[PLUG-TALK] Powell's ... Portland > UPS > Fife > USPS > Beaverton

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Sat May 30 18:43:17 PDT 2020

Portland without Powells Book's is like Oregon without
trees.  Like many local businesses, their bookstores are
closed, they are hurting for revenue, and many employees
are furloughed.

So, last week I ordered a dozen (mostly used) books and had
them shipped.  I could have picked the order up curbside at
their Burnside store, but USPS shipping to my Beaverton
home seemed to avoid some handling (and COVID exposure). 

Instead, Powell's used commercial United Parcel Service
"Mail Innovations", where UPS picks up packages from 
local businesses, then transfers them to USPS in Fife,
Washington, for distribution and delivery. 

Round trip, 300 miles.  Delivery Wednesday.  Maybe.

I assume UPS exploits USPS media mail subsidies and pays
less than actual delivery costs.  Moving tons of material
and burning tons of fuel to do it. 

As an alternative, Powell's could assemble truckloads of
orders for local customers and deliver direct, paying
their own employees.  We are 8 miles from Powell's NW
Portland warehouse. 

Perhaps Powell's union contract with the ILWU forbids
employees from competing with the Teamsters Union or
the Postal Workers Union.

While I still hope to keep Powell's afloat (and safe
from arsonists!), I worry that they've lost the creative
spirit that made them the World's Best Bookstore.  

One of the used books I ordered wasn't actually in stock.
Late Friday night, I ordered a new copy from Amazon's
local warehouse (for 20 cents more); it will be here
Sunday.  That's the competition.  I hope Powell's learns
to exceed Amazon's book fulfillment abilities.


PS: The best place to look for used books is addall.com,
an online bookstore catalog aggregator.  That is often
cheaper than Powell's or Amazon, even including shipping
costs.  The University of Washington Library will also
loan books at shipping cost, for a $100/year membership.

Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com

More information about the PLUG-talk mailing list