Why does the U.S. Postal Service charge the same price for a greeting card going from Washington, D.C., to California as it does from Manhattan to Queens? Because the Postal Service must follow a set of regulations designed to ensure that everyone can send and receive mail at a reasonable price. Those regulations are called the “universal service obligation,” or USO. And it covers many aspects of mail delivery.

What’s interesting about the USO is that while parts of it are clearly defined, such as the requirement to deliver six days a week, other aspects are more general and open to interpretation. For example, what does “quality service” actually mean?

For over a decade there’s been a discussion about the need to more clearly define the Postal Service’s USO. As mail volumes decline, more specific rules will help ensure an adequate level of service for everyone. In addition, perhaps as more and more people move toward digital alternatives, some rules could be relaxed.

In our recent white paper, Reevaluating the Universal Service Obligation, we looked at eight other countries where the posts have made recent changes to their respective USOs (this research was done prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). The most common changes were decreasing the number of days in delivery and slowing the delivery time. In addition, we found that in those countries, USO changes were needed to lower the cost of delivering mail, even though all eight countries earn some revenue from non-postal products, and unlike the USPS, half receive some sort of subsidy from their governments.

What do you think? What changes to current postal services would be acceptable to you?  Are there non-postal products or services USPS should be allowed to offer to generate additional revenue?

Comments (15)

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  • anon

    Quality Postal Service means mail gets delivered in the same manner in which mail carriers receive, and expect to receive, their own mail & deliveries. Most people trust the US Postal Service, so Banking Services, Postal Clothing & fashion, mail box/containers/slots sales, notary services, general insurance products covering home, vehicles, renters, etc., investment products such as secured bonds; all are logical extensions with respect to postal offerings. Transportation services with brand new vehicles, including mechanic services, are also possibilities. Educational coursework offerings on government supply chain, human resources, universal services provisions, public affairs and relations, offered through our postal service agency (certificate offerings in public management and business curricula).

    Aug 22, 2020
  • anon

    Why isn't H.R. 6407 - Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act being enforced. According to information your own office has put out "...frequency of delivery is the only obligation that is clearly articulated in the Postal Service's current USO." The Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is clearly in violation of H.R. 6407 and has been implementing policies that clearly negatively impact the post office's obligation to deliver mail in a timely fashion. Why is he able to get away with violating H.R. 6407 and can he be sued by a private customer?

    Aug 17, 2020
  • anon

    Just wanted to post a comment to say first of all if anyone needs a good laugh to take some time to read the comments/complaints posted by others on this site directed toward the USPS. I have to admit that I couldn't stop laughing whereby I had to stop reading the comments/complaints posted by others b4 I died from laughter. On a serious note, all I can add based upon my experience with the USPS that could fill a set of encyclopedias, is that nothing has really changed over the past 50 years other than the service which has become progressively worse over time while the cost of sending a letter or package has increased significantly. In reality, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how unreliable and inept the USPS has become. And while there may actually be a USPS employee who actually cares and performs his job properly, I can assure you that this particular postal employee is in the minority. And if I had to venture a guess, I'd say 1% at best. BTW, you would think that with all the negative comments/complaints that the USPS receives, they would actually do something about it to correct and improve their service. Good luck with that happening. In reality about the best they can do is ask the federal government to bail them out at the expense of you and I, the taxpayers, for they're inability to operate in the black. All I can add is that I purposely stay away from the post office no matter the location and I seldom if ever use and rely upon their incompetent services if I don't have to. In reality, if the USPS really wants to correct their situation, I would suggest they close up shop and disappear from the face of the earth.

    May 23, 2020
  • anon

    I live in New York City where I obviously receive mail and packages. But, I also have a home in Vermont and due to the pandemic, I want to spend more time there. My VT post office does not deliver mail to my address. Can I get a free po box for my time spent up there. I pay taxes, have electric & phone bills to prove that I am a resident as well. Do they have to provide a no-pay box for me?

    May 23, 2020
  • anon

    Hello Nancy. Thank you for your comment. Regarding your concern, please contact your local Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    May 26, 2020
  • anon

    Yes. I’d like to see USPS advertising the personal value of writing letters. People prefer getting letters to email, and hand written letters are better for the writer than emails. There has been research on this subject. Advertising that consists of “your happy carrier” doesn’t lead to more First Class Mail.

    May 18, 2020
  • anon

    As a retired person, I could easily opt to have my residential mail delivered every third day. Hardly anything worthwhile is brought to my mailbox anyway. Is there an option for non-daily delivery?

    May 15, 2020
  • anon

    My thoughts Workers are overpaid. Poor customer service. No followup evaluation on workers. Mailman purposely skips houses to get off early. Everytime I visit office workers not busy getting paid. Maybe small town different.

    May 15, 2020
  • anon

    I wish they would just DO their job. Stop taking short cuts and thinking they can do what ever they feel like. I guess they think because its a gov job, rules don't apply to them.? Informed delivery is a joke! As is the little lock boxes in the lobby for p.o. box customers, I still have to pick up packages from the counter, trying to juggle MY time around their ever changing hours that they are open. I thought they had set hours of operation? My local office was closed for lunch until people complained! And they are SO rude! Some of my mail has been opened and resealed. I am a very unsatatisfied customer!

    May 13, 2020
  • anon

    Suzie Evidently you are a disgruntled employee or were refused a position in the service. The "little lock boxes" that you speak of are just that. Letter size boxes. If you would like to receive your oversized parcels in your box, then move up in size. Oh wait, that would cost you more and we wouldn't want that. UPS is an option for you if you are truly "a very unsatisfied customer." Oops, again that would cost you more. Sorry about you trying to "juggle your time." I guess it's hard to decide when to get out of your jammies.

    May 20, 2020
  • anon

    My mailperson is a wonderful, hardworking person. I love her. But USPS over all is a problem. I have been waiting for packages from outside the USA for over two months, and no one cares. I have no idea if I will ever receive them, or not. And although no one has been rude to me, they sure don't help.

    May 25, 2020
  • anon

    I would like to tell you that I have the best postal carrier ever. This guy always has a positive attitude, gives 110% and is so personable...He is fabulous. My mail is delivered on time everyday, This guy always has a smile and makes me smile every time I see him! He delivers in the area 99517 in Anchorage Alaska and the last four digits of his truck are 0439...give the guy a raise and a commendation he is USPS!!

    May 12, 2020
  • anon

    I think the Post Office should be allowed to find other sources of income, stop Saturday deliveries, and receive regular funding from the government. The Post Office is vital service to the American people.

    May 11, 2020
  • anon

    What is this about

    May 11, 2020
  • anon

    I believe raising price for stamps is acceptable. We need post office. All mail should not be ups or DHL or anyone else. Packages cost enough but regular stamps should go up. Every big organization has problems but the jobs are important for employees to retain.

    May 11, 2020