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The U.S. Postal Service at 5th and Arizona will relocate at a yet to be determined date to 1653 7th Street so the property can be sold. The relocation and building sale is part of a nationwide response by USPS to “reduce costs and operate more efficiently” in the face of dramatic decreases in mail volume and revenue, and other economic factors.
Mirror Archives
The U.S. Postal Service at 5th and Arizona will relocate at a yet to be determined date to 1653 7th Street so the property can be sold. The relocation and building sale is part of a nationwide response by USPS to “reduce costs and operate more efficiently” in the face of dramatic decreases in mail volume and revenue, and other economic factors.

Opinion, Santa Monica, Columnist, Government

Enjoy Your Local Post Office… NOW!

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Apr. 6, 2013, 9:02 am

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

I think Americans are unfairly and even wrongly apathetic about whether or not the U.S. Postal Service survives into the 21st century. Waiting in line at any of the three Santa Monica branches I frequent (5th and Arizona, 1217 Wilshire, 2720 Neilson Way) one is tempted to point at trends and conclude that the day of the mailed letter, the brown paper-wrapped box from Grandma for your birthday, the card with $5 in it for your high school graduation… all of that is vanishing Americana.

But should it be that way? Right off the bat I would argue that citizens should resist having expensive overnight package delivery becoming our only means of getting a parcel from here to there. If you think the way you’re being pushed around by oil companies at the gas pump is antithetical to democracy, wait until you pay $50 to send Silly Putty and an Etch-A-Sketch to your nephew for his birthday. Unless that’s what it already costs to absolutely positively get it there overnight.

Which brings us to our own responsibility for what’s happening to the U.S. Postal Service: We’ve become too convenience-reliant. Convenience-addicted might be more accurate. Once overnight service was introduced to American business, there was no getting out from underneath it. A client could simply insist that some physical thing be in their possession by the next day. Not because there had in fact been a marked increase in the speed at which business was transacted, but because Fed Ex and the others allowed you to push people’s buttons that way. “What fun! I just told San Diego we HAD to have that thing by tomorrow noon!”

This became the template later on when e-mail and e-mail to phones were standardized. “Send it to me now.” We felt elevated, taller, bigger because we could insist on having things arrive at our end whether time was a factor or not. Rapid delivery of materials became a measure of respect and business acumen, although you can get blueprints delivered overnight for a project that is later held up for months or even years. And there’s an undeniable element of vanity in all of this high-speed delivery; one that was rarely present when, say, a letter from a friend conveniently arrived in your mailbox in its own sweet time.

While it feels generational to argue the merits of a written letter delivered by postal mail over the immediacy and attached pictures of one’s cat provided by e-mail, I found myself a bit depressed recently when I overheard a conversation about the “point” of mailing Christmas cards. I know my own “point” for doing it, but those in the conversation were right: To mail holiday cards is now a quaint custom. However, sitting and listening to a musical holiday card in your e-mail can feel a lot like answering the door at 8 am Saturday to chat with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In both cases, the intentions are good, but…

So there we have a look at the current environment. Now: “Five Reasons We Want to Save the U.S. Postal Service.”

One: Like General Motors after their big fat bailout I believe the USPS is trying. I’m a fan of their “If it fits, it ships” boxes that actually work for much of my personal shipping. This one service product alone, to me, indicates that the USPS still has something to give. 

Two: You honestly can’t drive everything to and from the Internet. The holiday catalogs our household received this past season tell me that there’s still a need to prompt commerce with hard-copy mailings; that you can’t just set up a site and expect that shoppers will find you and respond. Yes, there is a serious uptick in online sales. But what is it that is first pushing customers to those sites? Television, the box with sound that sits in our living rooms, is also something of a tech throwback now. But we appear to need it to tell us about things that we then pursue online.

Which gets us to Three: Sorting and Division equals Freedom. If every single interaction of business and communication becomes Internet/Smartphone driven… can you hope that those involved will give you unbiased access? For all their old-school slowness and bother, paper newspapers and postal mail still operate as soldiers defending our right to know. There’s a function of sorting and dividing done by old school media that you could ask your computer/phone to do for you. But that will include whatever prioritization of information and advertising the corporate parent of your information delivery system wishes to impose. I’m saying, a simple mailed letter asking you to fight the Keystone pipeline might not ever make it to your e-mail box if one day next week three merged super corporations own everything. 

Four: Without the USPS delivery of parcels, flats, and letters we’re at the pricing mercy of corporations. If you enjoy how they’re treating you now, fine.

Five: People. People need the jobs, and people need to get out of their homes and be in social situations that are defined by civility and common courtesy. We’re starting to think we can literally throw credit cards at others and be on our way, because we’re all priority customers. I’m arguing that we should have the shared experience of standing in a line every once and a while with our neighbors and calmly wait our turn. And if I’m right about this, then the Post Office is our nation’s premiere provider of this needed service.

Post a comment


Apr. 6, 2013, 2:45:39 pm

Lynn W said...

Part of the cause of long lines and parking problems is the requirement to hand deliver to the post office counter any package over 13 oz. This started with the Unibomber and 16 oz. and in 2007 went down to 13 oz.

Apr. 6, 2013, 5:40:46 pm

Jerry v said...

Well written article. If we continue to on the path of wanting all information now, real time, in digital format. How will we be able to function if the web crashes? Let the likes of UPS

Apr. 6, 2013, 6:20:59 pm

Liam Skye said...

@Lynn W: Yes, the 13 ounce rule is burdensome but it is not a USPS policy - it is a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Agency. USPS is required by federal law to uphold the policies developed by those other federal agencies. since USPS is not allowed by Congress to equip a cargo air fleet it must buy airlift from other suppliers - some of which fly the cargo in the holds of passenger aircraft.

Apr. 6, 2013, 6:23:38 pm

Liam Skye said...

Congratulations to the author for such an insightful article. I had almost despaired that there was nobody else left who understood the implications of the Tea Cult assault on the American people's post office. It is heartening to know that there are others who "get it."

Apr. 8, 2013, 2:07:22 pm

SouthDakota Carrier said...

@Liam Skye, I don't believe any mail/parcels are transported on commercial flights. The travel on FedEX and sometimes UPS. If you use and pay by "click and ship" the packages can be over 13oz. After the package blows up, we can track you with this info. Only "stamped" items over 13oz must be presented to a retail counter or Rural Carrier. The USPS doesn't trust your City Carrier to know who you are. <roll eyes>

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