Change is difficult, but it is certainly inevitable. So ignoring change and failing to adapt would seem to be a sure recipe for failure. Add government to the mix and you soon have a proverbial can of worms.
The U.S. Postal Service is one of those oft-decried governmental entities that seems to take a beating on a regular basis. And while a great deal of that criticism has been earned, it’s also an organization that is very easy to take for granted. Getting our mail appears to be an inalienable right, along with highways that get us where we’re headed and water that comes out of the tap. But all of these are dependent on government stepping in and giving citizens the services they’ve come to expect.
Unfortunately, change happens. And now the USPS, in response to a groundswell of demand to become more efficient, is changing the way it handles our local mail.
Waco has been a mail-processing hub for all of Central Texas throughout the modern era. With our local economy showing such promise (witness Waco’s proposed downtown and river corridor development), business growth and retention are critical. Yet quietly, out of the public’s eye (but not the eyes of politicians), the USPS is changing in ways that are only going to hurt our economy and our community.
Last year our local post office lost 200-plus federally paid jobs as part of a solution to shift mail-processing to Austin. That meant when you dropped your letter (or, more importantly, your time-sensitive payment for a local bill) into the mailbox, it traveled 90 miles down the highway to be processed, then 90 miles back to be sorted and delivered. Not exactly a model of efficiency.
The problem was the volume of mail coming out of Waco proved to be more than the Austin facility could handle. But rather than returning to a proven formula where mail could be processed and delivered locally, the USPS decided to shift part of the operation to a facility in Fort Worth. Would you be surprised to hear that this new process isn’t working either?
Recently one of our customers (a major employer and one of this communities’ biggest economic drivers) mailed an invitation to a special event. To ensure it was delivered promptly, they opted to use actual first-class stamps rather than metering each invitation. The invitations wound up being postmarked 10 days after they were delivered to the Waco post office. And the postmark was from Fort Worth. Needless to say, this client is not happy.
One of my colleagues mailed his mortgage payment (again, with a first-class stamp) to his mortgage lender in the Metroplex. It took 10 days for the payment to arrive. He was assessed late fees. Moving forward he will be making all of his bill payments online. Which should be a concern for the USPS since such resolves are a direct threat to its very existence.
Adding insult to injury, the Postal Service seems to have forgotten that service is part of its name. Note the letter to the editor of June 29 [“Somewhere in time”] from Sheila Sparks lamenting constant changes in mail pickup times and how these impacted her ability to pay her bills the “old-fashioned way.”
As Waco continues to see the results of slower and reduced service, I wonder where our leaders are on this issue. Are they afraid to demand better treatment for Waco because they’ll appear to be big-spending liberals? Do they really think reducing service locally for short-term savings is a legitimate strategy for long-term success? Make no mistake, the changes being made are an impediment not only for existing businesses that rely on the post office to deliver bills and to receive payments, it also becomes problematic for those seeking to recruit new business and industry to help drive our local economy.
No doubt change is difficult. The obstacles faced by the USPS have no easy answers and there’s no simple solution. But the Postal Service’s focus on cutting cost at the expense of meeting the needs of its customers seems folly. For the individuals who are aggravated because of reduced hours and slower delivery, it’s simply that — aggravation. For the companies that rely on timely delivery of important mail (think bills and payments), it becomes much more than that. These cost-cutting measures implemented by the USPS become a barrier to doing business successfully here in Waco.
That’s not the sort of change that any of our leaders should accept. Nor should they sit by idly and continue watching this happen.
Dean Riley is the director of the Creative Services Group at Integ, a company that integrates printing, mailing and data services for a variety of local and regional customers.