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Ask Slashdot: Is the United States Postal Service Obsolete? 291

Xerron asks: "Now that e-mail is a big deal, friends and family rarely need to write snail mail leters anymore. And when you need a package delivered you use UPS or Federal Express, not the USPS. Is the USPS in trouble? Since e-mail handles the bulk of short letters and quick notes and UPS and FedEx handles packages, that leaves the USPS with nothing but junk mail and Publishers Clearing House mailers. Could USPD dwindle in the future?" Considering that less than 50% of Americans are on the Internet, I highly doubt that the US Postal Service will be obsoleted in the near future. But I could be wrong. What do you all think?
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Ask Slashdot: Is the United States Postal Service Obsolete?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    USPS is a godsend for packages. The other two
    couldn't find their bunghole (or my house, apparently) with two hands & a GPS.
    And they've never broken anything, which is MUCH more than I can say for UPS, which I think stands for U Poor Sod.

    And until I can pay ALL my bills electronically - without a convenience fee, I'll be licking, er, sticking stamps. This aspect of the USPS I could do without. But then, there's no fooling the Net...it's hard to get away with 'check's in the mail'
  • by Anonymous Coward
    >Second, although UPS or Fed-Ex may (or may not) be more reliable /
    >convenient / whatever than the post office, they still do not deliver packages
    >to my house unless I am there to receive them.

    This is a voluntary plug for UPS: I mailordered some stuff months ago, and UPS was the only option. Few days later, I get home, yellow notice saying "We missed you." Call them up, have it redirected to work address. Order something again a bit later, same thing happens. Then, order a third thing: they drop off a yellow notice, *AND* automagically redirect it to work the next day.

    Someone there has a clue about customer service. I liked that. I've never had anything mangled or lost by UPS or FedEx, but the USPS totally lost a box of books I'd sent thru the mail. [Address label managed to get scraped off, and they returned that label to me saying "uh, we don't know what this was attached to"] Even with a *detailed* description of that box, inside and out, it was permanently gone. Ugh.

    Don't always complain about junkmail-- it keeps those letter prices down for the rest of us. If the USPS only delivered real letters and magazines, prices would be way up, and I wouldn't be able to heat my home in winter.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Out here in the maximum boonies, the USPS really shines. UPS is a lame dog, and FedEx is good but pricey. No-one but the USPS is going to brave the treacherous roads and middle-of-nowhere's on a daily basis.

    My mailman does a lot more than deliver mail-he makes a daily check on the health of ailing neighbors and handles all the stamp sales and package pickups. I get better service from my rural route carrier than anyone gets from the walk-in post office.

    The rural USPS folks also work with the Feds to track SSI fraud and the like: these are the people that really check regularly that no-one gets multiple welfare checks and that kind of thing.

    I _like_ the USPS, they deliver me really good value.
  • Sure, first class personal letters are declining, but they weren't making any real money on that, so there's no great loss there. The post office actually loses money delivering a handwritten envelope.

    Bills and junk mail are just as popular as ever, that's probably the bulk of the USPS's business. On top of that, they're pushing their premium services, Priority Mail and Express Mail, which I'm sure are profit centers. They also are expanding their line of products for sale (another profit center). They used to just sell mailing boxes, now you can get books, tee shirts, caps, posters, stamp collecting supplies, phone cards, they even sell a leather carry bag syled after the ones the postal workers carry. I'm just waiting for them to start offering commemerative firearms ;-)
  • Any organization where people are expected to die in the line of duty, including the Military and Police forces, has procedures for notifying next of kin. They almost always send an officer to your house to express condolences in person.

    In general, while letters are one way to add a more personal touch to communications, there are plenty of other ways, depending on the nature of the communications (many love letters are sent by FTD, for example). USPS is not going to thrive by the dwindling number of people using snail mail for personal correspondance. They're going to thrive from everyone's electric bill, and the package you just ordered.
  • There is another cost that usually gets ignored: Billing Costs. These are in two parts. The first is a non-monetary one for the customer who must figure out how much to pay for a given piece of mail and then must make the payment. The second is the cost of the postal service to accept payment and make sure that there are not too many "free riders."

    The nice thing about the current system of flat-rate billing for practically all 1st class letters, and only a weight-related one beyond that, is its ease of use for the customer who buys bunches of stamps and has to do practically no thinking at all. It also retains the ability to be relatively anonymous and untraceable. It is also very easy for the post-office to make sure that letters have been paid for.

    A more complicated billing system would be possible to implement, but the costs involved in running it might overwhelm any advantages of efficiency that it might provide. Of course, an honor-system based payment scheme might work, but it might make people suspect that there are lots of "free riders" out there, even if they really aren't. Besides, it would impose a large (and hidden!) cost on the citizenry which would have to figure out and use the new system.

    P.S. I don't think that personal letters are subsidizing junk mail. It is probably the other way around since their volume averages out fixed costs for distribution and thus makes the personal letters cheaper to send and receive.
  • I would refrain from using such strong word as obsolete in the same sentence with USPS ;-) Seriously, USPS is slow, yes. In fact, they are very slow (as any government organization). Maybe majority of their workers are not the once whom we praise, but give them a little credit, for god's sake. USPS is in a process of adapting to Internet's way of doing business right this minute. Last year (around December) they introduced a great service called PostOffice Online: www.postofficeonline.com [postofficeonline.com]. The company I work for depends on this service, and I personally have used it for the last 6 month. In short, you are able to prepare Priority Mail or Express Mail packages for shipping without leaving your house at no extra charge. USPS sends you four (2 for Priority and 2 for Express) kinds of envelopes and two kinds of labels. To send a package you have to get on their web site, pay for the package with your credit card, put a label in your printer and print specifically encoded (with USPS tracking code) label. All neat and clean, without a postal worker decrypting your spoiled by computers handwriting. The only ugly part in this process is that you still have to drive to your post office to drop off this package. Also, at this time and place (yes, I live in the area where most postal workers have never heard of the Internet and its possibilities -- called Brooklyn, NY ;-) some confusion might arise at your local PO. I just happened to speak with my boss a few days ago about USPS's future and we came to the same conclusion: USPS has to compete with Pitney Bows (spelling?) if they want to stay in business. They need to provide a nationwide service through the Internet that would let people pay the postage price right on the Web and later would encode a unique stamp. But then again, I'm sure this thought has visited some bright minds in USPS and the times of I-net payments for snail male are not far away.

  • www.postofficeonline.com [postofficeonline.com]

    Sorry. :-)

  • In the past 6 months I've probably sent and received a total of 100 USPS packages with the only loss occuring on a package to canada. (probably got stuck in customs...)

    As for e-mail versus snail mail, e-mail your love with a fine sentiment, nice reaction right? now buy some stationary and write them a letter. Even if your handwriting is horrid, I'm sure you'll like the reaction better. There's nothing like an unexpected letter/card/package.

  • Their business will go down, but the USPS is still good for some things.

    I just sent a package to Puerto Rico, and UPS would have charged $18. The USPS charged under $5! (UPS=2 days, USPS=3 days)

    And who else is going to carry all the crappy glossy PCMall catalogs we all get???
  • No way!

    #1. Reading the handwriting of some people is really hard. I like computer screens

    #2. Snail Mail: 33 cents. E-mail: Free

    #3. Snail Mail: 2-4 days. E-mail: Instantaneous

    #4. To reply to snail mail, you have to run around the house searching for pens, paper, envelopes, stamps, and your address book. Then you have to use a PEN and WRITE! That takes WAY longer than typing.
  • I've lost track of the number of times they've completely and totally fucked up delivering stuff for me - misrouted packages, packages delivered to the wrong address, late packages. I had one package delivered to my old address (their mistake) which was signed for by some OTHER tenant of the apartment and LEFT at my doorstep for TWO WEEKS. It was only through the kindness of a tenant of the apartment and the thoroughness of four11.com that I was able to retrieve it at all! The US Postal Service, on the other hand, has NEVER let me down. They got a package across the continent in two days for about 2 bucks! Let's see UPS beat that! They got another package from Boston to Australia in a week and a half for $3.50. I heartily recommend first the USPS, and then FedEx, to people. I wouldn't wish UPS on my worst enemy. Well, perhaps.

    - A.P.

    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • The US postal service will not be replaced by e-mail. First, I still cannot e-mail signed documents (or packages). That may change eventually, but right now, electronic signatures can easily be forged (so can real signatures, but they can be detected. But I still cannot e-mail packages).

    Second, although UPS or Fed-Ex may (or may not) be more reliable / convenient / whatever than the post office, they still do not deliver packages to my house unless I am there to receive them.

    Finally, the post office is more convenient than UPS of Fed-Ex. I live about a mile from the post office, and about 30 miles from my Fed-Ex office. Given that I don't run a business out of my house (and therefore they will not pick up from my house), I just can't see going to Fed-Ex to ship every package I send out. USPS is much more convenient.
  • I agree about the legal reasons why the U.S. Postal Service is not going away. For example, federal law often requires that you communicate via U.S. Mail in your dealings with the government (such as, e.g., your income tax -- last year was the first year that they allowed you to send your income tax return via FedEx or UPS, though it had to be at the IRS on tax day, a postmark wouldn't work). Similarly, federal credit card laws require you to communicate disputes via paper mail in order to preserve your rights, and 33 cents for a 1st class letter is a lot cheaper than $5 or so for UPS or FedEx.

    On the other hand, if you don't get bulk advertising via U.S. Mail, you must be a hermit who never orders anything via mail order! For example, my mailbox was stuffed this afternoon when I checked it -- and after I discarded all the bulk advertising, there was one (1) single letter left in the mailbox -- a bill.

    And since I'm paranoid about paying my bills via electronic transfer, that's another reason to keep the U.S. Postal Service around!


  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangst:

    Postal Investigators who can persue mail fraug allegations. UPS and FED-EX can't compete with that. I can send the most fraudulent scams every through UPS or FED-EX and at most it's only a state level felony. If I'm in another state it's really hard to find me. To do so using the USPS it's a federal crime and you have to worry about Postal Inspectors and the FBI!

    Just think about that.

  • Yeah, and also tell them to make sure my company isn't required by law to deliver anything that's outside our prefered lilly-white operating area while you're at it too, right?
  • I don't know about you, but Christmas cards cannot be replaced by e-cards and web-o-grams or what not. Besides, you can't tape ecards up all along the edge of the big mirror in the living room by the Christmas tree. (Well, you could, maybe, if your printer can print shiny ink and make raised cards, cut in the shape of Santa Claus, etc.)
  • Interesting assertion. Can you give references to other literature of the same genre, or discussions of this genre?
  • There's one thing you are not thinking off.. The REASON why the USPS is so much cheaper then UPS and FedEx is becouse, BY FEDERAL LAW, these companies MUST CHARGE 3 TIMES MORE then the USPS for the equiv. service..

    The USPS IS out of date. It is a corperation without the responsibilities of ine..
  • email is for SHORT TEXT messages. Keep your multimegabyte binary emails the hell off my mail server!

    I'm trying to educate people at the company I work for to use http or ftp for binaries. I've gone so far as to put a 1 meg email cap on anything outgoing.

    Piss people off? yes. But email was not designed for heavy binary traffic.
  • The USPS is a great organization. People often complain about them, but where else can you:
    • Get an ounce physically delivered from puerto rico to alaska for $0.33?
    • Mail an overnight package at noon on christmas eve and have it delivered on christmas day? (With all of the tracking abilities available with commercial package distribution organizations?)
    • Have legal proof of delivery of an item?

    etc. etc.

    Not only that, but people greatly exaggerate the perceived lack of reliability of the USPS. Remember that on average, the USPS delivers over half a BILLION pieces of mail a day. Even a small fraction of a percentage of that mail lost is a large amount. FedEX looses mail too, you know -- See
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/od/story.html ?s=v/nm/19990719/od/fedex_tests_1.html
    (Sorry, I would anchor this in but slashdot keeps chewing up the url and spitting it back out null.)

    Reminder -- Use your ZIP+4 [usps.gov] code to help keep mailing costs down!

  • *cough* um, actually, I have a whole bunch of saved love emails. So does she.

    The future is today, my friend.

  • It's the last one that gets me.

    The process of writing a letter - a single letter - takes at least an hour. Getting an envelope, finding paper with nothing written on the back of it, finding a pen that works, finding a different pen that doesn't result in hand cramps after ten minutes.

    Thinking of what to say. Writing very slowly and thinking everything out as you go, because there's no backspace and you can't fix any mistakes so you'd better not make any in the first place. Thinking of more stuff to say, because this letter is going to Feel Important to whomever receives it and thus it'd damn well better have Something Important In It, or they're going to wonder why you bothered to write and spend hours trying to read between the lines.

    Finding the person's current address. Remembering that they moved, and that the address book isn't updated, and that their new address is on a piece of paper in an envelope somewhere. Writing the address. Trying to remember where you last saw the stamps. Putting on the stamps. Waiting for a few days until you left early enough for work that you can take the time to stop at the mail room on the way out of the apartment complex and drop the mail off.

    Damn. The only messages *that* important are graduation, wedding, baby, and death announcements. Is it a coincidence that they have pre-printed cards for those?

    I doubt the USPS will ever truly go away, much as most of us would like it to, but I can see it eventually living among the horse-buggies, steam trains, and other overpriced services catering to romantics and tourists.

  • USPS Priority Mail to/from Puerto Rico usually takes three days (might be just two days from Florida, but I don't live there), and costs the same. They will also ship next day, if you want to, still for the same price. They beat the crap out of UPS and FedEx in that part, specially considering that it is so much less expensive. Only caution, though: make sure you don't send anything fragile, as their handling is, to put it mildly, not the best.
  • I prefer email, myself. Pretty handwriting is just the presentation, and has nothing to do with content.

    Meanwhile, snail mail is SLOW. That's a huge disadvantage.

  • Yeah, politics is one thing, but I'm not sure I want more than three major small package shipping companies. Shoot, in one day, my dad's business can be visited by UPS, USPS and FedEx. Privatizing the phone system makes sense, but I'd really rather not have more delivery companies visit, as it is ecologically unsound in the first place. USPS really don't do a bad job for me, I have never lost an item in the mail that I remember.
  • The USPS can claim one thing that FedEx, UPS, and e-mail can't: a cancelled stamp can be admitted in court as a certified document, unlike the others. However, even if e-mail can gain this certification (through PGP, perhaps?) the USPS will remain. You must remember, it is a government agency, and they never go away.

  • You must remember that a cancelled stamp can be admitted as evidence (as opposed to hearsay). This is a critical service that the others can't provide. Until they can, the USPS will still be around.

  • Actually, it is open to competition. Look at UPS, FedxEx, Airborne, DHL, and dozens of other courier services. And while the competitors offer better services in some areas, their costs are orders of magnitude higher and they still don't offer some services which you get with the mail (most notably free daily pick-up and drop-off).

    USPS will continue for a very long time, I think. It's still the cheapest way to send packages in the US unless you count throwing them really far (and I might add that it's one of the cheapest postal services in the world; consider the UK's Royal Mail for example).

    The main problem with the service is that it is technologically backward, compared to the competing courier services. In particular its computer system is abysmal, though there is an intranet project in the works (last I heard they were even going with WebObjects as the base); this will allow for package tracking and such.

    Yes, other courier services are faster. But given the choice, I think most of us would still prefer to use the USPS in most cases for sending non-urgent packages. It's sort of the low end of courier services; popular, cheap, and perhaps not as fast as the higher-end stuff but it still gets the job done.
  • Not everything that is delivered via the United States Postal Service is junk mail and spam. I personally get 2 different magazine subscriptions, one of which is the Linux Journal(Which speaking of, I should finish reading it any minute now). What about resumes sent to companies, letters sent telling someone they were excepted to a college, or report cards for the school kids. All of these things maninly aren't online yet, and all of them are important to the people they deal with. These are just some reasons why the USPS won't become obsolete, at least not in the next 25+ years.

    And speaking of shipping, I believe @ CheapBytes [cheapbytes.com], there is only one way to ship, and that is via USPS, costing you 5 bucks in most cases. Pretty cheap to me.

    Scott Miga
  • Like Priority Mail... the de-facto standard for auctioneers using eBay, Yahoo, Auction Universe, etc...

    How about Certified and/or Registered mail?

    How about the fact that less than 35% of households in the U.S. actually have a computer much less internet access. (thats close to the current stat isn't it?)

    Remember years ago when people claimed that computers would virtually eliminate paper in the workplace? In fact, paper use increased 10 fold. Same thing is happening to the Post Office. The actual packages they are transporting may be different, but they are just as busy as ever.

    Besides, its kinda hard to stick an electronic greeting card on the fireplace mantle.

  • The USPS has had a priority and express mail tracking system installed and working for 5-6 months now. They also have auto-insurance up to $50, more available at a much cheaper price than the other major shippers.

  • You're right that priority mail is not guaranteed. Most of the time priority mail gets there in 2-3 days, but you have no recourse if it doesn't.

    You're wrong about the envelopes. If you use a standard envelope, $3.20 will only ship 2 pounds of material by priority mail. But, if you pick up one of the flat rate envelopes from the post office, the postal service will ship anything you put in the envelopes regardless of weight, for $3.20 (provided of course it's not contraband, munitions, hazardous material, or anything else illegal).

    So, if you can fit a 20 pound gold brick in one of their priority mail envelopes, they will ship it to a US destination for $3.20, but it's not guaranteed to get there in 2-3 days.

  • "I sure hope not. Why should it cost to mail a letter across town as it does to mail to Alaska or Hawaii or even just to the other coast? What airline would sell flat-rate tickets to anywhere?"

    It used to be that way. Ben Franklin did a detailed analysis sometime around 1780 (IIRC) and showed that it was more efficient to use a single stamp price. I don't have a reference handy but it should be in your 6th grade history book ;-).

  • "Arguments about the value of mergers aside, you'll notice my original message stressed the unnecessarily high cost of local delivery, which could otherwise be handled by small businesses.

    Question: how much of the mail you send goes farther than 100 miles? People tend to send bills, letters to friends and relatives, and "paid by sender" mail. Bills go to their local phone company, local cable company, etc. Letters and greeting cards to local friends are also common."

    To merge with another thread farther up the discussion, this is exactly why the power to create a post office was written into the US Constitution. It was believed that the social benefits of having an accessible, universal communication device that by definition served the entire nation outweighed any savings from local delivery efficiencies.

    That was true in 1790, and IMHO there is a strong argument that it is still true today. The breakup of AT&T can't be lightly dismissed in this context; there is very little evidence that it has turned out to be a good thing for the average consumer (keeping in mind that "breakup" != "entry of MCI into the LD market).

  • Sorry if my post seemed flame-like - that wasn't my intention. And your point is quite valid. But from my perspective, I think this person

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=99/07/22/013 9252&cid=259

    covered what I was thinking better than I could at this point.

  • Hey! It can't be obsoleted yet, I need my monthly issue of Linux Journal.
  • Could you imagine that? Just like every house comes with a mailbox, every house would come with some sort of network appliance, and a net connection... That's when you know the USPS is obsolete.

    I'm afraid that by the time a net connection is considered part of the house a T4 to your house would be considered a "slow connection". (Now that would be cool... at leaset a T4 to every house... and could you immagine the bandwidth of the backbones?) Oh, and by then that network appliance might include a "replicator", so that you could recieve packages too... Maybe I'll live to see that. (Maybe not.)

  • Iit's gotta be most expensive to deliver mail (or electricity and telephone services for that matter) to rural areas. If folks out on the farm had to pay ten times as much to mail their payments in to the phone company as I did (living in the city), it just wouldn't be fair. Some things are better priced if you spread out the cost and we all share and share alike. Pretty much any communications infrastructure falls into this category.

    >Airlines.... From California, you can usually get to Bangkok cheaper than you can get to New York.

    Yeah. And from California, you can get to New York cheaper than you can get to Des Moines or Omaha, or any other place about half way there. What gives? Must be the strange laws of the marketplace in action.

  • Well, maybe "fair" isn't exactly the right word (but it does mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people), but I don't think it works economically to force people into a higher cost lifestyle simply because of where they live. The whole world can't live in the cities. Some people need to live on the farms. If it costs more to serve them than it does us, we're going to be paying for it one way or another.

    Let's say it does cost ten times as much to send a letter to my a guy out on the farm than it does to send the same letter to a friend across town. If I pay $2.00 for one and $0.20 for the other, I'm subsidizing the rural guy when I send him a letter. He's going to be paying more for postage than I am, so he'll have to raise the price of his corn and soy beans, which will affect anyone who eats.

    Hmmm... There's also going to be a lot of people living in places in between those two extremes ($0.20 and $2.00). Isn't there already enough complexity in postage prices? Why add more?

  • by bjb ( 3050 )
    Seeing how I just had to drop off a check in the mailbox today, I don't think USPS is in any trouble. Yes, you can pay bills online, but I MUCH prefer writing a check and mailing it off. Besides, is there any other way with a credit card company? What are you going to do.. give them a credit card number? I don't give my bank account information to ANYTHING. It's a like a social security number. If you don't REALLY need it, then you're not even sniffing it.
  • The USPS saved US$3M on a project a couple of years ago. Anyone have a link?
  • Funny the submitter thought that the USPS would only be good for "nothing but junk mail" because I get multitudes more junk email than snail mail.
    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • Not only that, but just last week I was doing a CD swap with a fellow living in Taipei, Taiwan. I'd absentmindedly procrastinated sending off my end of the trade, and realized on Saturday that I'd let it sit for _weeks_. I ran down to the postal mini mart (conveniently located inside the neighborhood K-Mart) and sent the package via Global Priority mail. Yeah, it cost my 6 bucks, but the package I mailed from Detroit on Saturday was in this guys hands in Taipei on Tuesday. Detroit to Taipei in 3 days for $6. You can't beat that with a stick!
  • In the US today, it is possible to pick up a telephone, dial a few numbers, and be connected to one of hundreds of competing long-distance companies. In some areas the local phone service can also be bought from multiple carriers.
    So, why is it so difficult to privatize mail service? The answer is politics, not technology.
  • While issuing email addresses is technologically problematic (now there's a server I don't want to maintain), ...

    Since we're talking about USA here, it isn't even 300 million people.

    It should be possible, given the budget and time, to make a system which would allow and even handle 300 million e-mail addresses. Remember that AOL handles (for your favorite value of "handle") only an order of magnitude less already.

    And, BTW, it wouldn't be just one server.

    The questions should be: Is this the way you want your tax money to be spent? Are there other, better ways of spending that money?
  • I'll agree with that USPS is the best way to ship packages. For me they've always been more reliable, and faster than UPS, and signifcantly less expensive that FedEx. Recently, the fact that they offered USPS shipping was the sole reason I bought Civ:CTP from Linux Central instead of Linux Mall. I'll almost always choose the USPS shipping vendor over the UPS shipping only one.
  • I bet long distance phone service will suffer more than mail.

    Exactly. In fact, for the last 4-5 months I've been paying AT&T $3 a month. I don't think I can even get rid of LD service. Though I'd like to save that $3 and just use my SprintPCS cell.. Maybe it's time to ditch the landline altogether.. ;)
  • Doom is awesome, no matter what you compare it to.
  • Actually, I'm in Canada, and I always insist that
    packages are sent USPS. Otherwise I get shafted
    with UPS's brokerage fees, and other nonsense. I once had to pay ~$30US for brokerage on a motherboard someone gave me... and the worst part is, the motherboard wasn't even worth that...

  • I don't know if this has been mentioned, but another thing to keep in mind is that only the UPS can deliver to P.O. Boxes, and some federal agencies, such as the Federal Student Aid Programs, use the USPS for important mail.
  • Heh, UPS strikes *every time* the Teamsters' contract is up almost. Heck, the other shipping companies actually make plans for when it's contract renewal time at UPS. The others aren't any better, after a stint at RPS when I started college, there's no way in hell I'd *ever* voluntarily ship a package through them, I saw just about every single thing we were told *not* to do in training done in the first few hours, and they're strictly business to business. The companies who ship to personal addresses care even less.
  • Well, that is not exactly true, PGP signatures are probably harder to reproduce than real ones, i cannot say impossible but highly improbable, unless someone steals your private key, but its not THAT hard to prevent that...
  • I find it unlikely that the Postal Service will ever be made "obsolete", even with the growing proliferation of email. It'll always be necessary for sending physical packages (co-existing with UPS, FedEX, and others), and it will continue to be the only *official* way to send legal documents from point A to point B.

    Current law states that each citizen of the United States must be reachable by a mailbox. Until laws require ownership of an email account, then it'll continue to be a necessary way to send official documents.

    And bulk advertising is kept to a minimum by it's astronomical costs through the medium... :-)
  • I don't make the laws (actually I don't even always follow them... :-). Recall the last time you submitted your 1040, or any other official form... The IRS, and other branches of the government, need a place to get a hold of you.

    By not having a PO box, then you're not paying your taxes, and thus aren't a law abiding citizen. Even homeless citizens without taxable income still need to submit the necessary paperwork to prove their exemptions....
  • > Besides, its kinda hard to stick an electronic greeting card on the fireplace mantle.

    Then again, with scanners and "digital processing" of photographic film on one end, and quality color printers becoming more common on the other end, it's not that hard to receive a picture attached to an email, print it out and stick that on the mantle...

    Having said that, I still agree with you that the USPS isn't going away any time soon. The point is that, people are finding new and creative ways to do the things they used to do with letters. With the advent of high bandwidth connections, you just might want to send a mpg video clip of the kids to Grandma next Christmas... ;-)

  • This is true. Mailing something has to be one of my least liked things to do. I will put off sending something until the last minute. I have a package for a friend of mine from last christmas which I still have not mailed... He'll be here eventually, screw it.. he can pick it up himself.

    However, when it comes to getting a worth while response from someone or some company, you cannot help but beat a actual physical letter. e-mail means nothing and can easily be blown off. However for someone to take the time and write a letter and mail it, they have to take notice.
  • singlehandedly keeping the Post Office in business. Everything I buy from eBay is paid for via USPS money order, and a good 80% of the things I buy are shipped to me via it. Online auctions are most definitely helping increase the Post Offices' business, even if their actual letter delivering is going down.
  • Obsolete? Not while they have the yellow jersey...
    -adam a
  • Most important about the USPS of course is that they are going to win this years Tour de France, but, to be honest, the only reason for this short note is that I need to add the following statement:

    Vorsprung durch Tomate!
  • Others hinted at it, but never explicitly said it:

    The USPS is not going away because it is a government-sanctioned monopoly and they actually defend their turf.

    As someone mentioned, the USPS does take legal action against companies who use alternative services -- like UPS and FedEx -- for regular mail. I think it is not too great a stretch to suppose that if/when all those unionized government employees start feeling the pinch of reduced mails thanks to email/digital transmission of data, they *will* act to protect their jobs.

    I certainly don't anticipate that happening anytime soon, but let's not be naive: there are millions of jobs dependent upon the USPS. No government bureaucracy has ever been voluntarily closed down. They will protect their turf -- their jobs -- at all costs if the need should ever arise.

    But in the end, I just don't think this is a likely scenario. The need for delivery of actual (non-digital) mail is far too great to simply evaporate.

    I agree completely with those who have suggested that what we really need is the free market in the area of postal services. It is simply preposterous to even suggest that a monopoly is in any way essential for mail delivery.

  • Could be. My Mom has bought a computer and is online since that seems to be her only hope of getting her offspring to write in a timely fashion. It usually works too--techno-junkies the lot of us!
  • I must disagree: my granparents have 'net access, and use it to email all us little grandkids. It's one of the best ways to (almost) instantly keep in touch!

    Email is really prevailant now. You can get a Hotmail acct, and check your mail that way (as long as you can find a computer somewhere with 'net access. But again, it's really good for small notes, but the USPS is here, 'cause I don't see Bell Atlantic emailing me my phone bill anytime soon (although my ISP does ;)
    Northeast USA Computer Show Schedule
  • The USPS got a bad rap in the past, but I think they've cleaned up a lot, at the same time that the others have been getting lots worse. Just scan deja for horror stories. I've read of FedEx leaving laptops sitting on the porch in the rain when it said "Adult Signature" - UPS leaving packages labeled "controlled contents" containing assault rifles at the front stoop of a gun dealer, etc. Most of these people have had no problems with USPS.

    I used to work for a local PC clone shop, and we received on average 40 packages from UPS a day. They usually lost about one package a month; just no idea where it went. Most times it would show up again, but weeks later.

    I've started using USPS whenever I can, and have had no problems.
  • The USPS may not be a "monopoly" in the classical sense of the word, but there are a lot of federal laws that ensure that it stays entrenched, and that bar competition. For example:

    • The USPS is the only entity, by law, that is allowed to deliver first-class mail. That's a biggie - because I guarantee that otherwise, businesses would spring up to deliver local mail for a fraction of the 33c per letter we pay now.

    • The "two-times" rule: wonder why USPS delivers for $3.20 and FedEx for $6-8? It's because private business cannot, by law, charge anything less than twice the USPS rate for comparable package delivery service. This is also huge: it again locks out businesses that could provide cheap local service, and keeps prices artificially high.

    • This business about the USPS "turning a profit" is bunk. The accounting methods that the federal government uses would be illegal a dozen times over if they were attempted by private businesses. The USPS gets taxpayer money, no doubt about it. Besides, where would this "profit" go? It definitely doesn't go back into the federal budget. Is anybody here receiving dividends from holding stock in the USPS? I didn't think so. "Profit" is conceptually impossible in the context of government (or "pseudo-government", a euphemism some prefer) agencies.

    The bottom line is, some people hate the service the USPS offers. Those people are already convinced. To those who like the service, I point out to the countless laws and benefits that favor the USPS, keeping it entrenched no matter how poor its service may get in the future, and locking out private businesses from doing an even better job at a cheaper price.

  • What kind of guarantee are you offering? If private businesses charge 34c per letter are you personally going to reimburse the letter senders of America one billion dollars?

    Yes, of course I will. Just send the bill to the me, c/o Dept of Dumb Rhetorical Questions. Now that we're both done being silly, let's get the heart of the matter.

    Or are you offering the same guarantees that accompanied the other deregulations and mergers that have thus far failed to pass along any cost savings to customers (i.e. none whatsoever)?

    Arguments about the value of mergers aside, you'll notice my original message stressed the unnecessarily high cost of local delivery, which could otherwise be handled by small businesses.

    Question: how much of the mail you send goes farther than 100 miles? People tend to send bills, letters to friends and relatives, and "paid by sender" mail. Bills go to their local phone company, local cable company, etc. Letters and greeting cards to local friends are also common. "Paid by sender" mail doesn't even enter the equation.

    Now let's talk business mail. Lots of businesses have a couple of offices or locations at various places across town (I can name a dozen such businesses in my hometown). Right now, they can either hire somebody to drive small stacks of letters around, or they can pay the first-class rate and have their mail delivered in 2-3 days. Without the first-class restriction, they could contract with a local mail delivery service and possibly save a lot of money.

    From looking at their corporate report it seems like the only reason FedEx is still is business is because of the "two-times" rule. They aren't efficient enough to operate with the same cost structure as the USPS, apparently.

    Great - so not only is the two-times rule keeping out new competitors and keeping the USPS entrenched, it's also a form of corporate welfare for FedEx. After all, FedEx wouldn't like it too much if a competitor arrived and offered the same reliability, at half the price. Thanks heavens we have the two-times law to prevent that from happening!

    [Note: that prices might come down and other companies might enter the market is also not a fact.]

    It sure isn't. But eliminating price-floor laws sure won't make prices go up. I think you're missing the point: there's no reason to support laws that prevent businesses from entering markets like this, but it sounds like that's exactly what you're doing. You say that my "guarantees" may not happen, but that's not an argument that the two-times law is, in itself, good.

    There's no compelling reason to give preference to any particular service. If the two-times law and its friends are repealed, and FedEx still charges the same prices, and nobody else springs up to offer cheaper service, then nothing has been lost. But if local mail and package services do appear and flourish, then everyone wins. The USPS isn't going anywhere: it's been around for almost 200 years, and it's a government agency (we know how hard those are to get rid of). So let's just allow people and businesses the choice of service, price, and reliability that they want.

  • To merge with another thread farther up the discussion, this is exactly why the power to create a post office was written into the US Constitution. It was believed that the social benefits of having an accessible, universal communication device that by definition served the entire nation outweighed any savings from local delivery efficiencies.

    Even if I agree with your entire post, you haven't given a single reason why independent, non-governmental businesses should be locked out from providing first-class service, or package delivery at as low of a price as they can provide. The entire thesis of my original post, if you look at the first paragraph and the first two items, was that these laws are ridiculous and hurt the consumer (keeping in mind that "repealing the two-times law" != "destruction of USPS through market forces" != "destruction of USPS by act of law"). The USPS, large delivery services, and local delivery services could all coexist, that is, if federal law didn't effectively eliminate the possibility of local delivery services. I repeated these issues in my rebuttal. Why have none of the replies come even remotely close to addressing this issue??

  • >(I rarely use a spell checker and rarely need
    >one), but as for writing... I can't handwrite
    >somethings at 70 words per minutes, but I can
    >type that fast, and usually do, at least when
    >I'm dashing of a quick note to someone

    Should be dash OFF a quick note...

    Hee hee heee..

  • For those of you in the US who slept during civics class:

    The power to create the postoffice is explicitly mentioned in the US constitution (unlike much of what the government does these days). The founders felt that universal mail delivery was one of the foundations of a democracy. Thus any postal system--even if it consisted of a bunch of private companies--would wind up heavily regulated, and thus expensive to run. The current quasi-indendent corporation is probably the best solution, given this mandate.

    Currently, only the USPS can carry normal letters. The argument is that if competition were allowed, competitors would "cream skim" the profitable routes and services such that the USPS could no longer be self-sustaining (since it must, by law, deliver to each US resident), or alternatively the USPS would have to raise rates for outlying areas. Since congress has to approve rates, the latter simply isn't going to happen; there are too many sparsely populated states with two senators each.

  • we pay enough damn taxes, we dont need anymore
  • Personaly, i still use the USPS from time to time, Fedex is ok, but UPS has been on my bad side lately, they have distroyed like 20 of my dad's packages in the last year alone, and we never had problems with them before that strike that they had.
  • Yeah, if you ever want to upgrade your computer, ship it via UPS!!!! And put insurence on it, plus.. put a value on the info on the hard drive, and maybe centimental value would also work .
  • I seem to be the only one here who watches Modern Marvels.

    If I remember correctly (probably not), the USPS handles as many mail items (letters, packages, etc) as in 3 weeks as UPS does in a year... and UPS does 3 times more business than FedEX.

    Methinks they have nothing to worry about.
  • I fell for a girl in a big way over the net, and I still have the letters she sent me (and the copies of the ones I sent her).

    Although my relationship with the girl never advanced beyond email, the fact that relationships are created between people in faraway places eventually gives tons of money to the phone company and postal service, because there's nothing more personal than a delivered gift and even a phone call works far better than typed words.

    Of course any letter I sent anyone will be typed on the computer. No human being on this planet could ever, ever read my handwriting. Sorry.


  • The same can be said of Microsoft. The vast majority of users are perfectly happy with Windoze and can't imagine any alternative. So the simple fact that you like them doesn't mean that they couldn't be better.

    The difference is that at least Microsoft does have some competition to keep them at least somewhat honest. Imagine if Microsoft were granted a legal monopoly on the OS business how much Windows would suck.

    I think we get used to whatever we use on a regular basis. If the Post Office monopoly were broken up, I think you'd see dramatice price cuts and vastly increased relieablity. There's a reason why UPS and FedEx are preferred by most businesses: they have to earn their customers. The Post Office has the first class mail market guarunteed, so they can afford to do a half-ass job in the parcel market. If they lose market share, what do they care? It's next to impossible to fire a government employee anyway, so why should they care?
  • Seriously! All we need is some "new" mail company with 1 year of experience to start delivering mail to some 300 million Americans. Yeah, that'll work.

    OK, look. If you want to send your mail with the USPS, fine. Don't force me to. If I want to pay Fedex or UPS or the kid down the street to deliver a letter, what business do you or the government have telling me I can't? It's really that simple. No matter how good the Post office is, there's no reason I should be forced to use it.
  • Actually, it is open to competition. Look at UPS, FedxEx, Airborne, DHL, and dozens of other courier services. And while the competitors offer better services in some areas, their costs are orders of magnitude higher and they still don't offer some services which you get with the mail (most notably free daily pick-up and drop-off)

    Um, private corporations are legally prohibited from doing first-class mail. That would explain why there's no competition in that area. And that would also explain why they're the only ones who do daily delivery and pickup: most of the mail is first-class, and its illegal for other companies to handle it.

    Yes, other courier services are faster. But given the choice, I think most of us would still prefer to use the USPS in most cases for sending non-urgent packages. It's sort of the low end of courier services; popular, cheap, and perhaps not as fast as the higher-end stuff but it still gets the job done.

    If it's so great, why should the government have to give it a legal monopoly? If I want to have someone else deliver my mail, by what right does the government tell me I can't? All the good things the USPS does could be done just as well as the private sector. In addition we'd see the benefits that result from an open, competitive market. I'd be willing to be money that you'd see prices drop and reliablility improve. The USPS is really not reliable at all. Mail regularly comes mangled or doesn't come at all, and there's nothing you can do about it.
  • If folks out on the farm had to pay ten times as much to mail their payments in to the phone company as I did (living in the city), it just wouldn't be fair.

    So if I choose to live in a lot in the middle of nowhere, and it takes the mailman half an hour to pick up my mail, you're saying that it's "not fair" to charge me more for that service? How is that? If I choose to live in the boonies, how is it "fair" for the rest of you to subsidize me? It might be convenient, and it is nice for me, but it most definitely not "fair" by any definition I can think of.
  • The reason we give the post office the upper hand is because we can't trust a business outside the government with our nations mail. If they went under the country would be screwed... so we keep USPS.. and as a matter of fact I think they do a great job.

    That's funny. We trust private corporations with our food, our banks, our health care, and our networks. The nation would be in trouble without those. Do you think we should nationalize those too?

    In a free market, there would be several carriers offering a variety of services. That's a hell of a lot more reliable than a single, monolithic government agnency. How do we know the USPS won't go down at some point? If they did, there would be no alternatives in the first class mail space, because it's illegal to deliver first class mail.

    Therefore, the precise opposite is true. We need a free market in the mail business because it is so important. We can't rely on the government to be as reliable or efficient as private companies.
  • The FDA is charged with keeping food safe, and banks are completely dependant on the gov't.

    But there's not a government provider of all banks. And it certainly is not illegal to open a competing bank.

    Networks don't have as much gov't control, but the wires themselves do--AT&T ring a bell (pun intended)? Or Portland requiring that wires be opened to competition? The effects may be good for business, but the gov't is running the show.

    But your point was that if we let the private sector provide the service, that they could go under and we would be without service. This is true in all of these markets. Yet we don't employ government farmers, bankers, or long-distance companies. Regulation is a long way from nationalization.

    Um, *how* could the USPS go under? Either the gov't would have to collapse, or it would have to be purposely dismantled, and in both cases the laws concerning sending mail follow it.

    The chances of several mail-delivery firms all going under simultaeneously and so fast that no one could take their place is equally small. A company the size of UPS doesn't just "go under." They lose money gradually, and other businesses take over their marketshare as they decline. Of course, strikes can cripple a carrier, but that's partly because labor laws prevent companies from hiring replacements.

    And what incentive would there be for me to use them over the USPS?

    Who says you have to. We can privatize the USPS and leave it intact. If you're happy with it, then go right ahead and keep using it.

    The point is that some of us are not happy with the USPS and want an alternative. We are prevented by law from doing so. That's not right.

    As for why another company would be more efficient: they've been a government monopoly for 220 years. How can they possibly be efficient. They've never had any particular incentive to keep prices down or provide good service.

    $.33 provides a lot of potential profit. The average household gets at least 4 letters a day. That's $1 per household, per day, 365 days a year. By my calculations, that's a more than $25 billion industry. That's a lot of potential profit if someone can find more efficient ways of doing it.

    Look any socialist country. All state-run industries are bloated, inefficient, and under productive. What's so special about the USPS that it should be different?
  • Oh, and another thing---there's nothing stopping any new mail delivery services from starting up, but I don't see any. Perhaps it's not as cost-effective as you think?

    It's illegal. There actually was a startup in the seventies that tried to do first class mail deliveries (letters, not packages) in New York (This may not be quite right. Don't remember where I read this). The government shut them down. The fact is that it's illegal to compete with the post office in first class mail delivery. That's stupid.

    urban delivery subsidises the rural post.

    People keep saying this like it's a good thing. I don't understand it. If it costs more to deliver mail to a given location, then that person should be charged more. The same thing is true with bananas. I pay more for my bananas here in Minnesota than someone would in Central America. Is that a bad thing?

    The fact is that different geographical areas have different costs and benefits. Cities are more crowded, dirtier, and have less open space. The country has higher mail service, less access to technology, and other problems. We balance the options and make a choice. Why should we single out one piece of that equation and subsidize it? Does the government pay me for the lousy air I have to breathe or the lack of peace and quiet? The fact is that I chose to live where I do and I chose to bear the costs of living there. Why should someone who chooses to live in the country be any different?
  • Therefore, the precise opposite is true. We need a free market in the mail business because it is so important. We can't rely on the government to be as reliable or efficient as private companies.

    That's been my position all along.

    So, you also support the current crypto policy I would assume. Because, really, there's no way to protect our mail if private companies start being the cole deliverers.

    I think that crypto should be unregulated. Anyone should be allowed to use any strngth encryption they please with no strings attached.

    As for the privacy issue, certainly there is a possiblity that a private mail carrier will go reading you mail. But the same possibility exists with the USPS. I don't see any reason why the private alternative is worse.
  • Not too long ago, I heard it said (dang, don't remember where I heard that) that 5% of all packages (not letters) now shipped by the USPS are eBay transactions. My wife discovered eBay and now I'd say that number is a bit low :-) Seriously, the free, self-adhesive, priority mail boxes you can get at the post office has got to be one of the best marketing coups the USPS has had in a long time. They make life soooo easy. Also, be aware that there are a couple box sizes (6-9" squarish type boxes) that are not available at your post office - you have to order them by phone and they'll send them to you free.
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday July 21, 1999 @04:53PM (#1791084) Homepage Journal
    Thanks to sites like eBay, people are sending more mail than ever. Think of all those checks that people are mailing. Sure, eventually, this can all be done electronically, but not for a few years, at least. Also, while big businesses may get better deals for packages from UPS and the likes, most consumers are better off with US Mail. Again, eBay and Amazon Auctions result in many more small packages from the USPS.
  • About two months ago there was a study saying that now over 50% of households have computers. I submitted it to /. but it didn't get posted. And to think--you would have known! Oh well!
  • Other benefits would be

    1. Cheap shipping to AK and HI (though the rest of us subsidize it)

    2 automatic pickup (just leave it in the box! You have to drop stuff off or call ahead for UPS or FedEx to get it)

    3. Government workers can't strike. I'm not sure that postal workers count as goverment workers (it's a special case of a semi-public entity, like AmTrak). We all remember that little kink with UPS.
  • Besides transmission of non-virtual things, bandwidth is the other reason the post office or equivalent physical-mail services will be around for a long time.

    Say in the near future I've put my 500 records/CDs on a half-dozen MP3 DVDs, and I want to share them with my friends. Even assuming I only have cool friends with high-bandwidth connections, I bet they'll be happier to receive a small package in the mail then to have to wait a week until they've downloaded everything (my server will be happier too).

    Same goes for movies, pictures, maps. It's best not to understimate the storage capacity of the physical world.
  • > Why should it cost to mail a letter across town as it does to mail to Alaska or Hawaii or even just to the other coast?

    Not that I don't really know what I'm talking about here; I'm just making wild-ass guesses. :)

    Anyhow, my guess is that most of the cost is with the local delivery to the individual mailboxes and the overhead of all those POs. Shipping the letters from central office to central office (the extra cost incurred for long-distance mail) is probably much smaller than this, so a long-distance mail shouldn't cost a lot more. So if the costs are similar, why not just make them the same, and save on complexity and processing?

    > What airline would sell flat-rate tickets to anywhere?

    Ugh. Airlines. A whole other can of worms. What's with airline rates, anyway? Their prices *really* don't reflect how far you're going. From California, you can usually get to Bangkok cheaper than you can get to New York.
  • I found this nifty 1998 Annual Report [usps.gov] at the USPS web site. They delivered 198 billion pieces of mail in 1998, 3.7% more than 1997. Most of the mail was First Class.
  • I don't think the point is if this is welcome, I think the point is the formality attached to written correspondence [sp?]. Sure, this is cultural and could change over time, but in this time, an e-mail on this subject could be seen as somewhat of a slight, almost like a form letter or fax might seem to be.

    Another example is professional correspondence (guess I'd better look up the spelling if I'm gonna keep using that word :-) ). We send e-mail back and forth to our customers all the time, but some stuff is in paper, just because everyone expects a certain level of formality for some things. (invoices, project authorizations, dispute settlement, etc.)

    If I got an e-mail from my lawyer with his statement of his charges for work on my fater's estate, I would probably have an odd reaction. I would expect a letter with a hand-written signature. This is just customary. I'm sure in 20 years that custom will change and people will be comfortable with e-mail for just about everything.

  • If it's so great, why should the government have to give it a legal monopoly? If I want to have someone else deliver my mail, by what right does the government tell me I can't?

    Actually, the governments right to do that is in
    the Constitution - Article I, Section 7 says that
    "The Congress shall have Power...
    To establish Post Offices and post Roads;" among
    other things

    Try reading it sometime
  • When someone takes the time to handwrite a letter, its a unique artifact with sentimental value. Email cannot match that. In the future, I don't see people saving their old love emails. While email is a great way to keep in touch with people--it's fast, cheap, and easy--nothing beats a nice, handwritten letter once in a while.
  • What matters to people is more the amount of effort put into it, and perhaps the increasing *novelty* of getting snail mail.

    As far as your examples goes, do you think a parent would be more happy to receive your example note by snail mail, or to receive it plus e-mails from members of their son's platoon telling personal memories and how much they miss him?

    Also, which would you prefer to receive from your girlfriend (esp. in a long distance relationship):
    a) a letter, or
    b) a video e-mail where you can see her

    Technology doen't bring impersonality - it's how you use it.
  • Of all the "overnight" services I have ever used (and list includes just about all of them), the *only* organization which has a 100% record delivering my packages on-time, without damage or loss, is the United States Postal Service.

    Need I also mention that the USPS will deliver Express Mail on Saturdays and holidays at *no extra charge*? They even deliver on Sundays for Express Mail!

    When it absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, life-or-death, MUST BE THERE, my first choice will always be the US Postal Service.
  • For most forms of printed information (letters, information, brochures, etc), email (or electronic messaging in general) is more than sufficient. Once digital signatures become standard (and more common), this method will suffice for transmissions that require confidence. I would opine that most Americans are not comfortable enough with email to trust it to the exclusion of the USPS; the USPS has been around for a long time, while email has only been around for about 30 years (but ask a kid nowadays--they all think email started in the 80's). There are confidence issues, reliability issues (real and imagined), and technological issues.

    A more interesting--although not completely related--question is this: When are digital signatures going to become standard?

    There were rumors that the US government wanted to "issue" email addresses to babies at birth, along with social security numbers. While issuing email addresses is technologically problematic (now there's a server I don't want to maintain), issuing a digital certificate at birth is not, since prime pieces of information (e.g., name and SSN) are present shortly after birth. Perhaps this is the "number of the beast" of which Revelations warns us...

  • who doesn't perfer a handwritten letter on an interesting piece of stationary and a decorative envelope to a bunch of 1's and 0's from anyone who takes two minutes to write? snail mail from friends and loved ones is so much more heartfelt that email. email is boring.

    the USPS is hear to stay.

  • That's the biggie for me. That, and I type really fast (hoping to break 100 WPM in the next year), but I have very nasty handwriting unless I'm actually trying to be neat, in which case I write v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Kind of gives new meaning to "snail mail." :)

    That said, I was in a LDR that despite both of us having e-mail (admittedly, I had JUST gotten it), we continued to write snailmail letters to each other every day. *smiles*

    Also, writing to Grandma still means *writing* to her, though admittedly I tend to compose on-computer and print it out so her poor old eyes don't have to deal with my scribble.

    Mostly, though, e-mail is the Great Lowerer of Phone Bills for me. It is weird because it's not-quite-snail-mail yet not-quite-telephone, but for me and my friends (who have this annoying tendency to scatter around the world) it's helpful.
    I'd certainly rather try to get e-mail to Poland than either a letter OR a phone call. :)
  • There was a funny cartoon about this a number of sunday globes ago. I forget the name of the strip -- it's the one w/ the 3 or 4 20somethings who drink alot of coffee.

    Anyway, one of them gets a letter, and is completely confused by it. "what is this?". After having the concept of snail mail reintroduced to him, his comment is "wow! you mean someone took the time to write the message by hand and then paid someone to carry it to my house? I'm so touched!"
  • i'm sorry, but everyone always referrs to all digital information as: just 0s and 1s.
    The binary system is used to portay a number. It isn't JUST 0s and 1s. They are ons and offs that together represent something.
    People would look at you funny if you said "who cares about handwritten papers? They are just areas of ink and areas without"
    no different
  • by L'Oiseau de Feu ( 70636 ) on Wednesday July 21, 1999 @05:14PM (#1791192)
    To: Jane Doe
    From: Col. William Smith
    Subject: John Doe
    It is with a heavy heart and deepest regrets that I must inform you of the death of your son, Pvt. John Doe. John died valiently and honorably during the final push of our three day assault on Baghdad sacrificing his own life so that the rest of his platoon would not perish. He was a couragous soldier and served his country well.
    My prayers are with you and your family during this most grevious time.

    Col. Bill Smith
    United States Army

    ------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------

    Yah, this is a little extreme, and one certainly doesn't see these too often, but my point is that some things are best expressed through a written letter. Email is convenient and quick, but it lacks the personality of a hand written letter, and I think most people in the U.S. would agree. As long as there are special things to write to someone, there will be the USPS.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak