For the week of September 30 thru October 6, 1998  

Efficiency is the solution, not home delivery

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Like the coming of the first snows, talk of residential mail delivery has popped up again.

Although mostly confined to Hailey and Bellevue, Ketchum is being dragged into the conversation.

Those lobbying for residential delivery cite a postal rule requiring patrons be given free post office boxes if homes a certain distance from the post office aren’t served.

Since there’s neither residential delivery nor free boxes, presumably the pro-home delivery lobby reasons the post office will opt for home delivery.

Speaking for this patron, however, I’ll waive home delivery, for the same reasons others also prefer mail delivered to their postal boxes, and can tolerate the paltry costs of a box.

First, trips to the post office force us off our duffs. A health benefit.

Second, unpredictable winter weather would make home delivery less punctual and less reliable.

Third, since most of us are out and about, or in offices, picking up mail at the post office is more convenient.

Fourth, post offices are ‘90s versions of the country general store where townsfolk met and gossiped and exchanged news.

Fifth, huge containers of discarded catalogues in the lobby are treasure troves for rummagers.

And finally, adding carriers and mini-trucks to deliver mail to residences inevitably would hike costs.

That said, however, local post offices could polish some of their services.

Early-risers (and that’s most of us), for example, would welcome mail being posted sooner, thus obviating the need to interrupt routines later in the day for trips to the post office. Staff changes might be required. But doesn’t USPS boast it’s on the cutting edge of innovation?

And then, the most irritating of all, mail returned to senders because home addresses were used, rather than box numbers.

Consider costs of this archaic practice: If handling and delivering a first class letter is 32 cents, then conversely the cost of returning the same letter to a sender is 32 cents that the post service doesn’t collect. A large parcel is even costlier.

So much for the USPS claim it roots out waste.

What’s so grating is that, indeed, we try to make certain mail is addressed to boxes, not residences, but it’s senders who bollix the works.

I recently ordered new ID tags for my Labs. The tags obviously included our home address, since dogs can’t be returned to a post office box if they’re found.

But I stressed to the tag maker to use my post office box for mailing purposes.

Alas, the tags were erroneously mailed to the home address on the tags – and the efficient post office returned the tags to the sender with a curt notice about non-delivery to homes, although I’d done my part to avoid this mess.

So, the tags were delayed several weeks while making two roundtrips at added costs to the postal service and the tag maker.

And then the comforters ordered as a wedding gift from a distant store, which properly used our home address for delivery by United Parcel Service.

But a mailroom clerk at the store blundered, sending the box via USPS instead of UPS with the home address.

So, the efficient USPS returned the wedding gift in a large box to the store, and the bride was denied her gift until after the honeymoon when we straightened out the mess.

Hiring a full-time post office clerk to track down box numbers, rather than returning home-addressed mail and parcels, would be cheap at the price: Not only would a silly rule that damages USPS’ customer goodwill by delaying mail be abolished, but also obvious wasted effort and money would be ended.

Pat Murphy is a past publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator. 


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