Postal Updates

USPS rolls out Ground Advantage package service

Jul 21, 2023, 9 AM
Ground Advantage replaces a number of discontinued offerings, eliminates the vagaries of air transport, and promises coast-to-coast delivery in five days or less for packages weighing under 25 pounds. Image courtesy of the United States Postal Service.

By Allen Abel

The United States Postal Service inaugurated a range of new products and new prices in early July, introducing what USPS officials labeled a “tremendous,” “unbeatable” and “compelling” low-cost parcel service named Ground Advantage to large and small businesses while compelling individual consumers to cope with the fourth increase in first-class postage in less than two years.

Ground Advantage replaces a number of discontinued offerings, eliminates the vagaries of air transport, and promises coast-to-coast delivery in five days or less for packages weighing under 25 pounds.

On a Zoom call with reporters on July 10, USPS chief commerce and business solutions officer Jakki Krage Strako said that the new product would create “a unifying flow of mail and packages,” “sell the power of our ground transport network,” and “drive a lot of business and revenue.”

Ground Advantage will include free pick-up and $100 insurance for each parcel.

As an example of Ground Advantage’s benefits over its competitors, Strako said that a 10-pound carton trucked from Indianapolis to Dallas would arrive in three days or less at a price of $10.87. She said that the existing options of Retail Ground, First-Class Package Service and Parcel Select Ground “are going away.”

Higher-priced Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express services will still be available, Strako noted, although in some cases, delivery times for these premium products (whose prices include free packaging materials) might be the same as or even slower than Ground Advantage.

“USPS Ground Advantage is a game changer — for our customers, the industry and USPS,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was quoted as saying in the July 10 news release that accompanied the rollout.

“By efficiently and effectively integrating our ground transportation model to the magnificence of our last mile delivery operations, we can now offer the most compelling ground shipping offering in the market,” DeJoy said.

But while the postmaster general was trumpeting his new terrestrial parcel protocols, some large-scale mail users and their lobbyists were airing their distaste for the latest of DeJoy’s twice-a-year postage hikes.

The July 9 rate change bumped the cost of mailing a first-class letter from 63¢ to 66¢ and raised the price of sending a postcard from 48¢ to 51¢. It was the 17th rate increase of the 21st century and the second of 2023.

Postal officials claimed the 5.4 percent increase was necessary “to address continued elevated inflation and prior years’ defective pricing model.”

In May, a coalition of businesses, large-scale mailers and other postal users that calls itself Keep US Posted released an analysis of DeJoy’s pricing strategy.

In the report, Keep US Posted executive director Kevin Yoder said: “The reality is that the ‘stampflation’ strategy is damaging our mail system in every way. Each time postage goes up, mail volume goes down. …”

“This idea that the Postal Service can be funded by competitive products is flawed,” Mary Donovan, co-author of the study and principal at ndp analytics (an economic and communication research firm) in Washington, D.C., told Linn’s in an interview.

“What we found was that with these really frequent rate increases that were seeing now, there has been a sharp decline in volume that was not expected,” Donovan said.

“Once [mail volume is] lost, it doesn’t return,” said Rafe Morrissey, vice president of public affairs for the Greeting Card Association, which funded the Keep US Posted study.

Morrissey told Linn’s that “rates designed to retain a higher volume would be a better option,” and predicted that “you reach a point that reaches a threshold that changes behavior.”

A Linn’s correspondent visited the main post office in Silver Spring, Md., on July 10 and found that some retail postal customers had prepared in advance for the rate change, while others bought stamps so infrequently that they didn’t even notice the change.

“I stocked up because I knew this increase was coming,” said customer Sara Daines. She voiced no objection to the frequent hikes.

“Our mail is pretty reliable,” Daines said. “The carrier is always pleasant whenever I talk to him, and our packages are always delivered on time.”

Silver Spring resident Jonathan Katz countered with a less favorable view.

“Individuals suffer when postage rates go up,” Katz said. “It’s going up and the service is getting worse, so that’s awful.”

“What evidence do you have that the Postal Service is getting worse?” Linn’s asked Katz.

“I read that it was going to take longer for letters, packages, et cetera to be delivered as part of the changes that DeJoy had made,” Katz replied, touching on one aspect of the postmaster general’s Delivering For America initiative. “But for packages it is still certainly cheaper than UPS or FedEx.”

In response to Linn’s asking when he last mailed a letter, Katz said, “It had to be a decade ago.”

“I think it’s not fair to charge people more to use the mail just because everybody else uses a computer,” complained Stephanie Lynette Cooper, who purchased only a single stamped envelope for 85¢ during her visit to the Silver Spring post office. She said that she would use it to mail a letter to her landlord complaining of flooding in her apartment.

“I rarely buy a whole book of stamps because they bring me bad luck,” Cooper explained.

“The first time, in the 1980s, I bought a book of stamps and I wound up living in a bad place,” Cooper said. “Last year, I bought another book of stamps and my mother died. Now I only buy them one at a time.”

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