UPS floats proposal for “rethinking mailbox access”

UPS floats proposal for “rethinking mailbox access”

Writing as a guest contributor to the USPS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) blog, Keith Kellison, senior vice president, UPS Global Public Affairs, has suggested that perhaps the time has come to lift restrictions on access to US mailboxes – so that third party couriers, as well as the US Postal Service, can use them to deliver packages to US households. In a blog posted on the OIG website on Monday (24 August), Kellison said: “In the past, when most mail was letters, mailboxes were smaller, typically 8 x 11 inches. In fact, the design was so entwined with envelopes that in the 1930s Congress granted the U.S. Postal Service exclusive access to the ‘letter box’.

“But, as letter mail volume has decreased and parcel volume increased, mailboxes have grown. Pass through any neighborhood and you’ll see bigger boxes to accommodate small parcels like eyeglasses, designer clothes, and even time-sensitive groceries.

“Given this demand, and the fact that consumers own the mailboxes, doesn’t it make sense to no longer restrict mailbox deliveries? (Only the Postal Service can access your mailbox.) Customers would benefit from reduced delivery costs, additional flexibility, and the knowledge that their packages are safe.

“Of course, qualifications may be required to ensure security and that mailboxes are not over-crowded. But the good news is that the U.S. wouldn’t be the first to lift the restrictions. For years, third parties in Europe have been allowed to deliver parcels to mailboxes, with no security issues. If it’s worked there for so long, why can’t it work here?

“After the restrictions are lifted, we can continue advancing neighborhood logistics. Electronic delivery notifications and boxes with temperature controls are just two potential ideas with immediate potential. The list of opportunities is endless, but the first step is access.”

At the time of writing this article (28 August, 14:50 GMT), the blog had attracted eight comments. Some of these were negative, saying this was a  “very bad” and “terrible” idea – but given that these were written by “rural letter carriers” this was not a great surprise.

However, “Zac Stephens” from Iowa – who seemed more comfortable with the idea of e-commerce and home delivery and than the other commentators – welcomed the proposal.

“As someone who regularly purchases items online and have them shipped to my home,”  wrote Stephens. ” I don’t understand why this outdated law mandating only USPS can use my mailbox is still in effect today. I’d be much more confident in the security of my packages if all deliveries to my house went in my mailbox rather than sitting on my front porch for anyone to see. Fortunately, I live in a safe neighborhood in Iowa and do not have a problem receiving my deliveries, but it seems to make much more sense to receive deliveries through my mailbox.”

Yesterday (27 August), the USPS Corporate Communications itself weighed into the debate, posting the following comment: “If delivery companies want to discuss stuffing your mailbox with their packages, then that discussion needs to start with why mailboxes are reserved for the Postal Service in the first place.

“The fact is that exclusive mailbox access isn’t some kind of gratuitous privilege. Rather, it reflects commonsense ways of helping the Postal Service shoulder its enormous and unique responsibility: namely, delivering mail and packages to every home and business in America at affordable prices, and not just delivering packages to the most profitable addresses or with hefty surcharges.

“Regulators, courts, and experts who have studied the issue in depth agree that exclusive access provides many important benefits to the American people, and that open mailbox access would take away those benefits.

“• Security: Open mailbox access would make it an everyday occurrence for third parties to enter private mailboxes. It would be much harder to distinguish legitimate actors from common criminals. The RAND Corporation, a leading think tank with national security expertise, found that “relaxing the Mailbox Rule will have a negative effect on public safety and mail security,” as it would increase criminals’ opportunities for mail theft, identity theft, and explosive attacks.

“• Efficient delivery of mail: Open mailbox access would cause clutter and confusion in customers’ mailboxes. Most of what goes into the mailbox today are letters, catalogs, and magazines. If unlocked, curbside mailboxes were open to package delivery companies, however, a mail carrier would not be able to fit those very items into the mailbox, or to distinguish between outgoing mail and privately delivered items. At the very least, the carrier would have to spend extra time at your mailbox in order to figure out what’s what. This would slow down the entire mail delivery process, increase the costs of mail delivery, and ultimately raise the price tag of mail for customers.

“• Universal service at affordable and uniform prices: Whether you are sending a regular letter or card across town or across the country, the same Forever stamp will get it there. Exclusive mailbox access helps make that possible. By contrast, open mailbox access would make it easier for competing delivery services to strip certain profitable types of mail away from the Postal Service, such as catalogs and certain types of advertising mail. The Postal Service would be left delivering less profitable types of mail to less profitable areas, and yet it would have less of the more profitable types of mail with which to support those deliveries. This sort of “cream-skimming” competition would gut the Postal Service’s ability to support universal service and to keep it affordable.

“Exclusive mailbox access goes hand in hand with the sort of secure, efficient, universal, and affordable mail service that the American people expect and require. Mailbox access cannot be “rethought” without realistic consideration of how else to provide Americans with the efficient, universal delivery of letters and other mail: a public service that the Postal Service currently performs without taxpayer dollars. And yet, virtually every expert report and customer poll to have discussed the issue is unanimous in supporting continuation of exclusive mailbox access as a way to support universal postal service.”

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