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Jun 08

The Post Office Declines in Relevance

Posted by: Steve Marr

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The post office is one of the oldest institutions in America founded in 1789 as a government monopoly.  Benjamin Franklin added postmaster to his long list of activities.  Years ago in my corporate work, we received several bags of mail early each morning to be opened and sorted. Employees pulled out checks and deposited them, processed invoices for payment and prepared correspondence. Before I left the corporate position, there was movement to invoice clients electronically and receive payments by wire which reduced paperwork and postal mail.


Mail and the telephone used to be the most important types of communication in the country.  Today the post office is less relevant. A few businesses use a post office box.  However most, including myself, use a UPS store which will receive packages delivered by Federal Express, UPS and mail in a more convenient way.  When I need stamps, a few clicks with my mouse delivers them to my mailing address without waiting in line. I don’t like waiting in line.

In the past I was concerned about collecting my mail every day. Now, two or three days may pass before I get around to picking it up to. Mail isn’t as important as it used to be because the majority of my important communication comes by e-mail, not snail mail. When I have packages to send almost all of them go by a private service not the post office. I send and receive most bills electronically.  I also send many payments through an automated system or credit card, no post office service required.

I use this as an example to show how a business, once critical to most of us for daily life, has become increasingly irrelevant and almost unnecessary.  Clearly there are some functions like insured and registered mail that are important.We may need legal evidence on some occasions. While the post office still provides a useful service, it is less relevant today than 10 to 30 years ago and will likely diminish in the future. However, a major advantage for the post office is being part of the government. For that reason, we’ll not likely see it go out of business anytime soon.  

The warning for us is to be careful that our business doesn’t drift into irrelevance. We read the words in scripture from the prophet Zephaniah. “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'” (Zephaniah 1:12, NIV) In this instance the reference applied to the people ignoring God’s law. However, the application in our business is that if we become complacent; we will likely drift into a situation like the post office and lose our customer base.  

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