Stamp of disapproval: Postal Service replies


Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:

Richard W. Rudez, District Manager, Customer Services and Sales, Baltimore District, United States Postal Service, Baltimore: In one of your recent columns, you addressed the subject of the Private Express Statutes and the Postal Service's enforcement of this Federal law. Unfortunately, the commentary contained a number of inaccuracies that I would like to clarify.

You seem to take issue with the cost of the Postal Service changing its logo. The cost of the new logo, spread out over the seven years it will take to change the design, will cost the Postal Service less than $25 per post office annually.

Also, in the article you state that postage will probably rise next year to 33 cents. The Postal Service has just now begun to gather information to request a postage rate increase in 1995 (four years since the last increase). What that increase will be has not yet been determined.

Your column also stated that the Postal Service has fined companies for using private overnight delivery companies. We have fined no one. . . . We can only collect postage that we should have received for non-urgent letters found at the time of an audit. Postal Inspectors are not forcing businesses to use our services instead of our competitors'.

COMMENT: At first I had trouble making sense out of your letter and then I said to myself: "Hey, it's from the Postal Service; I'm lucky it got here."

But your letter deserves a serious reply. Here is what I wrote in the column you refer to:

"Even though the Postal Service spent $7 million for a new logo last year and even though it will probably increase the price of a first-class stamp from 29 cents to 33 cents next year, it still expects to lose $1.3 billion in fiscal 1994."

You, Mr. Rudez, say that $7 million is not really a lot of money when you spread it out over seven years and divide by all those post offices.

I say that's goofy. I say that reasoning is exactly why the Postal Service loses so much money.

Let's you go out and buy a lawn mower for $100,000.

You'd say: "It's cheap! That lawn mower will cut a zillion blades of grass over the next seven years. So if we divide $100,000 by seven years and then by a zillion blades of grass then that lawn mower cost nothing!"

I'd say: "Are you nuts? We expect to lose $1.3 billion and you're running around buying lawn mowers for $100,000? No lawn mower is worth $100,000. And, besides, we don't need a new lawn mower!"

As to the postal increase that you say is a mystery, here is one of many news stories from last week:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The post office is getting ready to ask Americans to ante up a few more cents to clear up its billion-dollar losses.

"A decision to seek a rate increase could come as early as Tuesday, with stamp prices likely to rise to between 32 and 35 cents -- 3 to 6 cents more than the current rate."

Your third point was that you do not "fine" anybody for using reliable overnight express companies instead of the unreliable Postal Service.

I never said you did. Here is what I wrote:

"Within the last year, postal inspectors have shown up at a dozen major U.S. companies, flashed their badges and started going through company records.

"In Atlanta, Ga., the Postal Service showed up at Equifax, a credit reporting agency, examined the records and decided that Equifax owed the Postal Service $30,000 for using an overnight mail service for 'non-urgent' material.

"And in the past three years, the Postal Service has 'busted' 21 companies for $542,000.

"All these offending companies could have used the Postal Service in the first place. They could have used the Postal Service's two-day Priority Mail, for example.

"Except that there is a little problem with two-day Priority Mail: According to the Wall Street Journal, it fails 23 percent of the time."

But let's not look to the past, Mr. Rudez. Let's look to the future. Like what you are going to do about the terrible theft problem in the Postal Service. As CNN reported last week, some postal workers are stealing millions.

My favorite thief was the postal worker, captured on videotape, going through mail bins for birthday cards so he could steal the cash that relatives sent to little kids.

Kind of makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

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