The management of the Post Office is a joke, and it is hardly worth the electrons to write more about it. But I did find this factoid in Tad DeHaven's commentary on the Post Office's hopeless efforts at cost reduction interesting.
Traditional post offices, which number about 27,000, cannot be closed “for solely operating at a deficit” and the closure process is burdensome.
Wow, that is a bad law (though no worse than 10,000 others like it). This sounds similar to the military base problem, where every facility that needs closure has a Congressperson desperately trying to keep it open against all economic reality, merely as a jobs/welfare program once its true utility is over. Apparently, the Post Office has an overcapacity problem that rivals the US Military's after the Cold War (and really to be honest after WWII)
Full post offices are more costly to operate than other means of serving customers. The average post office transaction cost 23 cents per dollar of revenue in 2009 while the average transaction at a contract postal unit cost just 13 cents. Post offices used to generate almost all postal retail revenue, but 29 percent is now generated online through usps.com and other alternative channels.
In 2009 post offices recorded 117 million fewer transactions than in 2008. Four out of five post offices are operating at a loss. However, the postal network’s overcapacity has drawn little corrective action from Congress. In fact, legislation introduced in the House with 102 cosponsors would apply the burdensome procedures for closing post offices to other postal outlets as well. Congress is actively working against the modernization of the U.S. postal system.
The amazing thing is that they have tons of extra capacity and still provide poor service. Just compare the process of mailing a package UPS vs. USPS. I have a UPS account, I can print my own labels, I get billed automatically, I get package tracking, and I can send the package from the drop box downstairs in my building.
It is almost impossible to do this with the USPS. To mail anything larger than 13 ounces, to buy postage without an expensive meter, to get a greatly inferior sort of tracking -- all require a grim trek to the post office.
My guess is that just like Pemex is not longer really about producing oil, the USPS mission is no longer primarily about delivering mail, its a welfare program.
PS - my USPS delivery guy is great. Nicest guy in the world. The mistake for years in criticizing the USPS has always been about criticizing the people. Not only is that wrong, but it distracts from the problem. By implying the problem is bad, surly people, it implies the problem is fixable with new people. But in fact, the problem, as with all government, is information and incentives .... and in this case Congressional meddling in their mission.