Private vs. Public Rant: Shipping Companies
Let me make a quick disclaimer before diving in on this discussion: the United States Postal Service (USPS) is not directly funded by taxpayer money. However, USPS does have several government regulations that save it money, and in turn ban other shipping services from competing with them.
So, here’s the deal; I ordered a $4.99 piece of hobby equipment on eBay. Unfortunately, the address I entered had the wrong street, missing one digit. Pretty stupid move on my part! I’m not going to mope around and excuse that clear mistake due to my action. However, the way the local USPS handled the situation was utterly pathetic, and needs a proper rant to gain consolation on the Postal Service’s terrible deeds.
Anyways, I ordered this package around March 3rd,and put in the wrong street for my address, without noticing initially. I waited about 3 weeks and noticed the package has still not arrived. This isn’t entirely unusual for me, considering the package is coming all the way from China. I waited a couple of days, and finally checked the status of the package in question. To my surprise, attempted deliveries were made about a week previous, 2 weeks after the package had shipped.
With this information at hand, I am left scrambling to Google for answers on what could have happened to my package since it was deemed undeliverable 5 days ago. According to USPS’ very complex delivery policy, there may be a chance that the local post office has held the package and not destroyed it or returned it to the sender. So, considering it is 10PM and the local post office has been closed for 5 hours, I decided to wait until the next morning and call them after filing a claim via email. The email currently has yet to be resolved.
The next morning, I woke up and called the post office. The worker on the other end has a barely intelligible voice, and at one point tells me to hold. I did not realize this until ten seconds later, because of the sluggish and barely audible way it was put. I wait 30 seconds, and proceed to give him the tracking information, which he entered in a disgruntled tone. He then proceeded to tell me that my package is likely on the way to Shanghai after TWO attempted deliveries. I give a polite “thank you” and hung up the call. There is a good possibility I will not get money back on my eBay order.
Now, what’s the problem here? The main problem was clearly my fault. I entered the wrong street on my address. Any blame for who began this issue clearly goes on me. However, one company is at fault for not having a failsafe: USPS.
USPS has a database on which addresses are deliverable and which are not. I can’t imagine I am the only person who has entered an incorrect address handled by USPS. A government corporation, which has delivered plenty of my packages in the past with my name on it, likely has a database entry on my actual address. There likely is no computer built system for addressing this, but considering my address was only one digit off, would it be asking too much for them to correct said one digit with their records and leave the package there? Statistically, there is not much room for error in that case. But I digress. Either way, USPS did not hold onto my package as supposedly stated in their policy, and local customer service made no attempt to get it to me.
(Note: In a way, eBay should have verified my incorrect address rather than allow me to insert whatever I pleased. I believe Amazon attempts to verify addresses and makes sure they are registered by the USPS as deliverable. I could go on about how eBay should have kept me from making such a small mistake, but as I have noted before, the blame is on me.)
The problem with USPS extends further than most people think. While USPS does not receive any taxpayer money directly, they are still subsidized through government regulation.
Robert Shapiro, a former Treasury undersecretary and chairman of the economic consultancy Sonecon, points out in a study on USPS several ways which they benefit from government regulation.
For one, USPS has exclusive access to mailboxes.
Ever noticed that UPS, FedEx and other shipping companies only deliver packages to your doorstep? Thank government regulation for that. Private shipping companies cannot by law deliver letters or small packages to mailboxes. According to Mr. Shapiro, this gives USPS a “subsidy” of 810 million dollars in FYI 2013. Also, if private companies were allowed to compete, USPS has said it would cost them 1.5 to 2.6 billion dollars a year.
The study also finds that USPS is able to borrow from the federal government at a lower interest rate than other companies, which they repeatedly do every year to cover losses. These losses in fiscal year 2015 were $5.5 billion for 2015. USPS is also “immune from certain civil actions, including libel, slander, misrepresentation and any injury arising from the misdelivery or loss of uninsured mail.” In other words, if your mail is mishandled by USPS and you receive crappy care or abuse from one of their employees, USPS cannot be sued or legally confronted in any way unless you use one of their expensive guarantees. How quaint!
So here’s the real question, folks:
If USPS is so heavily under-preforming, shouldn’t it be changing its ways to figure out how to make an actual profit? With consecutive losses each year, shouldn’t USPS be out of the mail delivery service?
The simple answer is that USPS has a monopoly on mail delivery, and they even admit that they can’t compete in that area with private companies. In turn they borrow every year from the government in order to stay alive, and promise more jobs to terrible workers that commit idiocies like this:
In other words, the government provides money to a business that in realistic terms is failing and holds a monopoly by law over competitors. What else is new?