On the USPS, FSS and the Unending Red Ink

Let’s say your business is in a quandary. Your internal processes are a mess, and you can’t afford to keep going the way you are or you’ll risk alienating your best customers. So you decide to raise their rates, making it more expensive to do less business with you. 

Sounds like a solid business move … said no rational business leader ever.

Yet that’s the nutshell of what’s going on with the USPS, according to D. Eadward Tree, who pens a data-filled look at the ongoing troubles with the Post Office’s Flats Sequencing System. Tree explains that, for the third year now, FSS productivity continues to fall, with no end in sight.

“Hourly throughputs declined 5% during Fiscal Year 2018 and are 14% below where they were five years ago, the USPS reported recently in its Annual Compliance Report,” Tree writes. “Leakage – the proportion of mail that was supposed to be run on FSS machines but wasn’t – rose from 20.1% to 21.9%.

“And barely half of FSS mail – 54.2%, down slightly from last year – ended up being sorted in delivery sequence as intended,” he continues. “The only good news is that ‘Mail Pieces at Risk’ — catalogs or magazines that got jammed in the machines or needed other special handling — dropped from 5.8% of FSS mail to 4.6%.”

This mishandling has long been a bane to the FSS; so it’s slightly heartening to hear that this might be on the mend. What’s not heartening is the end results. 

“The FSS’s failures contributed to greater unprofitability for the two main types of mail handled by the FSS machines – non-carrier-route Marketing Mail (‘Marketing Flats’) and Periodicals,” Tree writes. “Rather than fixing the causes of the red ink – by scrapping the FSS machines, for example – postal officials have pressed for abolition of the inflation-based price cap on flats mail.”

Yep, they want to charge us all more to use the system that is costing them money. That’s just nuts, guys and gals. If the USPS can’t make ends meet with this system, it’s up to them to fix it – not the mailing industry to subsidize further waste.

Meanwhile the USPS blames us – again – for their problems.

“USPS’s costs per Marketing Flat mail piece rose an astounding 13.4%, causing cost coverage to decline from 74.0% to 68.6%,” Tree notes. “Postal officials blamed lower economies of scale, as increased co-mailing by printers shifted flat mail from Marketing Flats (17.5% volume decline) to such lower-cost categories as High-Density Flats (up 20.0%).”

Listen, if you can’t afford to be in business, then figure out a different way. Before you know it, we may all be getting our mail – including magazines and catalogs – from Amazon.