The U.S. Postal Service’s recent announcement that it will increase rates while cutting services got us wondering how these changes will affect the cost of doing business.
So we asked our always-thoughtful, strongly opinioned Small Business Council members to tell us whether increased business postage costs will affect the way they do business.
The rise in first-class postage will not take affect until January 2012, when a first-class stamp will cost 45 cents. Saturday delivery is still on the table, but mail processing centers could start closing in March, meaning delivery will take longer. But small business owners in many cases have already moved on. Well-acquainted with more efficient modes of delivery, they are trying to move their customers toward using them, as well.
“We never go to a post office and we mail out very little,” says Mitch Free, CEO of MFG.com. “Everything at MFG.com is done electronically. We are not dependent on USPS and if they went away or downsized it would have little, if any, effect on us. In fact, if it cut down on physical junk mail it would actually save us time, kill less trees, save fuel and put less emissions into the environment.”
Others agree that a decline in post office usage would actually be helpful to their business. Ronald Barnes, chairman of Midwest BankCentre, said: “We would like to encourage more of our customers to utilize self-service tools via the Internet, to access our banking products and services. Tools such as on-line banking, electronic statements and mobile banking provide the customer excellent access to their banking needs and at the same time reduces our cost of delivery. So, if the post office downsizes and if that encourages more customers to adopt these new self-service banking tools, that is a good thing from our perspective.”
“Ultimately, the mailman will be meeting the same fate as the milkman,” predicts Joseph Dutra, president of Kimmie Candy Company. “We are working on becoming more paperless. We can do billing more quickly and communicate with customers faster via e-mail and fax.”
Customer service is one big reason why businesses are looking past the post office to other services. Especially those that depend upon the post office during the busy holiday shipping season.
Beezer Molton is the founder and president of Half Moon Outfitters, a retail chain in the Southeast. “Increased rates for USPS will negatively affect business, since the post office’s priority mail has become the standard for many free shipping offers for businesses like mine,” he says. The post office can compete on price against more expensive alternatives FedEx and UPS, he explains, but rate increases could change that dynamic. Higher prices, he says, combined with “the fact that USPS has little recourse in the tracking of lost packages may end up killing them as a viable alternative.”
Offering reduced services at a time when everyone is moving at warp-speed doesn’t make a lot of sense to Larry Mocha, either. “I can absorb another postal rate increase, but I really wish the U.S. Postal Service would add value to their service or improve the service they currently provide,” says the president of Air Power Systems. “ Most of our checks from customers come in via first-class mail. With all of us having to deal with today’s faster pace of business, it’s frustrating to be in the post office waiting for postal employees to put the mail out. That frustration increases when they are late or when I hear laughing and talking behind the boxes. I often wonder if they know (or care) how important that mail can be to the daily operations of many small business people.”
If right now there is increased frustration with the post office, there is still some nostalgia for a service that might indeed go the way of the milkman.
Cristi Cristich, CEO of Cristek Interconnects, notes that while her business uses fewer and fewer services from the post office, “It sure is sad to see these historic facilities being closed in smaller towns.” And she offers this suggestion: “ I wonder if there could be a private (not government run) for-profit model that could utilize those facilities to provide “cyber post office” or “internet café” like services.”
It’s certainly something to think about. Besides, if the post office goes away, what are we going to complain about?