on Dec 3rd, 2012
in Delivery & Collection
| 6 comments
The U.S. Postal Service is about the best in the world at providing its core service of mail delivery. In fact, its ability to deliver mail and return undeliverable mail to the sender effectively makes the United States government one of the most efficient in the world, according to a working paper by National Bureau of Economic Research. A group of economists rated the efficiency of the world's governments with a simple test of their postal systems. The group mailed fake letters to nonexistent businesses in 159 countries and waited a year to see which were sent back to a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The goal was to use a simple, universal service to explore why, other than corruption, developing countries tend to have poorly performing governments. All the letters went to countries that subscribe to the Universal Postal Union, which requires that incorrectly addressed mail be returned within a month. The United States was one of only four countries to send the undeliverable letters back within 90 days, along with El Salvador, Czech Republic, and Luxembourg. In fact, the U.S. had the fastest return rate at 16 days, although it may have benefited from returning the letters to an address in the United States. It also returned 100 percent of the fake-addressed letters. The study was not intended to assess the Postal Service, but the results do highlight some of its key strengths, at least compared to foreign posts. Foremost, better classification systems for addresses tended to result in faster returns, the economists noted. The Postal Service uses uniform address standards and its address database is among the most robust in the world. Again, this was not the study’s intention, but the results seem to support the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) position that a national addressing system is essential to the economic and social advancement of countries. In its recent white paper, “Addressing the World – An Address for Everyone,” the UPU says that in many developing countries, physical addresses exist only in city centers. Without physical addresses, it is difficult to impossible for public services and businesses to reach their intended targets. “A quality address infrastructure must be considered as an essential part of a country’s socio-economic infrastructure, not only for improving public services, but also facilitating business, trade and, consequently, national development,” the UPU says. How important is an addressing infrastructure to government efficiency and business development? What parts of addressing does the Postal Service do particularly well? What could be improved? Share your thoughts.
on Nov 12th, 2012
in Ideas Worth Exploring
| 5 comments
The historic election of 2012 is over. Whether your candidate won or lost, you can feel confident that the American electoral process, a model for the free world, worked as the Founding Fathers intended – even if they never could have imagined spending billions of dollars on an election. However, many citizens complained about the long lines at polling places and the unreasonable wait times. The wait times seemed to range from 30 minutes to several hours. In some cases, voters abandoned the polls altogether after a lengthy wait. States have decades of experience administering elections, so it is particularly vexing that voting is so time consuming. Why should it take longer to vote than it does to conduct other routine government business? In many states, motor vehicles can be renewed securely in several ways, at the citizen’s convenience. The citizen can renew in person at an office of the motor vehicle administration, mail a renewal form, or submit a renewal application online. What can be done to make voting quick, easy, convenient and yet still secure? Since 1998, citizens of the State of Oregon have securely cast their ballots exclusively by mail. Although postal voting has increased the amount of time necessary to tally votes, Oregon has reduced the cost of conducting elections and seen consistently higher turnout than the U.S. average. Ballots can either be mailed (earning the U.S. Postal Service some additional revenue) or dropped off free-of-charge at a ballot collection center. All 50 states already have a postal voting infrastructure in place through the offering of absentee paper ballots. In 2011 Washington State followed Oregon’s example of total postal voting and 27 other states allow anyone to vote by mail (without excuse). However there are still 22 states where postal voting is not an option without a valid and documented reason. In some localities, citizens can visit their local courthouse or other locations for early voting or to submit their absentee ballot in person, weeks before Election Day. Many citizens take advantage of these opportunities, even if the voting locale is less convenient than their polling place. The Post Office, as the heart of many local communities and a trusted government entity, might make an ideal place for early voting or in-person absentee voting. Do you agree? Do you think voting by mail would work in your community? Would you use the Post Office to cast your ballot if that were an option? Tell us what you think.
on Nov 5th, 2012
in Products & Services
| 9 comments
As one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in years comes to a close tomorrow, the media is filled with campaign ads. Whether in the morning newspaper, through social media websites, or during commercial breaks on television, we hear constantly about various candidates and ballot referenda. The mailbox is no exception -- direct mail continues to be a widely used political advertising strategy. Recent reports indicate that nearly 2 billion pieces of political mail have been sent this election cycle, and the Postal Service projects it will earn nearly $400 million in revenue from this volume. If you live in a swing state, such as Colorado, Ohio, or Virginia, your mailbox might have been full of political campaign mail all year long. In these battleground states, no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state's Electoral College votes. Political campaign mail is a targeted and cost-effective way for the candidates to get their message to their intended audience. If you live in an area with hotly contested state or local elections, you've probably received a great deal of mail from their respective campaigns as well. The boost in political mail volumes is a testament to the power of direct mail. More dollars may be spent on television advertising, but the ability of mail to pinpoint a message to voters at a reasonable price is especially attractive to candidates and the national parties. However, using this method too much can backfire. Voters report that the barrage of mail prompts them to tune out the message altogether. They throw away or recycle the mail without even opening the piece. Did you find the mailings effective? Did they help to inform your views of a candidate or a voter proposition? Or did the increased amount of political mail cause you to tune out the message? What advantages and disadvantages do you see over newspaper, television, or Internet advertising? Let us know what you think.
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