[PLUG-TALK] OT: [PLUG] Spam law update

Russ Johnson russj at dimstar.net
Mon Oct 21 16:31:19 PDT 2002

* Dylan Reinhardt <plug at dylanreinhardt.com> [2002-10-21 15:32]:
> At 01:08 PM 10/21/2002 -0700, you wrote:
> <snipped>why does USPS advertise?</snip>
> >It's necessary in this day and age because they have to build up their 
> >image in the general publics eye.
> Perhaps.
> It seems pretty clear to me that first class mail requires no 
> advertising...

Except then, the other carriers would win by default. They continually
push to tell the public that they are doing a better job than the USPS.
If the USPS doesn't toot their horn, then people will simply believe
what they are being told, and the USPS will lose.

> it is their *other* services which require 
> advertising.  Fundamentally, I think it's a mistake for the USPS to be 
> pursuing this hybrid public/private business model.  It's a government 
> agency, not a business.  It may well pay for itself and provide an 
> important, necessary, service.  But it is not a business and can only do 
> itself and its customers harm by attempting to create expectations it can't 
> fulfill.

They've been "public/private" for 30 years now, and they are a model for
the rest of the world. Even our own government could take a lesson from
what the USPS has accomplished. 

As far as I'm concerned, if they can do the job, and not go broke doing
it, then more power to them. 

> >Right, wrong or indifferent, if the USPS doesn't toot it's own horn, then 
> >it will suffer from the negative campaigns put on by the profit motivated 
> >competitors. And don't get me wrong, they ARE competitors.
> Only to the extent that USPS attempts to penetrate markets that others have 
> created.  It's not as though FedEx came along and stole USPS's lucrative 
> overnight letter business.  Such a thing simply didn't exist (on a large 
> scale) before FedEx offered it.

Well, it did. It was called a telegram, and Western Union did it. Not
only that, but most Post Offices had Western Union teletypes in them so
they could be closer to those folks that delivered the "mail-gram" form
of Western Unions product. 

Anyone could send a telegram, and many folks did. FedEx made it easier
and cheaper by moving packages too. It's another example of economy of

> >We're paying for delivery of our first class letter to it's destination. 
> >At about 40 cents, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than any other country in 
> >the world, and we have better service.
> The price of a service and the cost of a service are not necessarily 
> related.  Just because you pay $.40 to send a letter and a bulk mailer 
> spends $.30 to send a brochure doesn't mean that the costs are 
> proportionate.

Do you realize how many people touch your letter from point A to point
B? Think about that for a second. Now, considering that, how much of the
cost to move that one letter is in the last step of delivery? I can think 
of at least 5 steps the letter has to go through just within one post
office for a local delivery. Add to that going through multiple
stations, and possible substations.

Now, if you cut out some of those steps, you directly reduce the cost of
moving the mail. If you only need three steps, because the letters are
presorted and postpaid (no cancellation needed), then you've just
eliminated over a third of the costs. 

> To be sure, the major cost of postal delivery is the frequency with which a 
> carrier has to visit each address.  Judging from my own mailbox, it seems 
> that fully 3/4 of the time the carrier visits my house, it is for the 
> purpose of delivering bulk mail.  At least 1/3 of that is addressed 
> "Resident".

For the last step of the chain, yes. But that's not the major cost
center. You have many people that have to handle that mail before it
gets to the carrier for delivery. The USPS contracts out for truckers
because it's cheaper to do so. It wasn't always so, and I'm sure there
are trade offs (why doesn't FedEx or UPS do this if it's cheaper?) but
that's one example of another person that has to handle your letter on
it's way from A to B. 

> Either way, the assumption of daily visits to every address is the major 
> cost of mail and the thing which we most vehemently protect.  Bulk mail is 
> only cheap insofar as we're willing to assume the costs of visits as a 
> given.

Actually, the Postmaster General has suggested fewer delivery days. It
hasn't flown. The protests have far outweighed the support for fewer
days. When they cut Sunday delivery, there was a cry from throughout the
land. They did it anyway. Now they've been talking about cutting
Saturday delivery (for about 10 years now) but congress won't approve
it. Supposedly because the constituancy tells them to keep it the way it

> >First, if you don't have any inbound mail, they aren't required to pick up 
> >outgoing. So that's a half arguement.
> But you always have inbound mail since the volume of junk mail is so 
> high.  I realize this is getting a bit circular... it comes back to what 
> your assumptions are and I disagree with the assumptions that are being 
> made.

I can tell you that I *DO* have days where my mailbox is empty. No
bills, no junk, and I never get letters. So I don't ALWAYS have inbound
mail. Granted, I probably only have 5 days a month like that, but it
does happen.

> >And we can watch yet another great American institution go to hell. We did 
> >it to the telephone system, so why not the postal system too.
> Or we could attempt to preserve it beyond its useful lifetime just for the 
> sake of insulating ourselves from change.  We did it for Chrysler and the 
> steel industry, why not the post office?

As long as the post office pays for itself, isn't subsidized, and works,
why not let it run? If you don't use it, it doesn't cost you a dime. If
you do use it, you pay a reasonable cost to send mail. That sounds like
the biggest win-win to me.

> >I do not believe the money making entities could do that.
> Clearly.  And that's where I have to question your assumptions.  How could 
> we possibly know what we have shown no interest in finding out?
> And what's so evil about money-making entities?  USPS is, after all, a 
> money making entity itself, is it not?  The late, lamented Ma Bell was a 
> money-making entity, yes?

The USPS is not supposed to "make money". It's supposed to break even.

I do not believe that the other carriers could do what the USPS does,
for the price that it does it. This *IS* just a gut feeling, and one
based on experience from what I've seen from other angles. 

Ma Bell was a money making entity, and should have been left alone as
far as dial tone was concerned. Competition in that marketplace has done
nothing but made a mess of our services. 

Another "legal" government monopoly is certain power companies
throughout the state. Both Eugene and Springfield (and maybe Portland in
the near future) have government operated utilities. Eugene Water and
Electric Board (EWEB) and Springfield Utility Board (SUB) are both owned
and operated by the respective cities. Both answer the the citizens
through election of the boards. Both have rates of about 1/2 to 2/3
of what we pay in Portland for Electricity. They aren't trying to make
money for their shareholders, so they charge less. Their only
shareholders are the citizens that they serve. 

> Qwest, Verizon and Ameritech may not be improvements over Bell, but that 
> obscures a larger point: you no longer have to use one company for your 
> telco business.  You can get the full range of telco services from smaller, 
> local competitors.  You can get VoIP, cell/digital wireless, and other 
> feeds that bypass the phone company entirely.  They may have been in a 
> position to thwart the large-scale deployment of DSL, but the RBOCS are 
> getting their lunch eaten in a big way, longer term.

And those "smaller local competitiors" for the most part are simply
pieces of what was once Ma Bell. Unfortunately, since they are
"competing" now, they cut costs, which means fewer techs, which means
things don't get done, or they get done much slower than they should be. 

If you have a leak in your roof, do you fix it, or do you put it off?

> Allowing private companies to compete against first class mail would 
> probably lead to some inefficiency and sub-optimal conditions in the short 
> run.  In the longer run, buyers will gravitate toward the services they 
> *actually* value and sellers will gravitate toward offering them as 
> efficiently as possible.

Well, wait till I'm dead before anyone tries this. Someone else can be
the guinea pig and pay the higher costs for the "short term

Like I said, if you don't use the USPS, it's not costing you anything,
so what's the problem?

Russ Johnson
Dimension 7/Stargate Online

Random thought #14 (Collect all 17)
"There is a point beyond which even justice becomes unjust." - Sophocles

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