The Future of Snail Mail
February 2, 2009 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Shrinking the United States Postal Service: What happens to Netflix?

The second largest employer in the United States, the USPS ran up a $2.8 billion budget deficit last year, even after such cost-cutting moves such as quietly removing foreign mail from registered mail status. The Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission believes cutting service to 5 days a week could save $1.9 billion, with Tuesday-- the lightest day-- being the most likely choice.

Change is nothing new to the USPS, but up until now it has been a history of expansion:

In article one of the US Constitution, congress was given the power "To establish Post Offices and post Roads."

1775. Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General.

1831. The Post Office had more post masters than soldiers.

1863. Delivery expands beyond post office to post office. City dwellers may now receive mail at their homes.

1869. Railway Mail Service is inaugurated and by 1930 mail is carried by more than 10,000 trains.

1896. Rural Free Delivery becomes an official service, uniting the entire country.

1912. Parcel Post is authorized, allowing for delivery of packages of more than 4 pounds.

1971. President Nixon signs the bill making the the Post Office Department into the Postal Service, which among other things removes the Post Master General from the line of Presidential Succession, and turns the USPS into an independent agency like the CIA and NASA.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy (117 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shrinking the United States Postal Service:

That could lead to serious disgruntlement.
posted by jonmc at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Isn't it a foregone conclusion that streaming content is how these services will be handled, with Netflix already heading that direction?
posted by sourwookie at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


What happens to Netflix? They push harder and harder on studios to allow more movies into their instant streaming program, and encourage customers to push harder on ISPs to increase bandwith to view them, reducing the need and demand for postal delivery long after the recession ends and 5 day mail delivery resumes. In the end they serve more customers even more cheaply and increase profits.
posted by Science! at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Netflix already doesn't do business on Saturdays*, meaning you almost never (barring USPS error) get anything from them on Monday. This just means you'd get discs from them on Mondays and never on Saturdays.

*Of course, if they did, USPS might not be having this problem, amirite?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2009


I liked the idea of Netflix's streaming service but it's not so great in practice since most of the movies that I've watched are pan-and-scan and not letter boxed and a few of them have been censured. If I wanted to watch movies with the naughty bits blurred out and the swear words dubbed over, I'd watch them on TNT.
posted by octothorpe at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The UK is also having big problems with its own postal service - I imagine its the same with most western countries and an effect of wasteful government.
posted by nightwired at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2009


Isn't it a foregone conclusion that streaming content is how these services will be handled, with Netflix already heading that direction?

Yes, eventually. However, the streaming-of-best-quality-data-to-the-family-TV process is far from read-for-primetime as far as the average consumer goes, at this time. Mail delivery of physical discs will continue for some time.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2009


1831. The Post Office had more post masters than soldiers.

What did they need soldiers for in the post office? Dogs must've been really rabid in the olden days...
posted by slater at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2009


I liked the idea of Netflix's streaming service but it's not so great in practice since most of the movies that I've watched are pan-and-scan and not letter boxed and a few of them have been censured.

First I've heard of that; I know I've seen some pretty risque, NC-17+ stuff streaming from Netflix. The problem I have is you need a great connection to watch anything in optimal form (i.e., top video quality, no stops-and-starts, etc.).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2009


I like my physical discs. A lot. I like to open my media cabinet and rummage through the carefully arranged shelves.

Blu-ray is awesome and I would love to see the 4K standard be based around yet another physical platform. I hope the time when download is the only real option does not come any time soon.
posted by autodidact at 8:09 AM on February 2, 2009


Lots of people mail things on Monday, specifically to avoid having it sit ina truck or warehouse on Sunday, while the USPS is closed.

Honestly, if they shut down on Tuesdays too, that would push some people to UPS/FedEx whether the liked it or not.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2009


yeah, the 'great connection' seems the prime problem for me. as long as internet isn't ubiquitous wherever you go it's just not a feasible idea to completely replace mailed dvd's. right now public wifi is spotty and very, very costly.
posted by krautland at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2009


Gosh, what's next? Lines at the post office, clueless postal workers, and crushed/damaged packages?
posted by terranova at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can only hope that on Tuesday nights Netflix customers, without the timely delivery of a scratched up DVD, engage in such wild behaviors as talking to one another.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2009


So NetFlix is losing its Federal subsidy? As someone whose only DVD player is in storage, all I can say is I'll be glad not to pay for their business model.
posted by orthogonality at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2009


My postman already takes off random days. How else to explain: Every day we get between 10-15 pieces of mail. We never get anything even approaching 5 or fewer pieces. And then every couple of weeks there's one day with nothing at all. WTF?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2009


Raise the rates. Five days a week means that we're just Canada South with no health care and no festive specials, and we might as well start bowing and scraping to foreign monarchs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2009


Here in Canada we do just fine with 5 day postal-weeks. What's the big deal?
posted by sunshinesky at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite things is getting the Netflix red envelope, peeling the small round tab on the long side, sliding my hand in through the sleeve, and then HAAAAIII-YA!!!, karate-chopping through the perforation.

Please tell me I'm not the only one.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2009 [16 favorites]


Anyway we can make people buy postage for e-mail?
posted by wayofthedodo at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2009


Science! : What happens to Netflix? They push harder and harder on studios to allow more movies into their instant streaming program,

For the past two months, I've been experimenting with with streaming service they offer through Xbox Live. My impression thus far has been that as long as they keep adding to the number of available films, this is clearly going to be the business model for the future. They don't have to pay anything in shipping, everything is real time, and the picture quality is very good (with a cable modem connection).

So far, I've only had two DVDs delivered, exclusively because I wanted to watch the commentary. And since, all told, I've probably watched 15 or 20 DVDs worth of content via the streaming. It is hands-down the easier solution for me.

If they could figure out a way to include the extra DVD features and put their entire catalog online, I would never order another physical disc from them again.
posted by quin at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Postmen, at least some, absolutely *do* just take off random days sometimes. Long ago I worked the graveyard shift at a 7-11. I'd get home around 8 AM or so, then I'd occasionally hit the local bar, across the street from my house, and I'd often see postmen there slogging down beers most of the day, in their uniforms, eventually leaving too drunk to deliver mail (at least competently). That made me want their job.
posted by jamstigator at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2009


I'd like to see a breakdown of the USPS costs. I bet the last mile is a significant fraction of the cost. If more cities and towns were walkable, there could be a neighborhood delivery point (like apartment complexes have) or even just tiny little post offices scattered around.

Then again, we have at least 3 big postal services. USPS, UPS and FedEx. DHL is also a major player. That's a lot of duplicated infrastructure to provide the same services.
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on February 2, 2009


Yeah, Saturday postal service is just a sign of your bacchanalian depravity Americans. Like buying alcohol outside of government-run monopolies. 5 days ain't going to kill no one.

Also, Netflix recently announced they'd start working Saturdays so I think you'll start seeing Monday deliveries soon.
posted by GuyZero at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2009


One problem with eliminating Tuesday or Saturday delivery is that when you have a Federal holiday on Monday, that would mean no delivery for 3 days-- not something the credit card companies are going to look too favorably on.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:50 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I liked the idea of Netflix's streaming service but it's not so great in practice since most of the movies that I've watched are pan-and-scan and not letter boxed and a few of them have been censured.

Maybe I'm not watching naughty enough titles, but everything I've watched through their streaming service was the correct aspect ratio and, in many cases, in HD. No censoring or pan-and-scan. Could this be a localization issue?
posted by NationalKato at 8:50 AM on February 2, 2009


"Given the year-long U.S. recession and the effect it's had on commerce, Argento is doubtful that Congress will authorize the postal service to go to a five-day delivery week."

So, we're talking about something that probably won't happen?? Slow day folks?
posted by HuronBob at 8:52 AM on February 2, 2009


Out of curiosity, is there a reason why they're not exploring the possibility of lowering the number of delivery days on rural routes, while keeping up 6-day delivery in urban areas? I know they expanded delivery to serve all people of the country, but all the same, it seems like city delivery and maintaining a city post office has to be more efficient.
posted by explosion at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2009


1831. The Post Office had more post masters than soldiers.

What did they need soldiers for in the post office? Dogs must've been really rabid in the olden days...


Sorry. That should read, The United States had more post masters than soldiers.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2009


The second largest employer in the United States, the USPS ran up a $2.8 billion budget deficit last year...

Solution: Give the second largest employer in the United States a $2.8 billion subsidy... which is to say, 0.3% of the stimulus bill. It will save jobs, which is exactly what the stimulus is for.

And then: renew the subsidy, make it permanent if necessary, because mail delivery is a basic service. For a lot of people, it's the one good thing government does (directly) for them on a daily basis.

Private-market competitors aren't going to carry letters to rural addresses for anything like 42 cents. That's clearly a money-losing arm of the postal operation, but the USPS has done it for over a century, because it's their mission to connect us, not to make a profit. It makes me sick to think that they are going the way of Amtrak, and not even over a truly large deficit ($2.8 billion is pocket change in this context), but because the best public agencies also make the best symbolic sacrifices to the dogma that whatever markets won't pay for isn't really necessary. (Which is all the more hypocritical, considering the bailouts, etc. ...)
posted by aws17576 at 8:55 AM on February 2, 2009 [26 favorites]


Finally, the post office will respect the Jewish sabbath! What good is mail service if opening the mailbox constitutes "work?"
posted by eperker at 8:58 AM on February 2, 2009


Eh, it's budget standoff time. This happens in every agency...doom-and-gloom if more money isn't made available. You just don't hear about it in the press for most of them.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2009


If the US postal service was a business, it would have gone down years ago. The quality of service is abysmal, and there's absolutely no guarantee that anything will get there on time or in one piece. It's also ridiculously expensive, especially when you take the above complaints into consideration. I've made it a point to send as little as I can through the US mail, both at work and in my private life. It just offends me so much to use it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2009


Man, think about all the labor it takes to get that one disc from the warehouse to your hands. All the sorting at the warehouse, the physical mailing, the gas burned, the returns and complaints, etc. What a waste of resources. its just bits. Netflix is better off selling technophobes on their set-top solution than hoping they continue to get a discount via USPS.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2009


This is a problem that the markets can work out. If private carriers are that much more expensive perhaps the USPS should raise their prices. I know it is not merely that simple as they have been squeezed at both ends. The private carriers have snapped up much of the lucrative overnight business and email has scrunched the low end. I still seem to be getting tons of junk mail though.
posted by caddis at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2009


What did they need soldiers for in the post office? Dogs must've been really rabid in the olden days...

Secret Life of Gravy : Sorry. That should read, The United States had more post masters than soldiers.

Which isn't to say that they weren't well armed. in 1922, the US Marines were equipped with Post Office supplied Thompson submachine guns to protect mail routes.

So yeah, at one point, the USPS was somewhat better armed than the United States Marine Corp.
posted by quin at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2009


"Neither rain, nor snow, nor...what, a pay cut?! Forget it, I'm taking Tuesdays off!"

I'm with stupidsexyflanders: my postal carrier already doesn't deliver mail half the time on Monday, which is frustrating, because Tuesdays my mailbox just overflows, while all the while I've been waiting through the weekend for some important deliveries. I've actually had to report this in the past, when I was working on something for a deadline and couldn't get the materials on time because she just didn't show up. My complaints resulted in "We are aware that there may be a problem in this area and disciplinary steps are being taken" line, but I don't really know what happened (she's still there).

So now, with Tuesdays off, the question becomes: would she just hold everything until Wednesday, or actually suck it up and deliver on Monday instead of taking off to go surfing or eat bon bons or whatever the hell it is she actually does when she's supposed to be working?
posted by misha at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2009


I worked for the postal service as both carrier and clerk in a past life. One of the reasons for the cost overruns was/is that USPS has a management worker ratio of 1:7. Routes get consolidated, automation builds productivity, but the number of managers remains constant and most of them were/are pricks.

Still, it was an interesting place to work the night shift, full of great characters. To get a sense of what the postal environment was and is read Post Office by Bukowski.
posted by Xurando at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2009


The one problem with streaming Netflix is current license agreement they have with movie studios is about on par with VOD--in other words, a lot of content comes and goes. Quite often you'll see in your Instant Queue a bunch of titles with a set expiration date, so you really have to pull a marathon to get a chance to watch the movies/TV shows you want before they expire (or just add them to your disc queue).

Another small problem for those that view Instant Netflix through their Roku/360/TiVo is that you can only currently view what's in your Instant Queue, versus browsing the full library. If you have friends over and want to just browse you really have to do it through your PC, add what titles you want to your Queue, then go back to your TV to actually view the content. I hope that's something they fix when they start adding even more content.

That said, I've been watching Netflix on my PC since you were able to, and as soon as I was able to stream on my 360 I reupped my Gold account. I'm getting an HDTV in the near future and I'll be checking out the small selection of HD content they have. I absolutely cannot wait until I don't have to deal with physical media anymore.
posted by booticon at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2009


doom-and-gloom if more money isn't made available.

The Postal Service doesn't get any money from the government to operate. In fact, a large part of the deficit is due to the federal government treating the USPS different from EVERY other agency, forcing the USPS to fully fund pensions for past military service served by employees.
posted by inigo2 at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here in Canada we do just fine with 5 day postal-weeks. What's the big deal?

You don't do just fine. You just don't know any better than Canada Post Poste Canada.

I would much rather that the USPS eliminate* to-the-door delivery and individual-mailbox-on-road delivery** in favor of those block-level multi-mailbox dinguses than go to five-day service.

*Or require a cost(-plus-X%?) subsidy from the local government to provide it.
**Except for rural routes, I guess
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is the mailman wearing a bucket on his head?
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2009


They don't have to pay anything in shipping

Until/unless network neutrality fails. Then they're screwed.
posted by inigo2 at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2009


I'll jump in with those who say netflix streaming is not all that

As far as I can tell, you can't get any of these using streamed netflix:
* watch dvd extras
* choose subtitles
* choose audio language
* show "closed caption" data
* navigate by chapters
* watch in linux
* use dvd player features like "play at double speed" (as a total aside, mplayer with the LADSPA pitch-shifting plug-in makes for great watching of sped-up video; it fixes the "chipmunk effect" normally heard)

I'm just guessing here, but I suspect that the audio is also stuck at stereo, which has to be a disappointment for people with 5.1 speaker systems.
posted by jepler at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Solution: Give the second largest employer in the United States a $2.8 billion subsidy... which is to say, 0.3% of the stimulus bill. It will save jobs, which is exactly what the stimulus is for.

Even better, reabsorb the PO back into the government. Why do they have to make a profit anyway? The postal system is a transportation system, just like highways. Highways don't pay for themselves and I can't even imagine the hell it would be if every road were a toll road.
posted by DU at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Forget Netflix/etc. -- the real problem that 5-day deliveries would piss me off is: 90% of the people who use the post office work 9-5 Monday through Friday. Post offices are usually only open 9-5 on those days. If the post office is closed on Saturdays, when the hell would all those people be able to pick up any packages that are being held at the post office?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would much rather that the USPS eliminate* to-the-door delivery and individual-mailbox-on-road delivery** in favor of those block-level multi-mailbox dinguses than go to five-day service.

Maybe if you live in Arizona. Super-mailboxes are ASS. They are the worst thing Canada Post ever foisted on the public and that is saying something.
posted by GuyZero at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2009


I would love to be able to supplement my Netflix disks with streaming movies, but the downloaded movies have no support for captions or subtitles. And they don't plan to fix this, either.

Anyone willing to descend upon Netflix headquarters with me bearing pitchforks and torches?
posted by Soliloquy at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops, inigo2...you are correct! We are in the middle of our own doom-and-gloom and I forgot their "special" quasi-government status.

Why do they have to make a profit anyway?

Well, maybe now that the Dems are (sorta) in control the "run government like a business!" mantra will die.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can only hope that on Tuesday nights Netflix customers, without the timely delivery of a scratched up DVD, engage in such wild behaviors as talking to one another.

Pretentious much?

The reason we have netflix is because we don't have cable, and enjoy the occasional movie on our video-display. Other times we play board games with friends, read, have tea, etc.
posted by odinsdream at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2009


Anyone willing to descend upon Netflix headquarters with me bearing pitchforks and torches?

Dude, you said you were going to be there yesterday. Where the hell were you?! I was standing out there like a goddamn fool waiting for you.
posted by milarepa at 9:41 AM on February 2, 2009


Unfortunately, about half of what's currently in my Netflix queue is not available for streaming. Of course, there are a few things I can get streamed that I can't get from Netflix.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:44 AM on February 2, 2009


The quality of service is abysmal, and there's absolutely no guarantee that anything will get there on time or in one piece. It's also ridiculously expensive, especially when you take the above complaints into consideration.

Mail, delivered directly to my door or place of work, 6 days a week. 42 fuckin' cents to deliver a letter anywhere in the country, and assuming you sealed it well and wrote the name legibly, it'll get there every time. The Post Office is a miracle of efficiency when you consider what they have to do, and what little money they have to do it.

Granted, quality of service is regional. The USPS here in MA is wonderful, but the office in Los Angeles was absolutely abysmal, and their carriers were lazy as shit. I was expecting a package that I'd had my mom deliver, and I camped out the mailbox only to watch the carrier slip in a "we're sorry we missed you" notice. I called the carrier on that, and she admitted that the package wasn't even in her truck!

I legitimately think this is more an indictment of LA than the USPS, as shit like this never gets pulled in the Boston area.
posted by explosion at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


When I read about this last week, the headline was "US Postal Service Mulls End To Six-Day Delivery," as there was talk of the USPS only delivering mail five days a week.

I couldn't help but think, "Man, this sounds like the sort of thing you'd expect from Russia in the mid-90s."

I mean, nothing quite says Basic Services Are Breaking Down like having the postal system cut back on DELIVERING THE GODDAMN MAIL. What's next? Alternate-day heating and water?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


iamkimiam, I do it backward. I karate chop and then rip the sticky label. I dare say my method is more efficient, because to get the sticky, I just sweep to the right with my other hand; I don't have to be precise or think about it. The whole process is very fast. Hmm, I'd YouTube it if I had a decent vid camera still.

As far as the Watch Instantly goes, it's very hit-or-miss. I love that it now works well on Firefox, and I never get stuttering issues. (When it debuted, neither of these things were the case.) There are some cool titles up there. But 90% of it is straight-to-video garbage. If you're looking for B-movies, you'll be in heaven. It feels just like the situation a few years back when music studios were afraid to release music online.
posted by wastelands at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2009


For your viewing pleasure: Post Office photos from around the world
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2009


The post office is ultimately really good at what they do. I believe that. I've worked there and I think in a lot of ways they're amazingly efficient. The regular mail carriers do a great job. It's really hard what they have to do, sort hundreds of pieces of mail in a route in a short time and get them to the right houses, I've ran routes as a temporary carrier and there is so much specific knowledge of running a scheme and route that it's very very difficult to cover for someone.

That said, wow is what the post office does stupid. It's a really stupid program. It is a semi-public business that is primarily about delivering paper ads to your door so that you can throw them away. That's over 90% of what's going on. And it is how the post office makes all their money. I think they lose money on everything else. Paying under 50 cents to carry a letter across the country in a couple days is one of the great bargains in history. I'm sure the post office takes a loss on all the mail that is worth getting. How many pieces of mail does the average person get month that matter? Like 6? And if we had to pay the cost of justing getting the six things we actually want or need unsubsidized by the economies of scale involved in delivering clutter we would probably find ways to obviate a lot more of it.
posted by I Foody at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


They could save money by putting to work recently laid off helper monkeys.
posted by orme at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2009


DU: Then again, we have at least 3 big postal services. USPS, UPS and FedEx. DHL is also a major player. That's a lot of duplicated infrastructure to provide the same services.

There's not really as much duplication. None of them have that much surplus capacity -- witness all the spot-hiring that goes on at UPS and FedEx in the winter to deal with the holiday surge -- so even if you combined them into one uber-company, you wouldn't be shutting down that many warehouses or running all that many fewer trucks.

There's certainly some duplicated overhead in their management structures, IT, and other stuff, but that's small beans compared to the nuts and bolts of actually moving crap around the country.

I suspect the most expensive part of any of those companies is their air-freight and air-overnight units, and those are all very lean. They're up there in the same league with WalMart in terms of finding ways to pinch every penny and cut every possible cost. They're not running planes around half-empty.

Plus, I suspect whatever efficiency improvements you did get by eliminating the redundancy of having three competing carriers, you'd almost certainly lose very quickly without the brutal competition that all of them are constantly engaged in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2009


What's so bad about this? Just use the Tristero system.

Or FedEx, either way.
posted by goingonit at 10:12 AM on February 2, 2009


Eh, it's budget standoff time. This happens in every agency...doom-and-gloom if more money isn't made available. You just don't hear about it in the press for most of them.
posted by JoanArkham

Except there really is a crisis this time. Last year they delivered 9 billion fewer pieces of mail, but gas prices meant their operating costs soared.

From the third link:
The economic premise of our system, envisioned by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, had long been that ever-growing mail volume would produce the revenue necessary to support a mail processing and delivery network that must expand to serve up to two million additional homes and businesses each year. For more than three decades, that business model contributed to the development of a self-supporting postal system, one that satisfied the statutory mandate that it break even over time, and one that has not received an operational subsidy since 1982.
(my bold)

So they really are in a bind. They are meant to be self-supporting, yet they must serve even the farthest, most remote customer in Alaska for the same price as any other customer. The Rural Free Mail Act (the free means the recipient no longer has to pay to receive mail) means that an infrastructure must be maintained no matter how few people/how little mail circulates in Wyoming.

Yeah your particular mail carrier may suck, yet every month there is a new story about a carrier saving somebody's life-- usually some old person who has fallen sick in their own home. Yes your particular branch may be badly run, but the organization as a whole works wonderfully well. I, for one get my Netflix with one day turn around 99% of the time and the post office has never lost a DVD in the 3 years I have been a customer. They have never lost a birthday card, a book from Amazon or a New Yorker magazine sent to me.

Also, all that junk mail that people complain incessantly about helps subsidize the cost of your letters and cards. Bulk mail makes up the vast majority of USPS business. If they had to rely on private, personal mail, there would be no way they could maintain the infrastructure.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Augh. The postal service may have really shot itself in the foot with the changes they made to overseas shipping a year or two ago. The result for me is that I just don't mail things overseas anymore, and if I go overseas to teach it'll be cheaper and more convenient for me to pay the inflated prices at import shops than to have friends mail me things. Teachers in poor areas used to rely on getting books shipped from the US via a special rate, but now they can't. I really think they've done this whole thing bass-ackwards. I understand the need for making some changes, but I think they've chosen the WRONG changes. Who's steering this ship, Circuit City?

Also, no FedEx for me, thanks--they don't give benefits to same-sex partners even if the couple is legally married in that state. UPS, I guess.
posted by wintersweet at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe my ex-wife's diocese will stop sending me letters begging for money. I could dig that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2009


Okay, let's sum up.

I. The postal service is incompetent at delivering post.
A. The carriers waste money by walking house-to house.
B. The lines in the offices are prohibitively long.
C. Megaboxes are abominable.
D. Five-Day service would be terrible for financial transactions by post.
E. Stamps are too expensive.
F. Carriers are lazy.

II. Netflix is incompetent at delivering movies.
A, Resuing physical media leads to damage.
B. Online content is contingent on strict licensing - not everything is available.
C. Menu content is not included in online content.

What a lot of entitled whining. Consider the alternatives, in this capitalist society. FedEx and Blockbuster? GreenCine and all-digital correspondence? Go for it, then. Roll your own. No use complaining.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, a lot of hate for the streaming service.

I wish it had more mainstream movies, yes. And the "expiration dates" on certain movies (mostly through the Starz partnership, I think) are increasingly frustrating. But it's great for old movies, quirky indies, and documentaries. You know, the types of films you have to be in a particular mood for, which previously meant that I'd have a disc at home for weeks or months at a time without the inclination to watch it.

And while we're at it, TV series. I'm a marathon TV-on-DVD watcher, which was actually why I signed up for Netflix originally. It was great, but annoying to finish the discs I had at home and then have to wait three more days for more episodes. Thanks to the streaming service, in the last month I've watched all of seasons 1 and 2 of Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock at exactly the pace I wanted.

It's not without its faults, I agree. But since it was introduced, it's gotten steadily better in really significant ways... unlimited watching, better visual quality, the set-top box, the dramatically expanded library via their Starz partnership or whatever. All at no added cost to an account I was already paying for. I can't complain about that, and I love to complain.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:53 AM on February 2, 2009


I don't think a 5-day postal week would be all that bothersome; I think a 5-day postal week where the off-days are Sunday and Tuesday would be, though. Either close down on the weekends (though I do love me some Saturday mail) or find a different way to spread it out. No mail Sunday, mail Monday, no mail Tuesday doesn't make sense.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 11:06 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't do just fine. You just don't know any better than Canada Post Poste Canada.

I've lived on both sides of the border and can honestly say that 5- vs 6-day postal weeks is no big deal.
posted by howling fantods at 11:13 AM on February 2, 2009


If the US postal service was a business, it would have gone down years ago. The quality of service is abysmal, and there's absolutely no guarantee that anything will get there on time or in one piece.

Expensive compared to what? Where else can you mail a letter for 45¢ or whatever it costs now, certainly not fedex or UPS. It's more expensive then fax or email, obviously.

As far as guarantees go, you can pay more for certified mail, insurance, tracking, etc, if you want too.

Then again, we have at least 3 big postal services. USPS, UPS and FedEx. DHL is also a major player. That's a lot of duplicated infrastructure to provide the same services.

DHL shut down all US operations a couple months ago.
posted by delmoi at 11:16 AM on February 2, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: "If the post office is closed on Saturdays, when the hell would all those people be able to pick up any packages that are being held at the post office?"

Up here (Soviet Canuckistan) a lot of parcel pickup/dropoff can be done at postal sales outlets, often housed within a drugstore. If I'm not home for a parcel delivery it's usually sent to local outlet and I can pick it up in the evening or on a weekend (even Sunday).
posted by hangashore at 11:19 AM on February 2, 2009


So, we're talking about something that probably won't happen?? Slow day folks?

This is Metafilter, remember.

Next, we'll be talking about things that sound good but probably didn't happen (at least not as described in the one-link newspost), things that probably won't happen under an Obama administration, things that definitely did happen under the Bush administration, and things that probably happened to this guy that my brother once knew when he was arrested this one time, but we can't recall because we were stoned at the time. F'n pigs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:20 AM on February 2, 2009


Well, maybe now that the Dems are (sorta) in control the "run government like a business!" mantra will die.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:37 PM on February 2


That's right. The new mantra will be "run the government like the post office."

The businesses most of us are familiar with, that operate on massive scales and that are analogous to the post office, run well. Not just slightly well, they run incredibly well. McDonalds can purchase beef, process it, freeze it, ship it across the country frozen, ship it to a local restaurant, coordinate the refrigerated shipping of no fewer than five other perishable ingredients, store them cleanly, cook and handle them safely, make make them into a sandwich, and serve it to you hot.

For $1. And they make a profit, despite having to use a portion of that $1 to pay for advertising, and despite the fact that there are half a dozen competitors a short walk from any given McDonald's restaurant. And they pay their shareholders a 3% dividend.

The reason the post-office is losing money is because it is stupidly run. For example, junk mail, which no one actually wants and which consumes enormous resources to process because of its odd sizes and weights, is actually given a discount on postage, instead of being charged a surcharge. The post-office is effectively in the junk mail business, not the mail-you-care-about business. This is why they are painting such a gloomy future scenario--junk mail/direct mail advertising, like all advertising, is crashing.

The post office can only wish it was run like McDonald's.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:55 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The post office can only wish it was run like McDonald's.

The Post Office will need to sell Coke then, because McD's doesn't make a cent of profit on hamburgers.
posted by GuyZero at 11:59 AM on February 2, 2009


WHAT?!?! A government subsidized monopoly isn't able to turn a profit despite the lack of competition, and various legal protections?

I am SHOCKED!!! Shocked I say!

Here in Canadia the post office has lots of franchises run as parts of drug stores/convenience stores, etc. Many 7-11's have postoffices built in, and the hours are pretty good (9am - 9pm).
posted by blue_beetle at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What ever happened to the good old American bailout? Why not ask for a few billion like everyone else is doing?
posted by Postroad at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2009


The Post Office will need to sell Coke then, because McD's doesn't make a cent of profit on hamburgers.
posted by GuyZero at 2:59 PM on February 2


Is that a criticism of McDonalds? Maybe the post office should give you a free coke if you drop of your mail at the office instead of having it picked up from your mailbox. Maybe the post-office should just buy Netflix.

Look, the post office sells a sheet of stickers that cannot be used as stamps for $300.00. They spend money on nonsense that no one cares about but pay no attention to running their own business. Their proposed solution is to run the business less. When you can do that and you still lose money, the only explanation is incompetence.

What ever happened to the good old American bailout? Why not ask for a few billion like everyone else is doing?
posted by Postroad at 3:00 PM on February 2


Where do you think the annual multi-billion dollar shortfall is coming from?
posted by Pastabagel at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2009


Five days a week means that we're just Canada South with no health care and no festive specials, and we might as well start bowing and scraping to foreign monarchs.

Oh, ROUeponsysterical, you should try prostrating yourself before foreign potentates several times a day before breakfast, as we do here in the Great White North. It's awesome. It makes you feel clean.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2009


WHAT?!?! A government subsidized monopoly isn't able to turn a profit despite the lack of competition, and various legal protections?

THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED
THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED
THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED
posted by inigo2 at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2009


Netflix doesn't work on Saturday, but I can only get 6 movies a week with two 3-day turnaround times for mail. Mail 3 dvds to netflix on monday. They get it Tuesday and mail it back Tuesday. I get it Wednesday. Mail them back Thursday (ok, not all the time, but when things are slow or if I rip something). Netflix gets them and mails them back Friday. I get them Saturday. Rinse and repeat.

That's about 24 DVDs a month for like $19. Without having to drop something off or pick something up except at my home mail box. So I'd be unhappy if I lost my Saturday mail.
posted by Green With You at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2009


Where do you think the annual multi-billion dollar shortfall is coming from?

In part, from pension rules that don't apply to any other (quasi- or not-) government agency.
posted by inigo2 at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2009


The post office can only wish it was run like McDonald's.

As a franchise? What happens to the little towns without enough volume to support a post office?

There are certainly lessons to be learned from the private sector, but I'm "old school" enough to think the government should be acting for the public good, not just to make money.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2009


So today the mailman drove all the way down the driveway to hand me a tiny box (which would have easily fit inside the mailbox) but handed me no mail, and left none in the box.

Thanks, buddy. Thanks a bunch.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2009


Read the post people - Tuesday is the day most likely to be cut, not Saturday.
posted by djb at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2009


I am absolutely crazy about netflix streaming. I'm the kind of person who can pay $15 a month to store two DVDs for netflix, but once they announced streaming for mac, and tivo right after that, I was really excited. Since the beginning of December, when they rolled out tivo streaming, I've watched more movies and TV shows than I had in the entire year before. Once, when I was out in a restaurant I overheard two older couples talking about netflix streaming and how you couldn't get it on your TV. I talked to them about streaming and what they would need to do if they wanted to watch movies on the TV instead of the computer. That's right, I handsold streaming on tivo to strangers, just because I love it so much.

And then netflix movies started crashing the shit out of my tivo. If my wireless connection went out, even for a second, the entire box went down and had to be hard rebooted by unplugging the motherfucker. One night, the box crashed; from reading the tivo forums it was obvious many other people had crashes at the same time. The information came out that netflix had actually had a connection go down on their end, so all over the country tivo boxen went down.

This is a known issue with netflix streaming on tivo and it's been going on for weeks. You'd think that such a problem would get people jumping into action, but there have been no updates to my service at all. I understand that basically I'm beta testing the service by using it so early. There are people on the tivocommunity forum who have had to replace their box -- for a $150 fee! -- because the crash broke it. I'm not using the streaming service at all anymore and I won't until I know it's stable.

As for the USPS, I've got no beef with them.
posted by sugarfish at 1:26 PM on February 2, 2009


sugarfish, I don't know if the Xbox Live software is significantly different from the Tivo version, or what, but I haven't had any crashes at all, despite having my slowly dying router bounce my connection a few times.

I wouldn't suggest that you buy a 360 just for Netflix, obviously, but if you already have one, it might be worth a try.

posted by quin at 1:37 PM on February 2, 2009


There are people on the tivocommunity forum who have had to replace their box -- for a $150 fee! -- because the crash broke it.

If a connection outtage is destroying boxes then your beef is with Tivo, not Netflix.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:42 PM on February 2, 2009


THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED
THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED
THE POST OFFICE IS NOT SUBSIDIZED


Maybe not the dictionary definition, but I'd call a legally granted monopoly on an entire class of monetizable services a "subsidy" in spirit, if not in kind.

I think FedEx and UPS would *love* to start handling your first-class mail. But they can't. Because all those dollars have to go, by law, to the USPS.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2009


pastabagel, those duck stamps you linked to aren't postage, that's true. But they're not just sheets of stickers and I think it's unfair to characterize them as such.

Duck stamps are a tax levied on hunters. You have to have one to be considered an eligible hunter for the year the stamp was issued. They're remarkably cost effective in terms of bureaucratic overhead: A stamp issued at $15.00 provides (iirc) $14.50 for the government in wetlands conservation funding. Large sheets are available for resellers as well as collectors.

See Federal Wildlife Service or wikipedia for more.
posted by boo_radley at 1:49 PM on February 2, 2009


And honestly, I think Amtrak provides better targets for trimming pork. I worked support for them for a few years, and they're top-to-bottom fucking nuts.
posted by boo_radley at 1:51 PM on February 2, 2009


I would be perfectly happy to get my mail from a central post office rather than have home delivery - provided that this ensured that my mail would be delivered and collected in a timely manner and arrived in good condition for a reasonable price. I would even be willing to pay a small monthly fee if this would aid matters.

Let's open this up to competition! I have no doubts that the service would improve.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2009


And honestly, I think Amtrak provides better targets for trimming pork.

Ooo, ooo! I can top it.

$100+ million last year. Can anyone name -- off the top of their head -- a program they saw from it? No cheating with Google!

Now, for those people with their hands in the air ... Name all the movies and television shows you saw last year.

Yeah, about what I thought...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:00 PM on February 2, 2009


I think FedEx and UPS would *love* to start handling your first-class mail. But they can't. Because all those dollars have to go, by law, to the USPS.

If FedEx/UPS really want that business (and I really don't think they do) can't they just go ahead and set the price of one of their products to something lower than the USPS rate?
posted by inigo2 at 2:03 PM on February 2, 2009


CPB..you write as if nobody has ever taken an envelope full of say, plane tickets, and stuffed them in a fedex envelope and sent it to someone.

Interestingly, just the other day I had my first face-to-face interaction with a mail carrier in years. My fucking apartment complex sent me a letter with a check for the refund of my deposit, plus a twelve page printout of my account ledger. They stuck a 42 cent stamp on it.

The mail carrier knocked on my door so he could get the other 34 cents they were owed.

That's service. I'm very happy with the post office. I'm very mad at the idiots running the office at my old apartment.

While I would never trust anything that absolutely had to be somewhere on a specific day to the post office, I'm perfectly happy trusting them with anything that can get there sometime in the next week or two. That said, they have been pretty darn reliable with priority mail lately. As reliable as FedEx or UPS, who have both missed delivery dates before.
posted by wierdo at 2:14 PM on February 2, 2009


You don't do just fine. You just don't know any better than Canada Post Poste Canada.

Can't speak for the poster you're replying to, but can speak for myself. Emigrated from the US to Canada at age 33. Initially hated not having Saturday mail delivery, but learned to appreciate what blue_bottle mentions, namely the outrageous advantage of the Canadian version having postal outlets that are open until late at night. Ours is in a 7-11 and if I have a package to pick up can do so at, say, 9pm.

We have netflix and services like netflix in Canada and they seem to be surviving, even without Saturday delivery. What we DON'T have is the option to leave letters (or DVDs to return, etc) outside the door for the mail carrier to pick up. This is, I think, more important for understanding the greater penetration of this sort of service in the US versus in Canada. It's a lot more convenient than finding a mailbox- especially when, for me, the closest mailbox to my house is just a few steps from an outstanding alternative video store anyway.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:35 PM on February 2, 2009


CPB..you write as if nobody has ever taken an envelope full of say, plane tickets, and stuffed them in a fedex envelope and sent it to someone.

That's not first-class mail, though. First-class mail comes with all sorts of rights and privileges that the USPS enjoys a monopoly on. For example, try paying a utility bill by sending your check in a FedEx envelope. Try sending an absentee ballot by UPS. Oh, and if your "FedEx mail" is stolen, good luck getting someone from the FBI to look into it. Local cops only.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:29 PM on February 2, 2009


$100+ million last year. Can anyone name -- off the top of their head -- a program they saw from it? No cheating with Google!

So if there's 300 million Americans, I should be looking for my 33 cents worth of arts for the year? And I can't find it without Google? Those thieves!
posted by nave at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2009


So if there's 300 million Americans, I should be looking for my 33 cents worth of arts for the year?

How about 10 kick-ass elementary schools and the money to endow them in perpetuity?

Built every year.

For the past 43 years.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about 10 kick-ass elementary schools and the money to endow them in perpetuity?

Sure that'd be lovely too, but it strains credulity to suggest that 33 cents per person per year in support of the arts is the height of pork in a trillion dollar budget filled with farm subsidies, tax breaks for oil companies, and military hardware contracts.

(And a quick scan of the 2008 grants for just California reveals several programs I directly enjoyed. Am I cheating or is the NEA just bad at marketing itself?)
posted by nave at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2009


There's the height of pork for quantity, and then there's the height of pork for quality.

But I guess 140 million a year isn't *real* money.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2009


You are, perhaps, not a good advocate for your position.
posted by boo_radley at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2009


Cool Papa Bell: it's not that it's not real money. It's that it's not the low-hanging fruit, and so to imply that it's a major source of government waste is disingenuous at best.

No, I can't name any specific way I've benefited from the NEA. But I don't necessarily have to... if the artists I like are inspired by artists who were inspired by an NEA-supported artist then I've probably gotten my $0.33's worth for the year.

There are certainly valid issues to be raised about the role of the NEA in our government. When it comes down to it, it's essentially about the direct funding of viewpoints, which isn't very a kosher use of taxpayer dollars as far as I'm concerned. But assuming you're going to spend taxpayer dollars anyway, the current NEA funding is hardly worth mentioning by government expenditure standards.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:05 PM on February 2, 2009


If a connection outtage is destroying boxes then your beef is with Tivo, not Netflix.

Eh, I'm irritated with both companies, to be honest. You'd think a software malfunction of that caliber would be, you know, priority number one but I guess not.

quin, thanks for mentioning the 360. We don't have one, unfortunately, but it's good that there's no problem with streaming.
posted by sugarfish at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2009


You are, perhaps, not a good advocate for your position.

Huh?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:34 PM on February 2, 2009


and an effect of wasteful government.
Yes, that wasteful government, setting up a service that delivers mail to the entire nation, even the remotest areas, arguably helping to make it a nation, when it should be focusing on profits!
posted by bonaldi at 5:37 PM on February 2, 2009


DU: I'd like to see a breakdown of the USPS costs. I bet the last mile is a significant fraction of the cost. If more cities and towns were walkable, there could be a neighborhood delivery point (like apartment complexes have) or even just tiny little post offices scattered around.

Actually, the neighborhood delivery points have been required in most new subdivisions for years. You see them all over the newer suburbs these days. We have them where I live now, did not have them at our last house in a old-fashioned walkable historic neighborhood.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2009


I was in the us for about 3 months - got charged $50 to mail a letter back home to scotland and then kind of gave up on the us postal service. There was also the having to take a bus to get to a post office 3 miles away that made it rather difficult as well.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:55 PM on February 2, 2009


Nationalize Netflix. Next?
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:31 PM on February 2, 2009


I was in the us for about 3 months - got charged $50 to mail a letter back home to scotland and then kind of gave up on the us postal service.

You got seriously ripped off somehow. It's currently $2.54 to mail a letter (without a specific delivery schedule, I'd guess 2 weeks or so), or $12 and change to mail a priority envelope (delivery in 6-10 days).
posted by inigo2 at 8:53 PM on February 2, 2009


CPB, the NEA does not just directly support artists. It also supports each STATE'S arts fund, and supports other arts funding organizations.

So people may not be able to name things they saw that were directly funded by the NEA -- but just about everyone here went to SOME kind of arts program in their city or state, even just a day at a museum, and all of THOSE were probably funded in whole or in part by their city or states' arts funds -- which were in turn funded by the NEA.

Personally, the theater contest I run each year is funded by New York State arts funding and city arts funding, and those were in turn, partially funded by the NEA.

So that $100 million is divvied up among EVERY museum and EVERY arts program and EVERY free concert in the park and EVERY theater in the schools drive and EVERY Saturday at the museum and EVERY special exhibit in the ENTIRE COUNTRY, and is also in part funding the work of a couple MeFites, to boot.

....doesn't sound so bad any more, does it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on February 3, 2009


got charged $50 to mail a letter back home to scotland

What the hell was in that "letter?" You can send Priority Mail weighing a pound to Scotland for half that.
posted by oaf at 9:10 AM on February 3, 2009


CoolPapaBell wrote:
That's not first-class mail, though. First-class mail comes with all sorts of rights and privileges that the USPS enjoys a monopoly on. For example, try paying a utility bill by sending your check in a FedEx envelope. Try sending an absentee ballot by UPS. Oh, and if your "FedEx mail" is stolen, good luck getting someone from the FBI to look into it. Local cops only.


You're right, it's not first class mail, but that's a distinction without a difference (other than price!)

Basically the only thing a private carrier can't do that the Post Office can is deliver to a PO Box. At one time, and perhaps still now, the law stated/states that you're supposed to send first class mail via the Post Office, and that you are only allowed to use the private carriers for first class mail if it is time sensitive. Not that anybody ever asks.

Additionally, you can send in utility bills and absentee ballots using FedEx and UPS. I've done the former, although not the latter. The only problem comes in if the company/city normally uses a PO Box. In that case you call them up and say "I need to get a payment there tomorrow, what's your physical address for payments?" and they give you an address.

The only downside for the absentee ballots is that in jurisdictions that merely require the ballot envelope be postmarked by election day yet have two weeks or so after that to arrive you have to be sure that your ballot is actually delivered on or before election day.

And somehow I doubt the private carriers would be any less expensive (or better for that matter) if they could officially deliver first class mail (they already transport much of it). Even UPS Ground is several dollars for a one ounce envelope sized parcel, and that takes the same or longer time as first class mail.
posted by wierdo at 9:22 AM on February 3, 2009


At the beginning of the Civil War the US Postal Service delivered mail to the Confederate states until June 1, 1861, a month and a half after the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2009


In one of the comments above, I got an impression that Americans may be able to mail their letters simply by leaving them in their own home mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up.

If that is true, my god, does that rock.

Five day delivery is just fine, provided that package pick-up is available in the evenings and on weekends. Even with my name on a no-crap list, I still get more junk mail than real mail. One less day of crap is one more tree left alive, IMO. And it's not like anything really important is entrusted to the Post these days. It's either couriered directly to me, or I have the option of dealing with it online or by phone.

Snail mail is bound to be a losing proposition, revenue-wise. All the good money-making parts of the business have been given away to private companies, leaving only the money-losing parts behind. Get rid of the US Postal Service, and you can say goodbye to sending a thank-you card to your gramma for fifty cents.

There are some services we need not because they make big money, but because they're good for the health of our society. Being able to send personal mail is one of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got an impression that Americans may be able to mail their letters simply by leaving them in their own home mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up.

That's what the little flag is for.
posted by oaf at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2009


the part that wasn't a link should have been italicized
posted by oaf at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2009


I got an impression that Americans may be able to mail their letters simply by leaving them in their own home mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up.

No doubt the actual rules differ, but the general principle that seems to hold is that unless your letter carrier is an asshole, you can leave outgoing mail wherever you get incoming mail and as long as the outgoing mail is obvious and segregated, it'll get picked up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on February 3, 2009


inigo2: "It's currently $2.54 to mail a letter (without a specific delivery schedule, I'd guess 2 weeks or so), or $12 and change to mail a priority envelope (delivery in 6-10 days)."

Not so; it's even cheaper than that. One International First Class Letter, from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Scotland, is ninety-four cents.

There is no guaranteed delivery speed on that but I would put money on it taking less than a week from the East coast and only a few days more from the West. (Whenever you're looking at delivery times for the USPS, keep in mind that Priority Mail goes in the exact same mailstream as First Class. They are basically the same service of mail; Priority just has different size restrictions, allowing you to send what would otherwise be Parcel Post at First Class speeds.)

If you want to see the complete list of international rates, rather than fiddling with the USPS's little calculator you can just look at the actual pricing tables, linked from here. First you need to look up the country you want, and then take its "FCM/M-bag price group" and look at the particular type of mail you want to send.

Example: Kazakhstan is FCM Group 6, so 1oz and under is 94¢, 2 is $1.69, 3 is $2.44, and 3.5oz is $3.19. It's worth pointing out that for letters, Groups 6-9 (where 9 is the highest) are all the same rate, so that's the absolute maximum for letters. Postcards, too.

International First Class Letter mail is one of the great unsung victories of the 20th century. It's arguably an even more amazing bargain than the 42¢ domestic letter; for just a little more than double the price, and less than a bottle of Coke, you can send that same letter* to the other side of the planet in a timely and generally reliable fashion (or at least get it into the hands of their postal service). If that doesn't blow your mind, you are a seriously jaded person.

* Okay, not quite the same letter; there are slightly different restrictions applying to International FCM versus domestic FCM, because the former is governed by treaties rather than simply the whims of the Postal Service, but it's pretty close.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:36 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somebody mentioned that Netflix gets special rates. The rates that Netflix gets are available to anybody who can buy the software to match and verify addresses and print the addresses and barcodes on the letter. Netflix pays at least 32.4 cents per letter plus a return charge of 42 cents.
posted by faceonmars at 10:34 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Will the White House have its own farmer?...  |  Can you learn guitar in 10 min... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments