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USPS Gets a Boost from Amazon


Amazon has already mastered the art of fast shipping for online shopping, but it’s about to do itself one better. Partnering with the USPS, Amazon will soon be able to ship packages on Sunday, at no extra charge to the customer. Beginning next week, the feature will be on offer only in New York City and Los Angeles at first, but the company plans to expand the program to a wider range of cities next year. Presumably the entire country may enjoy Sunday shipping if these initial trials are successful.

As the WSJ reports, the move may ultimately be more important for the Postal Service than for Amazon:

The Amazon contract will be a much-needed financial boost to the Postal Service, which continues to bleed red ink as more Americans eschew “snail mail” in favor of email, instant messaging and social networks. The agency, which said it expects to lose around $6 billion this year, has been closing locations and has proposed ceasing Saturday delivery of many items to cut costs.

Americans currently send so few letters and cards that junk mail accounts for nearly 50 percent of the USPS’s total volume. It has been obvious for years that the it would have to adapt its business model to these new realities, but not much has changed. (To be fair, Congress deserves much of the blame for that.)

But the Postal Service is far from doomed. Americans may not mail letters anymore, but online shopping is booming, and somebody needs to get the products from warehouses to customers’ doorsteps. The USPS would be wise to put its muscle into package delivery, and while Amazon may not be enough to entirely sustain the Postal Service, at least this is a step in the right direction.

[Postal delivery trucks image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Andrew Allison

    Through the looking glass: The USPS can’t afford to deliver mail on Saturdays, but can deliver on Sundays (at overtime rates)? VM is right in pointing out that the USPS has failed, not entirely of its own accord, to adapt to 21st Century realities. The fact that I see FedEx, FedEx Ground, UPS and USPS vehicles in my neighborhood almost every day is evidence enough of that. But the Amazon deal is a move in the wrong direction. The USPS should be delivering priority mail every day, first-class mail three days a week, and junk mail based on the postage paid e.g. first-class rates for first class delivery, second class for twice, and third for once a week delivery. Any initiatives which fail to recognize that USPS has an unsupportable cost structure are simply kick-the-can.

  • NCMountainGirl

    A huge boost in the USPS parcel business happened courtesy of the UPS strike of 1997. Before then few if any retailers used the USPS for parcels. Many were caught without an alternative shipping method during the strike after UPS’s competitors announced existing customers would be given preference. In the strike’s aftermath mail order houses made the policy decision to use several shipping companies and began to give the USPS a second look.

    The rise of internet commerce was a second boost. The USPS has courted internet small business customers with their flat rate shipping box program. These boxes are designed for use in automated package handling and containerized systems. Most of the stuff I but on-line ships flat rate USPS.

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