Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tasers on Stun: 9 New Business Ideas for the U.S. Postal Service

Postal officials are taking a close look at the value of the U.S. Postal Service brand and how the agency can capitalize on it. That will inevitably lead to proposals for new products like toy postal delivery trucks and USPS-branded packing supplies.

To make some real dough, the folks at L’Enfant Plaza will need to use some creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Just imagine the following USPS-branded ventures that would build on the unique strengths of a proud organization that can trace its roots back to Benjamin Franklin:

1) Cash Flow Management

How do postal officials do it? USPS loses billions of dollars every year, receives no subsidies, and yet never misses a delivery. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, turn to the folks who have to dig into the cookie jar a couple of times a month to cover 600,000 paychecks.

With USPS BS (Bankruptcy-Avoidance Services) at your side, you’ll be able to live beyond your means year after year without being able to borrow a dime. Let their creative accountants handle all aspects of your personal or business finances. (Except your retirement plan. Congress has been known to “borrow” retirement funds from the Postal Service.)
Legal Eagle

2) Traffic Court Lawyers

Got a parking ticket? Do what the Postal Service does: Don’t pay it! For a reasonable hourly fee,USPS’s Blue Eagle Legal Services will help you claim immunity, dodge local traffic laws, and double-park wherever you want. (Disclosure: Blue Eagle performs no work on Sundays, unless your name is “Amazon.”)

3)  Let's Play Post Office!

Even little kids know what a post office is, so why not capitalize on that brand identity with a series of postal-themed games, like Find the Mailbox in the Dark or Decipher the Scribbled Address?

Angry Birds? Wait until you see Angry Shop Stewards. And for big laughs at birthday parties, don’t forget Pin the Grievance on the Supervisor.

4) Post Office – The Adult Edition

Let’s not leave out the grown-ups. They can get in on the postal-themed fun with hot games like Lick My Stamp and Fifty Shades of LiteBlue!

5) Fast Shredding System
Ready to shred
Here are the facts: 1) People trust the Postal Service. 2) Shredding documents is a boring, thankless task. 3) USPS has 100 giant Flats Sequencing System (FSS) machines that haven’t succeeded in lowering the agency’s costs but do a great job of ripping covers off of magazines and catalogs.

That’s an opportunity for USPS to enter the field of secure document destruction. Just leave your sensitive papers in a specially marked package to be picked up by your trusty letter carrier. It will make its through the Postal System until it's fed into one of the football-field-sized Fast Shredding System machines, which will chew up the pages faster than you can say “For this the Postal Service spent $1.4 billion?”

6) Management Consulting

Let’s face it folks, American businesses have gotten soft, what with all this employee empowerment, sensitivity training, and Kumbaya singing.

If your employees are on the verge of actually liking their jobs, it’s time to bring in a Tiger Team of Postal Service managers to remind your staff that it’s not supposed to be fun, it's supposed to be work, dammit. They’ll show your managers how to set unrealistic goals and then scream at employees  who won’t comply.

Are your first-line supervisors showing disrespect for upper management? The USPS experts will teach them the proper brown-nosing techniques. Or get them filling out enough meaningless reports to prevent them from doing any harm.

And don’t forget that the U.S. Postal Service has probably subjected more employees than any other organization in the world to the cult of Lean Six Sigma management. USPS has even developed the Six-Sigmoidoscope, which can probe your employees to determine which of them has drunk the Kool-Aid and is a potential Black Belt of BS.

Priority Male
7) Male Strippers

Move over, Chippendales, the Postal Service’s own First-Class Males are in the house. USPS has recently brought in thousands of young City Carrier Assistants and put them through their paces working 60 hours a week on walking routes.

Now they’re buffed up enough to put the UPS guys to shame. And boy do they have some packages! Ladies, be sure to bring plenty of bills to stuff into their satchels.

8) Dog Obedience Training

Who knows more about handling unruly dogs than longtime letter carriers? Get your tickets now for Naughty Dog Night at your local post office, where moonlighting postal workers will show you how to stare down a snarling canine, outrun a vicious pack, and pepper spray a pesky pooch. And get 20% off your purchase of a USPS Old Blue Taser, for those times when Rover needs a little extra reminder to obey.

(Warning: U.S. Postal Service Dog Obedience products should not be used in conjunction with Fifty Shades of LiteBlue.)

9) We-Deliver Obstetric Centers

Why have your baby at a giant, soul-less hospital when she could enter the world in an historic former post office? Turn to the folks who've been handling America's special deliveries for over 200 years.

At We-Deliver, every baby boy gets his very own Intelligent Male barcode!. (Yes, the politically correct Postal Service also offers Intelligent Female barcodes and Intelligent Transgender barcodes.)

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sticker Shock: Size of Postal Increase Stuns Publishers

March 6 update: The PRC sent the proposed Standard, Periodicals, and Package Services rates back to the Postal Service for revisions and clarifications. Here's the PRC press release.

Although the April postage hike for Periodicals will supposedly average only 1.4%, some publishers are learning that their increases will be 10 times that amount.

The biggest rate increases will probably hit relatively lightweight publications that contain little or no advertising, such as weekly magazines and association newsletters. Some other publishers, however, will probably see lower postage bills.

Projections for nine leading nonprofit publications show increases ranging from 3.4% to 16.2%, with all but three above 8%, The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers wrote this week in an alert sent to its members. Although the U.S. Postal Service announced the new rates nearly two months ago, the alliance noted that publishers could not calculate how the rates would affect them until recently, when USPS spelled out some new mailing rules changes that will accompany the new rates.

Such large postage hikes are "likely to force many of these newsletters and magazines to discontinue mailing, or reduce the frequency of their publications, and look elsewhere to achieve their very important mission," the alliance wrote.

"We believe that the Postal Service did not intend to impose such large increases on important nonprofit publications, and that the increases are unintended collateral effects of a larger, complex pricing strategy for Periodicals," the alert said. It added that the alliance is trying to get USPS to amend its rate proposal.

For Periodicals and several other types of mail, the new rates place less emphasis on weight-based charges and more on other factors that have a more direct impact on USPS costs. That's good news for hefty fashion magazines and some types of letter mail, but not so good for mailers that aren't paying much for weight to begin with.

The Postal Service itself has been thrown off by the complexity of its own changes in rates and rules for the Periodicals class. It intended for the average Periodicals increase to be nearly 2%, but has adjusted the calculation to 1.4% after acknowledging calculation errors pointed out by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

And recent questioning from the PRC indicates it may still not be satisfied with the Postal Service's calculations.

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