On a recent trip to my local hometown post office, a postal worker seemed to want to turn down my business by stating that every Media Mail package shipped costs the USPS money.
Really? I wondered out loud. Costs you money?
He seemed convinced. The heavily discounted (perhaps 'right priced'?) rates books and media enjoy help keep my online book business running.
What he seemed to overlook is that if the Media Mail rate was abolished, or if booksellers chose to overpay using parcel post rates (about twice as high as media mail rates), then there would be few to none booksellers patiently waiting in his line to ship books.
Further, he seemed unaware that over the past two years I've spent thousands of dollars shipping used books to customers all over the country, providing a valuable service people are happy to pay for.
When they order on Amazon Marketplace, they are charged a flat fee of $3.99. On an average book order, I'll pay close to $2.50 for media mail, plus another $ .85 for delivery confirmation, so most packages cost me approximately $3.35. Add in the price of the shipping envelope, packaging material, and tape to ensure the book arrives safely and undamaged, and that $3.99 has been spent.
Now, I suppose in his mind Amazon could impose a higher shipping fee of $9 to $10 a book, which would eliminate most book sales overnight.
My business would be unprofitable, and it would close; remaining stock would be sold or auctioned off for pennies on the dollar; the postal clerk would have fewer customers to deal with and the Postal Service would quit losing money on Media Mail packages.
In fact, they (the Postal Service) would likely lose all online bookseller business, so the amount of money they would quit losing would be enormous -- probably enough to help them from losing billions of dollars every year.
This reminds me of a time I once suggested that back when the U.S. government decided to spend hundreds of billions in stimulus money to kick-start the U.S. economy in the depths of the Great Recession, they would be better off to subsidize the U.S. Post Office completely for one full year -- allow any business, new or old, home based or Main Street based, online or offline -- to mail postcard adverts for 1 penny each, letters for 10 cents each, magazines and catalogs for half the current rate, personal letters for free -- that the whole industry of advertising, printing, and marketing would explode, churning out billions of new advertising products, news magazines, catalogs and a host of products that would put millions of people back to work, get people buying again, and end the economic downturn in a matter of months.
But every reply I got went something like: "You're crazy." With dismissive looks to boot.
I'm sure that postal employees would have objected to the arrangment.
Likely more employees would have been needed to be hired to handle the rush of new business.
I guess bottomline I wonder: If the Post Office made their service more efficient and less costly, wouldn't MORE people use it? Wouldn't their volume and marketshare increase? Wouldn't they get MORE net revenue?
The Post Office -- which is protected by law against direct competition -- is a dinosaur going through the final throes of extinction. How long the Media Mail subsidy exists to booksellers and publishers is anybody's guess.
But likely, if the workers who man the front counters at the Post Office had their way, they'd put an end to goodies like the Media Mail subsidy, and help their organization make more money and be more profitable in the process.
Workers of the USPS.... Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it, and the unintended consequences of less business, more closed post office, shorter hours of operation, cuts - cuts - cuts galore.