Wakefield, PostalMag.com, 5/17/2010
The hearing was held in a basement/lower level auditorium at
Dallas City Hall on May 17th, 2010 at 1:00 PM. There were 56
people in attendance, not including the commissioners, panelists
and a few reporters who left after about 10 minutes into the
no protestors waving banners, signs, etc., although there
were a few presidents and other officials of local and state
postal labor unions. Everyone sat quietly as the panelists read
their statements and the commissioners questioned the panelists.
Robinson, current chairman of the board of the Texas Press
Association, and Phil Major, publisher of the Wise County
Messenger, gave similar testimony about the negative impact
ending Saturday mail delivery would have on Texas newspapers,
especially for those in outlying areas. Mr. Major, for example,
talked about how Friday night high school football is big in
Texas, and such news which is now delivered on Saturday would be regarded as history by Monday. Both men had good
points about how the Internet has less of an impact in outlying
areas, where in fact there is less Internet access (and less
high-speed Internet), making newspapers and mail delivery
perhaps a more important medium than in urban areas. Mr. Major acknowledged that 70% of his
mailings are via Standard Mail.
Robinson and Major noted they would seek to hire a private
carrier workforce to deliver their newspapers on Saturday if the
USPS were to end Saturday delivery. In fact, this wouldn't just
be a workforce to deliver the Saturday newspaper, but for
six-days so as to justify 40 hours worth of work for the private
workforce, Mr. Robinson stated. Postal Regulatory Commissioner Mark Acton asked the
obvious question concerning the affordability of their private
carrier plan and both newspapermen acknowledged they had not
looked at the affordability aspect. Postal Regulatory
Commissioner Dan Blair asked the other obvious question
concerning the Postal Service's monopoly on the mailbox. Mr.
Major stated the private carriers could just throw the newspaper
in the front yard, as Major did when he was delivering papers
when he was thirteen. Robinson added that perhaps a plastic
sleeve (attached somewhere on a property) could be used for
delivery of the newspapers.
USPS be worried about their private carrier workforce proposal?
Perhaps. Major's Wise County Messenger spent $283,000 last year
on postage. Quick math will tell you they could potentially hire
seven full-time people earning $40,000 each per year to deliver
their newspapers. (But that's not considering fuel and other
related costs, such as benefits, employee taxes, injury
compensation costs, etc.) Or many more could be hired using a
contractor-based business model. However, it's not clear if
$283,000 will be enough to provide delivery service to 22,000
stops, especially in this rural area, unless... they join with
other businesses to deliver their products also, which would
undercut the USPS further.
Next up was
Bruce Sherbert, Election Administrator for Dallas County, and
then Suzanne Henderson, County Clerk for Tarrant County. Their
testimony touched on voting by mail and the implications ending
Saturday delivery would have on voting by mail. I generally
ignored this testimony as it really has no implications. Just
make the deadline Friday, instead of Saturday, for mailed
ballots, if it comes to that.
panel started with the well-spoken gentleman USPS Southwest Area Vice
President Ellis Burgoyne. Mr. Burgoyne stated the Dallas
District has experienced a 15 percent cumulative increase in
total operating revenue over the five-year period from quarter 1
of fiscal year 2005 to the same quarter in 2010. The
commissioners seemed intrigued by this fact. There was some talk
about how the economic downturn has been less severe in the
Southwest, perhaps because of the area's population growth.
Personally, I see this as a potential indicator that mail
volumes and revenue will return to a higher level than expected
if an economic recovery takes hold in other parts of the
country. After some questioning, Mr. Burgoyne stated that some
of the questions should be deferred to the field hearings in
Washington, since most of the planning for five-day delivery at
this point is focused at USPS HQ. Mr. Burgoyne stated that his
main efforts at this time are managing the Southwest Area's
day-to-day operations in a challenging economic environment.
Interestingly, upon questioning, Mr. Burgoyne briefly described
how he mainly reports to his boss Deputy PMG Donahoe and less to
PMG Potter. Overall, the commissioners seemed impressed with Mr.
Burgoyne's testimony and the ray of sunshine he gave (about the
revenue increase) in an otherwise dark cloud.
"two Carols" gave their testimony, Carol Kliewer, Director,
Distribution & Logistics, Order Fulfillment, Harland Clarke, and
Carol Bald, Postal Operations Manager, Strategic Fulfillment
Group. I believe that both stated, if given a choice, they would
rather have five-day delivery than a postal rate increase
beyond CPI. After their testimony, Postal Rate Commission
Chairman Ruth Goldway delivered some bad news to the Carols. She
told them they may not have a choice anyway as the USPS is
contemplating/planning both a rate increase and reduction to
five-day delivery during the same time frame in 2011.
testimony, Commissioner Goldway invited public comments. About
ten people lined up and each gave a two to three minute
was impressed with the entire hearing. It was accomplished in a
professional manner and all viewpoints were respectfully noted.
The commissioners, far from being just political appointees,
seemed to have a firm grasp on all aspects of the discussion at
hand. In fact, their non-postal experiences appeared to provide
some useful insights. Goldway for example, former mayor of Santa
Monica, California, fully understood perhaps better than anyone
in the room the testimony of the county administrators, as
evidenced by her questioning of the administrators.
Publisher Responds, Makes Case for Private Carrier Workforce if
USPS Ends Saturday Delivery
Major, Wise County Messenger, 5/18/2010 (Received via email at
PostalMag.com in response to above article.)
I would like to attempt to further illuminate a couple of items
from your report, and I welcome your response and input.
Since 1984 the eight post offices in Wise County have delivered
our "Sunday" paper on Saturday to all the in-county subscribers,
which is about 60 percent of our readership. The rest buy it in
stores and from news racks. We print overnight on Friday and
have the papers at the USPS docks in time for Saturday home
They have done the same thing on Wednesday for our "Thursday"
paper for many years as well.
Our standard mail product, which goes out ahead of the Thursday
paper, is primarily an advertising vehicle with "free"
countywide distribution and is not the main newspaper. If USPS
loses that business, it will be losing the most profitable
component of our mail, which I'm guessing they have not fully
considered. Indeed that seemed to come as somewhat of a surprise
to the chairman.
If the postal service ceases Saturday delivery, we will be
forced to seek another method of delivery. One of the primary
points we wanted to make with the PRC is that in rural
communities, the newspaper remains a vital information link and
will not likely be replaced with the Internet in our lifetime.
(Although cessation of Saturday mail may indeed give us an
unexpected opportunity to further explore just how willing
subscribers would be to get the entire paper online - only a
small percentage do that now.)
On the point of establishing a private carrier force, we are
well-acquainted with the costs and challenges in doing so, since
we have many colleagues in the industry who have already done
that. I have not yet attacked this issue with a sharp pencil,
however, and won't until it becomes evident that Saturday
delivery is definitely going away. I do know that the cost is
somewhat comparable, and if it does prove to be substantially
higher, consumers would unfortunately pick up at least some of
that added cost.
I will not, however, employ a carrier force five or six days a
week. My newspaper is printed twice a week, and my standard mail
product is weekly, so at most we would be looking at three days
for carriers. (Mr. Robinson's twice weekly papers print on a
similar schedule, but since his group includes several other
weekly papers, he might be looking at a longer work week for
Commissioner Acton pointed out that the USPS is essentially
creating the prospect of additional competition for itself by
halting Saturday mail, and looking down the road, perhaps
dropping one other day.
We would strongly prefer not to establish a private carrier
force, but it's not too much of a stretch either, since daily
papers have continued to do that seven days a week (like the one
I get in my yard every morning), and one avenue we could explore
would be to partner with them.
The bottom line is that USPS would put us in the position of
making a major change to our business model if it ceases
Saturday delivery, and changing press days is not a viable
option. Part of our role yesterday was to help the PRC
understand what other alternatives we do have available should
this come to pass, and how it could negatively impact USPS's
Wise County Messenger