United States Postal Service
A lot of us are quick to come down on the United States Postal Service – multi billion dollar losses from one quarter to the next will cause some to (myself included) to call them on the proverbial carpet.
Today I want to share something good the USPS is doing. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is mailing brochures to every household in the country with information on the warning signs of fraud.
Every day, con artists try to victimize millions of American consumers. That’s why postal inspectors — also working with the Federal Trade Commission — want to educate the public.
- Keep a record of all financial offers including ALL direct mail and envelopes. And always get guarantees in writing before acting on any offer
- Never give out your credit card information or bank account information unless you are absolutely sure of who you are dealing with and what exactly you will be receiving
- Never act impulsively to high pressure sales tactics. Take time to think everything over; get advice from trusted family members & friends. If the person on the other end won’t allow you sufficient time to think things over, walk away…
- Ask for call-back numbers and names. Any respectable company will provide this information to you to allow you to think things over and call back with any questions; if they don’t, walk away
If you believe you’ve been targeted by mail fraud, report it online to Postal Inspectors using the Mail Fraud Complaint form, or call Postal Inspectors at 1-877-876-2455. In addition you can report a foreign lottery scam to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357 or going to www.ftc.gov.
Here are some more helpful links to help you protect yourself against mail identity theft and mail fraud:
Did you hear the great news?!?!?!
The United States Postal Service, the USPS to you and me, ranked in the Top 15 of brands consumers are most attached to…
The survey, conducted by NewMediaMetrics, asked 3,500 Americans ages 13-54 with annual income of at least $35,000 earlier this year what brands they are most attracted to… not sure how many Americans aged 13 make at least $35,000 but, let’s not get bogged down on facts now shall we?
The fact remains that the USPS outranked, outscored, whatever the following brands…
- BMW & Toyota (not really surprised they beat out Toyota are we?)
- Southwest Airlines
- And so on…
Here”s the Top 15…
And of course the folks at the USPS were all giddy over the results…
“The most interesting aspect of this survey is it names brands that consumers say they are the least willing to give up,” said Kent Smith, manager, USPS Strategic Business Planning. “Considering that this was an online survey that included people as young as 13, we may still have opportunities to strengthen our connections with these market segments.”
Now I’m sure Mr. Smith is well intended in his remarks and he is, rightfully so, excited about the findings but let’s keep things in perspective please…
“…it names brands that consumers say they are the least willing to give up.”
Yes, that is true BUT of course they are least willing to give up the USPS because what’s the alternative?!?!?!?
No and no…
If you want to mail a letter – you do remember how to send a letter yes? Not a text. Not an IM. Not an email. But a letter or a greeting card, who you gonna call?
The United States Postal Service because there is no other option!
Company X wants to do a mass direct mail campaign to hundreds of thousands of people… who they gonna call?
The United States Postal Service because there is no other option!
So, if you ask us what we’re “least likely to give up” what do you think we’re going to say?!?!?!
Revel in your glory Mr. and Mrs. USPS… but the rest of us know the real truth.
In the past three years, the USPS has lost $12 billion and is expected to lose about $7 billion this year.
The USPS is a monopoly, plain and simple…
Are you attached to the USPS, emotionally or otherwise?
Positively or negatively?
And it got me to thinking – always a dangerous proposition I assure you. But I got to thinking whether the United States Postal Service can actually and truly be saved or…
- Should they hand it over to the employees as Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) wants?
- Tell the the government to get out of the way and do away with antiquated postal monopoly laws?
- Is it time to end the monopoly, to deregulate and privatize the mail delivery in the US?
So I do what I always do and love to do and that is pose this query to the massive Linked In audience to get their thoughts…
Here’s some of the responses I’ve received:
- Privatizing won’t work… Never does… The USPS is actually starting to compete with UPS and FedEx with some very competitive shipping deals… Given time, other aspects of mail service will also change in relationship to the competition…
- UPS, FedEx, and other private mail delivery companies seem to be doing quite well, in spite of “the antiquated postal monopoly laws” to which you refer. If postal service were to be privatized, I shudder to think what would happen to delivery prices and service. (Hint: prices will not decrease.) I do not subscribe to the view that government is always by definition, evil, inefficient, and destroys freedom. Yes, the USPS can be, and should be saved. And if the direct mail industry must pay higher postal rates, then that’s the cost of doing business — no matter how much they might whine about it.
- It’s a double-edged sword. Allowing other companies to deliver mail might well allow competitive prices to develop. That’s a good thing. But this will also lead to postal companies downsizing and firing workers to keep down the costs.
- Like any government run agency, it could stand a good overhaul. But there are numerous options for people available besides the USPS that I hardly consider it a monopoly.
- Saved from what? Why is it bad if people find other avenues and it gets downsized and/or prices raised.
- First of all, saved from what? The USPS actually works. The postal monopoly is essentially a way for people who live in large cities to do something nice for people who live in small towns. Personally, I think it is an impressive display of social solidarity. Dismantling it would be, well, mean to a lot of people.
- Many view the USPS with a great deal of disdain. Wait times, customer service and postal rate increases continue to be distressing topics for most customers. They would benefit greatly from a new management philosophy that focused on the customer’s needs.
- The United States can look north of the 49th Parallel to see a postal system that works. Changes of address in Canada cost money: a minimum of $39 for 6 months in the same province, and much higher for elsewhere — not free as in the US. Will this work in the US? No, not without the elimination of Congress’ interference at the littlest generated amount of public and business whining.
- Their employees need to have an attitude adjustment.
You can share your thoughts by responding to the Linked In question directly or share your thoughts, comments, etc in this forum.
Curious to see if you think the USPS can be saved and if it should be in the first place…
By now you know and have seen the numbers. The number of pieces being processed and mailed by the United States Postal Services (USPS) have been declining steadily and are projected to keep doing so for the foreseeable future.
That’s not exactly breaking news, I understand that… but direct marketers, instead of wallowing in your self-imposed misery or cheering the fact that the Postal Regulatory Commission unanimously denied the USPS requests to raise postage rates in January beyond the rate of inflation… wake up and take advantage of the fact that there is now less competition in your customers and prospects mailboxes.
Now is the time to make your message stand out… check that, to REALLY stand out…
Create a truly unique design for your direct mail piece.
Use bright colors, bold fonts, variable printing… come up a with an offer that you’ve never tried before.
Use a multi-marketing channel approach by incorporating emails, purls, video and text messages…
Some may say that since there is no less competition, one doesn’t need to be so daring, so creative… baloney.
Be daring, be different… NOW is the time!
How do you plan on being daring and different?
Do you use direct mail currently as part of your overall marketing strategy?
If so, have you cut back on it?
What other mediums, if any, do you use in your marketing strategy?
By now you’ve heard the news that the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) denied… check that, unanimously denied the USPS requests to raise postage rates in January beyond the rate
of inflation, ruling that the mail agency’s recent financial woes were caused by a flawed business model and not the recent recession.
So a rise in stamp prices and other postage rates will not take effect in January as the Postal Service had hoped – at least not yet.
Here’s what some are saying about the PRC’s decision…
John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States, CEO of the U.S. Postal Service in a statement said:
“We are disappointed to learn that the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has denied our price filing. But we are encouraged by their acknowledgment and understanding of the larger financial risk we face through the mandated prefunding of Retiree Health Benefits.
Clearly, the Postal Service is a viable business. Maintaining that status requires elimination of several legislatively-imposed constraints that hamper our ability to operate efficiently and profitably.”
The phrase “Clearly the Postal Service is a viable business…” surely caught my eye. Most viable businesses don’t lose $6 billion in a year, which is what the USPS is projected to lose this year.
Click here to read the full statement from John Potter…
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) chimed in saying they “praised the decision of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to reject an excessive postal rate hike proposed by the US Postal Service (USPS).”
“Today’s decision is a great victory for businesses and consumers. The US Mail will remain a viable and affordable communications channel. The knowledge that postage rates will not rise faster than inflation is also an important element for the business community already operating in an extremely challenging business environment,” said Lawrence M. Kimmel, DMA’s CEO. “This, however, is only a first step. USPS customers must continue to work together, and with Congress, to help the Postal Service maintain competitiveness in the marketplace.”
Full DMA response here…
Meanwhile Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service, released a statement…
“I’d like to thank the members of the Postal Regulatory Commission and their staff for their work. I know this was a hard-fought and complicated case so I appreciate the thought and the long hours that went into producing this important decision.
The Postal Service is clearly in a financial crisis. It lost $4 billion last year and will likely lose as much as $7 billion this year once it closes its books for the fiscal year later today. Postmaster General Potter announced this past spring that, if nothing were done, the Postal Service could accumulate as much as $230 billion or more in losses by 2020. This is clearly an unsustainable path. In fact – if these trends continue and no major changes occur – I understand that the Postal Service will actually run out of cash by the end of fiscal year 2011, just a year from today.”
Complete statement from Senator Carper here…
Then we have #U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and author of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act…
Her response to the PRC’s decision was not unexpected…
“American consumers and businesses that rely on the Postal Service won a major victory today,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased with this decision, which I argued was required by the language of the 2006 postal reform law.”
Earlier in the week the same Senator Collins released the findings of three investigations of the Postal Service (USPS) by the Postal Inspector General (IG), which she had requested to determine whether the agency could realize additional efficiencies and cost savings in three areas: employee benefits, purchasing policies, and the area and district field office structure.
The findings revealed some “incredible perks” for USPS executives.
*the USPS awarded 359 contracts to former Postal Service executives without competition. In three cases that the IG examined most closely, the former employees were hired at nearly twice their former pay to advise new executives, a practice which the IG found raised serious ethical concerns and hurts employee morale;
*the Postal Service pays 100 percent of its senior executives’ health benefits, a perk that is not provided to comparable employees in any federal agency;
*postal employees participate in many of the same health insurance and life insurance programs as federal employees, yet the Postal Services pays a greater share of the premiums
“It is unbelievable to me that the Postal Service – awash in red ink and asking for huge postal rate hikes, service reductions and relief from its financial obligations – is paying the full health care premiums for its top executives,” said Senator Collins.
So it’s now been over 24 hours since the decision was handed down.
Do you think this is the last we will hear of a new increase for now?
Will the USPS file an appeal?
Can the USPS ever be a “viable business?”
#Source: Postal News Blog
If it’s good enough for banks and car makers, why not the United States Postal Service?
I’m talking about Federal Bailouts of course. Is it time for the federal government to bailout the USPS? One high-ranking member of congress thinks so.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a letter to the Washington Times on Monday, wrote “the predicament the USPS finds itself is not uncommon.” But unlike other industries affected by the Internet and digital media the “USPS cannot simply go out of business or declare bankruptcy.”
He goes to say that USPS employees “know that a deeply indebted Postal Service leaves the federal government with no real alternative to a taxpayer bailout as the situation approaches insolvency. Indeed, a sheep’s-clothes argument already is being put forward by the postal lobby and some Democratic lawmakers for a $75 billion taxpayer bailout of USPS.”
Issa’s letter (full version here) also contained this chart to the right which shows the demise & decline of the USPS by the numbers from 2000 – 2008.
So, the USPS wants and needs a bailout, right?
Not so fast…
In a response to Rep. Issa’s letter, Fred V. Rolando
President of the National Association of Letter Carriers drafted and delivered a letter to the editor of the Washington Times refuting Issa’s claims.
The letter begins…
To whom it may concern:
It’s election time in an era of extreme political polarization. But that does not excuse misleading the public with false claims that the Postal Service is seeking a taxpayer bailout. Nor does it excuse Congress interfering with collective bargaining between the financially self-sufficient Postal Service and its unions. Unfortunately, the opinion piece by Rep. Darrell Issa (RCA), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, fails on both counts.
Click here to read the entire letter from Mr. Rolando to the Washington Times.
Well it seems we have a good old fashioned feud brewing between Mssrs. Issa and Rolando. Should be interesting to see how this all plays out.
But… something just doesn’t seem right.
Oh that’s right… seems that just over a year ago the same Darrell Issa was in favor of just such a measure.
The title on the Postal News Blog says it all…
Darrell Issa was in favor of postal “bailout” before he was against it
As the blog author aptly queries at the end of this post (full version here)…
“Why the sudden about face for a politician who has happily accepted campaign contributions from postal union PACs, and has even addressed meetings of the NALC?”
So what do you think?
Should the federal government bailout the USPS?
Let me know what you think.
First off, let me just say that I’m a big fan of the United States Postal Service. Sure they posted a net loss of $764 million in July alone and for the year-to-date they’ve had a loss of $6.14 billion and hey, what’s an “exigent” rate increase among friends, right?
And for those who don’t know, they put out a cool, neat-o looking magazine (yes, a real one, not an e-mag) called Deliver, subtitled A Magazine For Marketers.
Now, I fancy myself many things… one of the being a marketer, at least in a previous life. I’ve worked in marketing departments for two Fortune 500 companies and some mom & pop’s, too. So I like to think I know a little something about marketing and all its machinations.
So, when I come across A Magazine For Marketers, I am intrigued. I want to read it. I want to learn while I read it.
New Customers: Why You May Not Need Them
That was the headline of a recent article in Deliver. It was penned by someone named Vikki Powers, whom I’m sure is a very nice person.
In her story, Vikki tells of the woes of a company called Blinds.com and how they were in bad straits as the housing market crashed in 2006… “As new home sales declined, companies that had thrived for years selling shades and other drapery products to newly minted homeowners were forced to watch helplessly as revenues dried up and customers went away.”
She’s actually quite funny when she uses phrases like “the final curtain began to fall” and “turn the crisis into a window of opportunity.”
But when she got to the part in her article as to how Blinds.com turned around their misfortune… well, let’s just say the marketer in me wanted to scream at the top of my lungs…
NO SH#T SHERLOCK!
First Blinds.com realized their mailing lists were well… crap. So they tossed them and started looking for lists of folks who may be interested in buying and lo and behold guess who they discovered were just such people?
“Working from new mailing lists, the company found that the list that worked best was actually made up of customers who had requested a free blind sample or e-mail newsletter. Past customers were easier to reach than new ones, the company found.”
Really? Hold on, have to let that one sink in… you’re telling me someone who previously made a purchase or requested information is more likely to buy than the man (or woman) on the street?
Aren’t you taught the first, second day at the latest, in marketing 101 that it’s easier and less costly to sell to existing customers than to new customers and the more customers you keep through active retention efforts, and the longer you keep them, the more profitable your company will be?
And as for her title… of course you need new customers! Ok now my head is hurting… I think it might explode that guy in the movie Scanners.
Help me, please somebody… tell me it’s not me. Tell me I’m not the only one who knows that your existing or previous customers are your best customers.
Let’s start this post off Jeopardy! style shall we?
I will give you the answer first then the question.
The answer is “About 8,610,000 results”
The question is what came back when I Googled the term “direct mail is dead”
I’m actually surprised the number wasn’t higher. Go ahead and Google to doom and gloom term yourself as I did. About halfway down the first page of Google results you’ll see…
I realize it was posted over a year ago but something tells me they, along with many, many other “online marketing only folks” still believe this to be true… that Direct Mail is dead.
In what may or may not have been a publicity stunt of sorts, The HubSpot Inbound Marketing Team crafted a letter for Mr. Stephen M. Kearney, Senior Vice President of Customer Relations, United State Postal Service.
Yes, the “s” was missing from United States. Wonder if that were done intentionally, you know to imply it was all just a big joke. Or maybe the folks at HubSpot don’t employ proofreaders. Whatever…
In the missive, the Inbound Marketing Team writes…
“We know direct mail. We’ve sent flyers, post cards, one-time offers and more useless swag than you can swing a stick at. We know that it doesn’t work.
So it is with some authority that we can tell you: Direct mail ain’t comin’ back. Even when the economy improves.”
The ‘we know direct mail’ and ‘with some authority’ was surely said in jest, right?
Anyway, their reasoning for the demise of Direct Mail was four-fold…
- It’s too expensive
- No ROI
- People don’t like it
- Many cheaper options
I could spend the next 5-6 paragraphs explaining why and how these four points are beyond pointless but I will refrain because anyone with half a marketing brain… forget that… anyone with ANY sized marketing brain knows the truth.
So while I won’t hit you with chart after chart and stat after stat as to why Direct Mail is very much alive and kicking, I will share with you two recent articles I read that speak directly and fly squarely in the face of The HubSpot Inbound Marketing Team.
- A recent study conducted by Global Industry Analysts revealed that that global marketing expenditure through direct mail will reach $25.45 billion by 2015 thanks to the effectiveness of the channel as far as reaching the target audience is concerned.
- According to Experian’s latest research, those aged between 15 and 24 are “highly receptive” to direct mail. This younger generation are the demographic second most responsive to it, after those aged 65 and above.
How many times do I have to say it? At least once more apparently…
Direct Mail is not dead. Nor will it ever die. It will never be the be-all-to-end-all it once was but that’s because there are more options, more toys for marketers to play with.
The key… THE KEY is integration. I-N-T-E-G-R-A-T-I-O-N…
- Direct Mail
- And yes Social Media!
You won’t find a bigger proponent of Social Media than yours truly but, BUT in order for it to be effective, truly effective, it has to work in conjunction with all the other kids in the marketing sandbox. If you rely on just one of the aforementioned tools, you are bound to fail.
You’re also bound to fail if you think you need ALL of the aforementioned tools or marketing mediums to be successful.
Maybe you will. But maybe you won’t.
The most important thing is to work with a company that will take the time to get to know you and your company and your customers. Yeah, remember them? The ones who ultimately pay your bills, your salary, benefits and all that good stuff?
So, where do you fall on the great Direct Mail debate? Is it dead? Is it alive? Is it somewhere in between?
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