Wednesday, March 12, 2008


For a variety of reasons -- email, online billing/payment, and a slowing economy -- the US Postal Service is anticipating a billion dollar deficit this year.
"We cannot afford, literally or figuratively, to begin [the year] . . . more than $1 billion in the red," Postmaster General John E. Potter testified before a Senate subcommittee yesterday. "We would never be able to dig out of that hole."
The one area of growth for the USPS is what they call "standard mail" (recipients are more likely to call it "junk mail" or something less printable).
... standard mail -- advertising circulars, catalogues, fundraising appeals -- has grown to 104 billion pieces in 2007 from 101 billion in 2005.
I'm surprised it's that little, actually. It only works out to about three pieces of mail per day per household -- not all that much really (I suspect I get more than that, but who has time to count before dumping it in the garbage?)

In any case, this mail is very profitable to deliver. Unfortunately, to add to the postal service's woes, eighteen states are considering "do-not-mail" lists, patterned on the popular "do-not-call".

At yesterday's hearing before the Senate subcommittee, Potter talked about the Postal Service's lobbying efforts against "do not mail."

"We're working very hard to inform people about the role that mail plays in the economy, as an employer of millions of Americans," said Potter, adding that it is unclear whether states have the authority to create laws that affect the Postal Service. "Fortunately, no legislation has passed."

There may be some traction to this. Most consumers hate junk mail (though not, I suspect, anywhere nearly as much as they hate telemarketing calls). Marketers should keep an eye on the issue, since the effects on all of us would be huge.

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