obligations and the usual fluctuating valuation of the Postal Service’s workers’ compensation liability.

Volume and revenue

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Packing the Postal Service in Five Easy Steps

Note: This article was initially published with an error in attribution; this article was written by Leo Raymond, Managing Director of Mailers Hub.

In the midst of the Great Depression, newly re-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937. The measure would increase the size of the Supreme Court to as many as fifteen justices by allowing the president to appoint up to six additional justices, one for every member of the court over the age of 70 years and 6 months. Roosevelt had chafed at the court’s rejection of several of his New Deal initiatives, so the plan would have let him add enough new members to the panel to ensure a majority would favor his proposals. Opponents, however, called the proposal “court-packing,” for obvious reasons.

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Flocks of Chickens

In the simplified versions of history we often use in conversation, a past disaster is reduced to its ultimate scenario and immediately preceding event: the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. In fact, as with most disasters, there’s more to the story: the Titanic was speeding in the dark in an area that its captain had been warned had icebergs, contributing to both not seeing and not being able to timely avoid the berg.

Many disasters have been analyzed forensically, providing a 20-20 view of all the contributing factors and unfortunate decisions that led up to the final scene of the drama. Seldom are we, as observers, able to watch as factors and decisions unfold in our view, moving toward a disastrous result that, despite the warning signs, seems inevitable.

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