Postal Updates

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Survey result: Americans still love the U.S. Postal Service

March 16, 2015 09:19 AM

They may be mailing fewer letters, but the American public still loves the United States Postal Service.

That’s one of the major conclusions of a new survey the Postal Service’s inspector general conducted that asked:

“What postal services do people value the most?”

The answers, not always what postal management or postal unions would like to hear, show that the public treasures something management would like to change, and is willing to pay a higher price for some things.

But the report makes clear there is a limit to how much the public is willing to spend for mail services.

Here are what the survey calls the eight major findings:

1. The public puts “a high value on maintaining delivery to the door and/or curb” rather than the cluster boxes and parcel lockers some cost-cutters have pushed.

2. Both businesses and individuals value “human interaction” with postal clerks rather than workers in “non-postal retail stores and self-service kiosks.” But customers might be agreeable to more limited counter service.

3. Those surveyed were “indifferent” to Saturday mail deliveries, but said they still would like parcels delivered on Saturdays.

4. Both individuals and businesses “value lower prices” and might be willing to accept lower levels of service to keep prices down.

5. “The vast majority” favor the USPS being obligated to serve mail to every address in the country.

6. The majority also favor a uniform first-class mail rate, calling it “very important.”

7. Businesses and individuals alike agree there is “a strong need for postal services.”

8. There was “not much acceptance” of the idea that the USPS should consider “digital services to deliver the mail,” such as allowing the USPS to scan mail and then e-mail the mail to a customer.

At first blush, the survey seems to show little public interest in cluster boxes, which were strongly backed as a major cost-saving innovation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who headed the House Oversight Committee last year.

It also shows that few of the stamp-selling techniques pushed by former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe have strong public support.

Donahoe wanted to push more stamp sales into grocery and retail stores because it is so much cheaper than paying postal clerks to sell stamps — but the public likes postal clerks.

The study, published Feb. 23, represented the first time the USPS has looked at what types of trade-offs the American public might be willing to accept for changing levels of service, and which changes in postal services they might be willing to support.

In the old days, with a strong mail monopoly, there were some questions that the Postal Service never bothered to ask.

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