- Using short-run costs can result in prices that may generate additional revenue in the short term but will still not allow the Postal Service to cover its institutional costs.
- Prices based on short-run costs would be more volatile.
- Customers may be unsure as to whether prices are permanent or temporary.
- Accurate measurement is difficult and would require significant effort from experts in postal operations.
- The Postal Service may lose the incentive to shed the excess capacity.
on Jan 9th, 2013
in Finances: Cost & Revenue
| 3 comments
Some have argued that the U.S. Postal Service should be allowed to raise prices in order to increase revenue and ensure that the sales of their products cover their costs. Others have argued that the current costing system may overstate the cost of some products, as it assumes the Postal Service is able to adjust its capacity, such as quickly closing a facility or eliminating a tour, to match the decline in mail volume. So, the second argument goes, if the Postal Service is unable to adjust its capacity, it should temporarily lower the prices of certain products, in order to encourage volume, as it did in the past with its “summer sales.” The latter argument was briefly discussed in the OIG’s recently released paper “A Primer on Postal Costing Issues.” As a follow-up to that paper, we asked Professor Michael D. Bradley of George Washington University, an expert in postal economics, to co-author a paper on the use of short-run costing and pricing. Essentially, short-run costing varies from the current costing system in that it does not assume that the Postal Service can reduce its capacity as fast as volume falls. Using short-run costs to develop prices would allow the Postal Service to temporarily lower prices, at least on some products, to encourage volume that would make use of the excess capacity while the Postal Service creates a plan to reduce the excess capacity. However, the paper warns that short-run costs should only be used to set prices if they can be measured accurately and updated regularly and the Postal Service can be sure that a lower price will lead to a large enough increase in volume, otherwise they will simply lose revenue. Other issues that need to be considered when using short-run costs to set prices include:
on Jan 24th, 2011
in Mail Processing & Transportation
| 6 comments
The Postal Service established International Service Centers (ISCs) in 1996 to become more competitive in the international mail market. ISCs distribute and dispatch both incoming and outgoing international mail. The ISC network has facilities located in five major cities: New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Postal Service hoped that ISCs would improve service and provide the structure needed to support new products and increase revenue. However, International Mail volume has not increased as projected by the ISC marketing and sales plan. During the period FY 2007 to FY 2010, International mail volume declined by approximately 29 percent (from 858 million to 609 million mailpieces). Although the Postal Service reduced expenses by nearly $6 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2009 and by almost $789 million during the first three quarters of FY 2010, the reductions have not been sufficient to offset declines in mail volume revenue. Consequently, the Postal Service is reviewing its mail processing and retail networks to remove duplication and make them more efficient to reflect current mail volumes. In light of international mail volume declines and the Postal Service’s current financial condition, does the Postal Service still need a separate network to handle international mail? Are there other options the Postal Service could pursue to increase International mail volumes and revenue? Please share your comment(s) on how to make the ISC network more profitable, effective, efficient and economical. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Network Processing Audit Team.
on Jan 3rd, 2011
| 15 comments
It’s that time of year again. Those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog have come up with a list of the top 10 postal stories for 2010. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to get your input on the top story, so take a minute and vote in the poll below. 10. OSHA Fines the Postal Service – At plants across the country, the Postal Service receives sizeable fines for electrical hazards. 9. e-Tipping Point – A flurry of activity in 2010 bolsters the notion that the Digital Revolution has trumped paper-based communications: Apple introduces its iPad tablet computer; all e-reader sales are up nearly 80 percent over last year; the Kindle becomes Amazon’s biggest seller and the company predicts e-books will surpass paper books within a year; Netflix announces that more customers watch streaming videos than DVDs. 8. Congress Takes Notice – Members from both houses of Congress – and both sides of the aisle – introduce legislation to fix the Postal Service’s overpayments to the federal government, which contributed significantly to the Postal Service’s massive net losses over the past few years. 7. America Wakes Up – Widespread mainstream media coverage on a number of postal issues, including 5-day delivery and the financial challenges plaguing the organization, spark a national interest in our postal system. 6. Reports Address Flawed Business Model – The Government Accountability Office confirms that the Postal Service’s business model is ”not viable.” The Postal Service issues its action plan to address declining mail volumes, changing communications habits and other systemic problems. 5. Stakeholders Debate 5-Day Delivery – The Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday delivery generates heated debate, massive press coverage and congressional input. The Postal Regulatory Commission holds a series of public hearings on the topic. 4. PMG Potter Retires – After nearly 10 years as the postmaster general and 32 years with the Postal Service, Jack Potter called it a career and retired on Dec. 3. 3. Postal Service Suffers Largest Net Loss in History – The Postal Service ends FY 2010 with a net loss of $8.5 billion, the largest net loss in its history. Still, it manages to pay all of its bills and remain solvent at the start of FY 2011. 2. OIG Finds $75 Billion Overpayment – A report by the Office of Inspector General finds that the Postal Service has overpaid its Civil Service Retirement System obligations by a staggering $75 billion. Mailing industry unites in its support of a congressional fix. 1. PRC Denies Exigent Rate Request – The Postal Service invokes the exigency clause in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and asks for a price increase above the inflation-based price cap. Mailers unite in their opposition to the request, which the Postal Regulatory Commission officially denies in September. The Postal Service appeals the decision to federal appeals court.
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