on Feb 18th, 2014 in Strategy & Public Policy | 19 comments

There’s no lack of opinions in Washington about what the U.S. Postal Service should do to get out of its precarious financial situation. Cut this, add that, restructure these, and so on. But what about the public? What do Americans want - expect - from the Postal Service?

Our office commissioned focus groups across the nation, speaking with scores of people young and old, from rural areas and big cities. The goal was to gauge perceptions of the Postal Service to understand what Americans not only want from the Postal Service, but also need from it. The results are compiled and analyzed in our new white paper, What America Wants and Needs from the Postal Service.

One key finding was that (a), many participants mistakenly believed that the Postal Service receives taxpayer funding, and (b), when they learned the Postal Service is in fact self-funded, much like any other business, nearly everyone’s views and expectations began to soften, allowing for greater flexibility and compromise on service.

Overall, we found that Americans were most willing to accept a reduction in a particular service they are currently pleased with. For instance, most rural participants were open to – even excited by – the possibility of shifting to cluster box delivery because it could provide more security in locations where mail theft and mail box vandalism are common. Reduced number of delivery days was also acceptable to almost all participants.

Among other key findings, all but two of the total 101 participants said they would, in general, be affected to some degree if the Postal Service were to disappear. And rural participants viewed post offices as community centers, while urban participants saw them as a convenience.

The big take-away: We found that what Americans need from the Postal Service is much less than what they want, and they are willing to make trade-offs to maintain a certain level of service. What America Wants and Needs from the Postal Service [link] details the trade-offs, highlighting some of the different preferences that emerge when urban and rural populations are compared. And yet, among the differences, a common theme is also evident – Americans still value the Postal Service.

Tell us your thoughts:

  • What do you need and want from the Postal Service?
  • Did you know that the Postal Service is self-funded?
  • Does that knowledge affect your opinion or expectations regarding Postal Service services? 


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Over the decades I have lived all over these united states. In EVERY ONE I've had a positive experience with Postal Service Employees. In Taos NM, NY NY, Boston MA, Plainfield VT, Chicago IL, Syracuse NY and, New Haven CT In each and every one I have found Postal Employees to be helpful and pleasant. Each one was informed, accurate and intelligent. Any needs I had were accommodated and or my concerns were allayed. When I need the service of the Postal Service, nothing else will do. Fortunately for me, the Postal Service is there.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this comment and for the continued service of the USPS.
Mark Andrews

Are you a public relations contractor working for the USPS? I have had to file more than a dozen complaints with the USPS in the past year for non-delivery and delayed delivery of mail. I have had to wait for more than 3 weeks for the USPS to delivery a package that had been "out for delivery" (as stated by the USPS Tracking). Today I had to submit a complaint to the Inspector General of the USPS because another one of my packages has been "out for delivery" since January 18, 2014. It still hasn't been delivered. I have kept records and documentation of all the times I have filed cases with the USPS for sub-standard service.
I have gone to two three different post offices and have been told three different stories about First Class International mail. I even has a representative call and out right LIE to me about the reason I was told a package could not be sent by International First Class. When I told her the facts of my experience (which I had not included in my initial complaint to the USPS), she could not talk around the sloppy service and empty excuse that she had given me. Employees of the USPS do as employees of most companies do. They will lie to cover the incompetent and sometimes out-right, mean spirited, inferior service that some of the employees of the USPS render.
I was in my local post office about 2 weeks ago and whitnessed another woman who had not received a package sent to her. A package was delivered to my address. I then e-mailed the USPS of the mis-delivered package. I never received a reply from anyone with the USPS. After about 2 weeks of waiting, I mailed a letter to the person whom the package was addressed to, explaining the fact that it had been delivered to my address. That was apparently the only way this woman would have gotten her package. Mr. Andrews, have you ever read the disclaimer that the Inspector General of the USPS send to people who files a complaint for missing mail?

"Out for Delivery" tracking scan is not tied to any particular pc of mail. Once all items in an office are scanned the equipment used for scanning is downloaded and the "out for delivery" tracking shows up. A carrier for one route might leave at 8:00 am and all items in the office be slated "out for delivery" and another not until 11:00 am but both would be "out for delivery". The same can be said for items that are manifested through UPS or FEDEX for Postal Service delivery. These items sometimes show they are "at the delivery partner" (USPS) when they are not. The "delivery" scan isn't any better. It only shows delivery, not to whom it was delivered. The Postal Service has a LOT of work to do with tracking and scanning. Once again they have gotten the cart before the horse. It is a false sense of security to rely on these scans. As far as First Class International Mail, it is simply an issue of weight, size and contents of the item, nothing more. If anyone has explained it any other way they are incorrect.

you are perfectly right. they refuse deliberately to solve the problems, for the services you pay it for. this is call STILING your money.

I know the postal service is a stand along agency. The need to support themselves explains all the junk mail. I believe that there is so much hi-jacking of accounts on the internet, that the postal service is at least another option. I think the crooks that operate on the internet may even be smarter than the ones that tried to hi-jack the mails. I would like to see more agreements between the postal service and outfits like target, Kohls, etc. with 7 day service. This would be one up on the other ground service for delivering merchandise. I also like the postal people that serve my route. I am mobility challenged. I have a mail slot in my door. The postman always knocks when he delivers the mail. I really appreciated this rather than having to scoop it up off the floor. The postal people still have more of a chance to provide personalized service; especially to seniors who are getting to be a non-negligible group. I certainly do not wish the internet and UPS to be my only options..

Regarding your comment, sound you don`t are a USPS costumer. You sound more that you work for USPS, and a " good image" help USPS to keep the crap behind. Start from 31jan 2014, I still don`t have the money back guaranty for priority-mail and money order missing/disappear/stolen by USPS employee(s) and several complaints, around 10,until now, with all the evidences necessary(copy, receipts of everything mailed in this particular matter, inclusive and the envelope), to several USPS department, witch claim that solve the crap(inclusive OIG+ USPIS) The USPS still the money deliberately from costumer and cover all the illegalities for they "good image" and money. The true, they are a big layer, stilling with out any shame peoples money.

Thank you for asking.
My expectations from The Postal Service is simple. My situation is rather complicated. This I do not understand. I have always had an amicable relationship with USPS, especially delivery employees. A very nice group of people, wherever I reside. I have been living at my current address for almost nine years, and have Yet to have, even a piece of mail from PCH Sweepstakes! (lol) . For unknown reasons my Apt. complex has been singled out for Non Delivery, and has been designated an Un-Deliverable Address! This Apartment Complex meets ALL codes and Requirements outlined by USPS
bylaws! I have read them, and understand them. What I fail to understand is; Why, after nine years, USPS Refuses to, and will not Deliver My mail to ME, at my legal deliverable address! From what I understand, my landlord has been attempting to get us Mail Boxes, and I have been patiently waiting. But, Enough is Enough! The postal employees at My local branch, do not understand the problem, either! I Must maintain a beneficial means for being in contact with The Veterans Administration, as I am a Disabled American, Vietnam Era Veteran! The Veterans Administration will only contact me thru USPS, ONLY!
This has caused me considerable waste of; Time, Valuable Retrievable Current Information/Instructions, etc. Do you get My Drift? I, only wish to have USPS Services, as I have Always had and, how all my close neighbors seem to be Enjoying TODAY, as I write this! I have been given a PO Box, (free) but, I do not drive, (my Disability) so I have spent Too Much $$$$ retrieving My mail from my,(not so local) local Post Office! This situation Exacerbates my disability, complicating my current condition!
I am a Proud American Citizen, and ask Only for what my American neighbors receive with no apparent Problem!
My question is, WHY ME?
Daniel Halley

No mail service today February 18 in zip code 30066???????????? I would have been fired if I let this happen when I worked there????

Your updated study on what America wants from the Postal Service is generally well done but there seems to be a certain slant to the discussion.
You indicate that folks generally don't understand that the Postal Service is self-funding. The one question that isn't asked is whether that's appropriate. Up until 1984 it was generally accepted that the Postal Service should receive some form of appropriations to pay for both universal service and reduced rates for certain categories of mail. The discussion these days seems to discount the usefulness of appropriations. That fits with a general tendency towards diminished understanding of the value of public goods, public services and public infrastructure.
A great portion of our discussions of economics these days depends on misconceptions and misunderstandings about the nature of Federal debts and deficits. Much of our debate about Federal spending has been framed by folks like Pete Peterson and the folks who were supportive of the Simpson-Bowles prescriptions. Unfortunately much of what supports those arguments relies on bad economics.
The questions you've asked in your most recent piece seem designed to elicit a fairly narrow range of responses. It seems you've missed an opportunity to explore the subject in greater depth. How do we value public goods? How should we value public goods? Does postal infrastructure serve more than a purely economic purpose? Even if post6al infrastructure serves only an economic purpose, must the infrastructure itself be self-supporting or does the overall added value justify support from outside the system?
The design of the study betrays your prejudice and predetermined conclusions.

Futhermore, I strongly feel its an privileage for the public, and I also feel strongly against comments, such-as the postal service have more days close went it comes to honoring the lenght of the existing of the service, NATIONALLYNATIONSWIDE. Which as to say many of these américa sincerely can not read. Facts: My very first experiment with the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, FACTS: SUNDAY: LOCATION: LEELAND, IT WAS THE ONLY BUSINESS AND BUILDING THAT WERE THERE.
Sincerely, Customer. Thanks!


what is you job position on USPS ? or USPS OIG? or USPIS? shame on you

Why am I unable to read the Full Report? Each time I click on the provided link, I am denied access with "The requested page "/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2014/rarc-wp-14-009.pdf" could not be found."

Thanks for catching our broken link. We've fixed the link and you should be able to get to the white paper now.

I haven't received a delivery for over five days since my postman has chosen to not leave his postal supplied truck. He is unable to walk the few steps to reach my mailbox. Yet I am required to drive a mile, walk over a snow covered drive to secure may mail. Why is he being paid? Why does he have This job. I am certain someone else would be happy to work for the postal service which offers security, health benefits and a pension plan. How can we rid ourselves from these bad actors. I have complained before. Your web site is a joke. Your 800 number is no better
Sorry to say your current standards are lacking.

I am assuming from your comments that your mailbox is blocked by snow. I am NOT a Postal employee but I do know that it is YOUR responsibility to keep access to your mailbox clear so that your mail carrier may serve it from the vehicle. If he were to take the time to safely secure his truck to climb over the snow to walk to your (and all the other mail boxes blocked by snow) there would be no time to serve the boxes that customers have cleared a path. Instead of driving a mile for five days to retrieve mail, why not just move the snow from the access to your box? And you are certainly right, there are many people who would be happy to work for the postal service but even if it were you, you would have to follow the regulations, you could not break them.

No Mail service Feb 18? Did u drive anywhere that day or did the local Police and the Mayor say stay off the road unless it was an emergency? Sounds like you followed the instructions but did not want the Post office carriers to do the same. The Postal person may not have been able to get to work because of the Ice and hills in zip code 30066. I live in this zip code and know there were no traffic on our street. Just want to thank the Postal Service for the fine job they are doing. Do not throw rocks when you live in a glass house.

To what degree were elderly, disabled and otherwise homeboud included in these focus groups?

Thanks for your question. Twenty percent of focus group participants were over age 65. Twenty two out of 101 people were retired. Six people were over 70 and one was over 80. Two people self-identified as disabled, although we did not ask about disability directly.

I believe that the postal service or some other government branch should offer some sort of identity theft protection program, because you have the means to investigate and ensure the masses that these products do work and are safe. I did a recent search and was appalled by what was considered public information. In this, that means that your identity is that much more inexclusive and we are at an increased risk of having our lives destroyed. I believe that all employers should eventually make their employees aware that there is an option but it is up to the government to lead the way. I just don't know how to do it myself but I would not want the same thing to happen to others that has happened to me and so many others already.