Living With Technology / U.S. Postal Service innovates, too
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, September 30, 2017
The United States Postal Service has rolled out a number of innovations over the past few decades. Most of them have been small to the typical consumer, but have gone a long way to speed up mail delivery service and remain competitive in a difficult business.
Let’s start with the bargain that for 47 cents (the cost of a first class postage stamp), you can send a letter across the country, typically in about two days. If you include some of the U.S. territories and possessions such as Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands, that same stamp can get a letter pretty far for less than 50 cents.
One of the innovations I’ve really enjoyed are the “forever” stamps. In a nutshell, if you buy a “forever” first class stamp now, even if the postage goes up, those stamps still work. No more need to buy the 1 cent or 2 cent stamps to go along with the old lower-value stamps.
The Postal Service also standardized international letter pricing. It used to be that sending a letter to Canada had a different cost than sending it to England or Japan. Now all international letters cost the same and the Postal Service has created a “forever” international stamp. Sweet.
We all know ZIP codes. They are the five-digit numbers that designate a delivery destination. ZIP codes were introduced in 1963. The ZIP+4 codes were introduced in 1983. These extra four digits add precision.
Of course, the function of ZIP codes is to aid in automating the mail-sorting process and make it easier for deliveries to occur.
Other innovations include Sunday delivery. This started a few years ago as a result of an agreement with Amazon to deliver its packages on Sundays. Given the Postal Service’s extensive network of delivery resources, it’s a natural delivery method for Amazon.
The Postal Service has also created a feature where you can create shipping labels and buy postage for them online. For most of us that generally send few packages, this is a great service. It’s not as robust as the commercial services from Pitney Bowes, Endicia and others, but it’s nice to be able to buy package postage online.
I have recently signed up for what the Postal Service calls “Informed Delivery.” Go to informeddelivery.usps.com. When you’re there, create an account if you don’t already have one and sign up for this free service.
Almost every day, I receive an email that includes photos of the mail that will appear in my mailbox each day. It’s great because I can then know what to expect, as well as ensure that what I pull out of the mailbox is what was expected.
Since my mail is delivered mid- to late-afternoon every day, I know by 9 a.m. what to expect later that day.
I am very impressed with what the Postal Service has done to create new features that not only provide value to customers, but help keep costs down, too. If you ever go into the local Post Office, you also know how friendly and helpful the staff are. Clearly, the Postal Service wants to be our postal service of choice. Keep up the good work!
Mark Mathias is a 35-plus-year information technology executive and a resident of Westport. His columns can be read at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwith