Delivering less and less for you
The United States Postal Service in 2008 saw its biggest decline in mail volume since the Great Depression, according to results just released from its latest Household
The 203 billion pieces of mail delivered by USPS in 2008 (fiscal year) represented a decline of 10 billion pieces from the previous year, a not-unexpected drop that nevertheless does not bode well for the already ailing agency.
The USPS survey (pdf), which has been conducted since 1987, collects 125 data points ranging from demographics to bill
payment behavior to the use of the Internet and other information technologies to give postal officials and the general public a better look at how households manage their mail. Questionnaires were sent to nearly 8,000 households to gather info
about their demographics, lifestyles, and their attitudes about the mail. Those
same households then receive a mail diary where
they record their entire interaction with mail for one week. In 2008, the Postal Service received about 5,200 completed diaries back.
While some survey results only confirm what we can sense — that the Internet is taking
business away from the postal service — other aspects of the survey give us a curious and oddly compelling look at the service that delivers rain, shine, sleet or hail. Here’s a look at some
- Standard mail, consisting mainly of advertising pieces, began exceeding First Class mail in 2005, and continues to do so today.
2002, personal correspondence (letters, greeting cards, invitations, etc.) has dropped almost 14%.
largest users of First Class Mail advertising are financial institutions, but
after they helped tank the economy in 2007, their spending on direct mail
advertising dropped 10% in 2008.
average number of bills paid over the Internet has increased 63% from 2006 to
2008, while Transaction mail (bill paying) has dropped by 1
billion to 41.7 billion items
- Households received 2.7 billion packages in 2008, and sent 1 billion — up 13.6 percent over the previous year. The growth, mostly in First Class, is mainly attributed to CD/DVD rentals.
of households either read or scan the advertising mail sent to their house.
(Dammit, that’s all the junk mailers need to hear to keep on sending it…)
with persons 55 years or older receive the largest average number of holiday
greeting cards. That number is down 12% from 2006 and is expected to continue
its downward trend.
current deep recession (which began in December 2007 according to the National
Bureau of Economic Research) has resulted in a 4.5% decrease in total mail
volumes. This is the largest volume decline since the Great Depression.
an increased number of mailing options, 82% of all households still patronized
one of the nation’s 37,000 post offices at least once a month in 2008.
The Post Office is expected to lose $7 billion in this
fiscal year, which comes to a close Sept. 30. The USPS released a viability study
in March of this year in an attempt to deal with the challenges that face
them. The agency is taking steps to
save money by adjusting city delivery routes, reducing staff hours, halting
construction on new postal facilities, expanding energy efficiencies, reducing
employee travel budgets, and renegotiating supplier contracts. But these efforts may only be
postponing the inevitable.
In testimony before Congress, Postmaster General John E.
Potter said, “These are extremely challenging times – for the nation and
for the postal service. We have
done a great deal to preserve the future of our nation's mail system. But there is more to be done and we
must do it together.” Thankfully, he stopped short of urging Americans to stop using the Internet.
With research by Jenifer Reinhardt