30 August 2020

Privatized Post Office

There is a big uproar about how USPS is not profitable. And current Postmaster General is excusing the changes he is doing by attempts to make USPS profitable. I call that bulls… t, but that is the topic for a different post. 

There are also grumblings that privatization of the service would make it better. 

It will not.

I’ve seen it happen. 

In another country. 

Let me tell you how privatization of the Post office there went. Before privatization, the post office was functioning, and was cheap enough that during the holiday season the only worry was to make sure that your holiday card is postmarked BEFORE your relatives send theirs to you! It was a bit of ridiculous competition, but I guess people need to have fun. 

Then the war came, the government and all government-funded services collapsed. The postal office was among them. There was a great excuse, “It’s war, what do you expect!”

I will not describe how pathetic postal service was during the war. Again, it was the war, and yes, sometimes it took 2 years for a letter to arrive from abroad. 

My brother received one of those. Fun.

Then war was over, and the general rush to privatize everything started. 

The post office was one target. 

It did not go well.

Because of war, people were poor, no jobs, so few of them send stuff through post. And prices climbed up. Last time I visited the country, in 2015, to send one postcard one had to pay around 0.003% of the median salary. 

For people who do not understand percentages, that’s like if you have median US salary of $4147 per month and you have to pay for postcard $13.47, letter abroad would cost you $25.92 and if you tried to send a standard package, shell out $580.58

You can guess what happened. People stopped using the post. If one needed to send anything to anyone, that person would find a friend or acquaintance and sent the package through them. 

Letters were not sent at all, because the post office is not only expensive but unreliable too.

With most of the population around the poverty line, it is common practice for postal workers to open letters and packages and steal content. And if there is nothing to steal, the letter is tossed in the trash to eliminate evidence. 

When I send holiday cards to my relatives in the old country, I do not close the envelope, if I do, they do not receive it. I get no cards from them, and because of the prices, I do not expect any cards. 

Serious documents are sent, usually with a return receipt, like correspondence from courts. That passes, but for one to send something to the court, boy, it is safer and smarter just to bring that to the court yourself.

Courier services exist. There is FedEx there, UPS, and a European version of USP, DHS. When I was there, I needed to send some documents abroad, and I had to pay for that pleasure approximately 0.345% of the local average income. Or to translate it to the USA salary range, an equivalent of $1430.72.

Actually, it was more expensive to send a document from my country of origin to the USA than from the USA to send the same document to my country of origin. I know, I checked. 

It pisses me off big time. 

This all the above is for urban centers. Fun is immense if you are living in a rural area. Courier services do not deliver in rural areas. They send you a notice, through the standard post office, that there is a shipment for you to pick up. And there is no standard post office delivery either. 

As a rural resident, you get a code, not a PO box, but a code, and you have to go to the assigned post office to pick up your own mail from time to time. 

The real trouble arose with shrinking profits. Because profits shrank, small post offices in various villages closed. So residents had to go to, first, bigger villages, and then, to the small towns, and then to bigger towns. See, no one trusts the post office anymore. No one sends anything, and because shareholders wish to profit, more staff and offices get closed. Only with shrinking post office investors can get some dividends. 

Quickly people learned that sending anything of value through the mail is equal as throwing it in the trash, and with rising prices of postage, even standard silly stuff, like holiday or birthday cards ceased. You can send text messages, or call, if a person is important, or send their wishes on Facebook. That’s free. 

And prices rose, and small post offices got closed down. 

Another illustration of how the situation is bad. Amazon does not send any packages to my country of origin. The only thing people there can buy from Amazon are digital deliveries (eBooks, music, downloadable movies, stuff like that). 

There is still a post office in my country of origin. As my relatives die, I get notification from the court in an envelope that confuses postal workers here. So I know there is still some kind of post office there. 

But it never got profitable after privatization. 

It got destroyed instead. 

Because the constitution of my country of origin does not state that the government has to establish a post office. 

You in the USA are lucky, your constitution says that. People in the USA have a recourse to save the post office. 

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