Today, I walked out of my front door and the postman happened to be taking lunch in the mail van on my block. As I walked past (to the humdrum mailbox), he rolled down his window to smile and say hello. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about the weather, and as I started off I realized I had that card to mom in my hand. I tracked back a few steps and handed it over, mentioning that I seem to always have a card for him to mail. In response, I received encouragement to 'keep it up!' and never stop sending mail. I smiled all the way back to my house.
My penchant for postage is probably abnormal, and I see that sinister character stage right nodding in agreement. Upon returning home, I thought I'd look to see if there are any projections... In March 2010, the Boston Consulting Group wrote a report projecting mail volumes through 2020. Here is an excerpt:
"The U.S. Postal Service will experience profound declines in its volumes of mail and its net "
income over the next decade under its current business model, presenting a grave threat
to its viability. Massive structural changes are required to avoid this outcome.
We forecast U.S. postal volumes to decrease from 177B pieces in 2009 to around 150B
pieces in 2020 under business-as-usual assumptions."
CNN also chimed in:
"... There is no reason why the U.S. Postal Service cannot also become a leader in the global delivery sector. It already has a far-flung network of sorting centers and letter carriers that allows it to deliver physical documents to every U.S. address six days every week..."
Visual.ly had a graphic of this decline:
It seems the message is mixed - the amount of mail is declining (not a surprise), but there are ways to keep the post office alive. I hope so, even if the act of going to the post office doesn't make me smile. It's open at odd hours, there are usually long lines, and 9 times out of 10 I didn't do something correct and I have to get back in line. But the act of sending gifts, the joy in finding a personal card or letter in the mail, and my interactions with my postman are all extremely positive and definitely win this fight.
The advent of e-commerce was a wonderful thing - I no longer get 5 pieces of paper just to find out my bank balance, my neighbor doesn't get to accidentally open my credit card bill, and I just deposited a check without leaving my desk. I'm hoping we can enjoy these conveniences and preserve interactions with a neighborhood postman whose job depends on us sending mail. There is much more to all of this, of course, but I will happily do my part and continue walking out the door - cards in hand. An e-card just isn't quite the same.