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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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Can Scan Data Be Believed?

One of the better features of many USPS mail categories and services is the use of a unique barcode on mailpieces that, when scanned by Postal Service machines or people, can yield information about the item’s location (and delivery status).  Of course, the value and accuracy of that information depend on whether the scan actually was captured at the time and location reported to the customer.

The USPS regularly details on its daily Link the percentage of expected delivery scans that actually occur.  For the week ending October 16, for example, the national score was 97.06%, down 0.14% from the previous week.  The areas and districts that do the best typically score in the mid- to high-ninety percent range, meaning that the others do more poorly; the agency doesn’t disclose them.

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USPS Policy Allows DMU Employees to Refuse COVID Screening

Commercial mail producers continue to express concerns that, despite having protocols to screen visitors for virus exposure, postal employees coming into their facilities to work at detached mail units refuse to comply, often citing instructions from their union (the American Postal Workers Union).

As much as such a position may seem counterintuitive and potentially dangerous, it appears that the Postal Service sanctioned it in a policy statement issued last spring.  The April 1 Industry Alert itself (below) offered no explanation for the agency’s refusal to cooperate with screening practices, instead referring to a Q&A document (Coronavirus Updates for Business Customers).  Although that cited document referred to letter carriers, the same policy presumably was applied to all craft employees:

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Still Paying the Price for Poor Communication

A commentary in the August 3 issue of Mailers Hub News opined on the Postal Service’s failure to offer meaningful communication during times when the popular media is regularly publicizing rumors, leaked documents, and union allegations about what’s going on in the agency.  In concluding that commentary, we urged the USPS to provide accurate and timely information before other parties told their story first.  Similar messages for better communication by the Postal Service came from others in the mailing industry before and since that commentary was published.

From all appearances, the urging has had little effect, and the consequences of the Postal Service’s silence continue.

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Evaluating Rumors About Potential USPS Changes

The possibility of Postal Service price changes was usually an issue discussed only within the mailing industry, but the politicization of the agency over vote-by-mail and other matters has resulted in postal news appearing in the general media.  However, this phenomenon has resulted in articles being published that are based on incomplete information, rumors, or speculation, derived from “unnamed” or unofficial sources, and produced by writers inexperienced in dealing with the arcane world of the USPS.

Changes ahead

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Delivery Changes Met by Media Criticism

Changes to mail processing and delivery procedures being adopted by the Postal Service have been met with criticism in the general media.  News articles frequently cite customer and labor union concerns over delays in mail delivery and fault the USPS for placing budgets ahead of service.

Many examples

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Paying the Price for Poor Communication

The current level of negative publicity about the Postal Service – notably for slow or infrequent delivery, the impact of reported changes in mail processing and delivery procedures, and the potential consequences of these changes on election mail – might not have to be what it is if the USPS simply were more communicative.

Institutional Reticence

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Leaked Documents Suggest PMG Seeking Cost Reductions

When the new Postmaster General took office last month, it was widely assumed that he would make significant changes, though the nature of what those changes would be was then no more than speculation.  However, if the information in a leaked PowerPoint presentation that appeared on postalnews.com last week is credible, change may be starting and is focused on cost reduction.

Quick reference links: "The Source", "Document Two", "Publicity", "Another Talk" 

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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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Not a “Partner” the USPS Needs: Across the US in Only 27 Days

According to Google Maps, someone driving from Inglewood (CA) to Ft Myers (FL) at a steady 70 miles per hour would need 38 hours to complete the 2,659-mile trip.

Of course, in the world of commercial shipping, an item being sent from Inglewood to Ft Myers wouldn’t travel like that, instead taking a slower, likely longer route, perhaps through intermediate transfer points along the way.

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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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Mailers Hub Coronavirus Response

The scale, scope, and ubiquity of the current health crisis is a situation none of us has encountered before. While we all have to adapt in our personal lives, we also need to do what we can to keep our businesses alive. From the information that’s available, it would seem that the days of uncertainty, challenge, and sacrifice are far from over, and no commercial mail producer has the ability – or bank account – to allay all the fears or overcome all the challenges by itself.

Now, more than ever, members of the commercial mailing community need to work together. 

Our job at Mailers Hub is what our tagline says: to bring commercial mailing, solutions, and resources together – and we’ll do that by providing information and a place to get it.  On our site, as information becomes available, we will do our best to communicate it in a timely and useful manner.  As problems arise for the industry and individual providers, we will do our best to act as a resource and network to help facilitate solutions.  We all need to do what we can; we hope our part will serve our colleagues well.
 
As always, contact us as needed.


FOR UPDATED INFORMATION: https://mailershub.com/covid-19 





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Translating Predictions of Postal Privatization - Part II

The following is the second in a two-part commentary, excerpted from the Jan. 6 edition of Mailers Hub News, in response to the Fortune Magazine article on Dec. 27, USPS Could Privatize As Early As Next Year

Any decision to sell-off or otherwise privatize the USPS would not be something arising from the Postmaster General, so campaigning that he or she should protect the ramparts of L’Enfant Plaza against the huns of privatization is somewhat misguided.

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Other Peoples' Money - Part I

The following is the first in a two-part commentary, excerpted from the Dec. 9 edition of Mailers Hub News

The old joke is that a guy’s favorite beer is OP beer – other peoples’. A less funny corollary is that a politician’s favorite funding source is OP money. More correctly, in this case, the “other people” is not the general public (taxpayers) but a subset who, though still taxpayers, are also associated with a particular agency, purpose, or use.

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Price Changes. It's Not That Simple

People often ask about price changes – why they’re when and what they are, and why the USPS can’t simply reduce its costs. It’s really not that simple.

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OIG Finds Network Changes Failed to Yield Planned Results

An audit report by the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General revealed that changes the USPS has instituted in its processing operations have failed to produce savings at a pace commensurate with the overall decline in mail volume. Released September 9, the report (NO-AR-19-006, US Postal Service Processing Network Optimization) evaluated “trends and practices the U.S. Postal Service uses to optimize its processing network.”

Summary

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Still Time to Make The Mailers Conference on September 20, 2019

There is still time to make the 2019 Mailers Conference.

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The Article Waiting to be Written

Commentary, by Leo Raymond

Any publication on any topic occasionally finds itself in the situation of knowing newsworthy events lie ahead but about which an article cannot be yet written; they just have to wait. Such is the situation in which we – and colleagues with their own newsletters – find ourselves.

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Alliance Study Examines Drivers of USPS Cost Growth

A June article in the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers’ Report dug into the current trend of USPS costs outrunning USPS revenues. The report’s findings revealed that the Postal Service may be doing things that an institution with financial challenges like those facing the USPS shouldn’t do.
The following extracts from the Alliance’s report are provided with their permission.
The Alliance found four areas where costs seem ripe for further examination:

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A Complicated Answer to a Simple Question

Excerpted from the May 27, 2019 issue of Mailers Hub News. Subscribers click here to access the full version.

When I spoke recently at an industry gathering, one of the questions I got (after reviewing the PQ II service scores) was what the USPS could do about its service performance. Why is service so poor in some places? What can be done to improve it, especially in the chronically low-performing districts? What actions can management take?

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