Here in Canada, a hot political issue (other than disgust with Rob Ford) is the recent plan by Canada Post to stop home delivery in cities. My initial reaction was, “Wow, I wish we could get that in the USA!” but it turns out all they are doing is making people go to neighbourhood mailboxes to get their mail. For many years, people in new developments have had to do this — they install a big giant mailbox out on the street, and you get a key to get your mail. You normally don’t walk further than the end of your block. However, this will save a lot of work — and eliminate a lot of jobs, which also has people upset.
But let me go back to my original reaction — I want to see home letter delivery abolished.
Why? All I, and most other people get by mail are:
- Junk mail (the vast bulk of the mail.)
- One or two magazines
- Bills and communications from companies that refuse to switch to all-electronic communication
- Official notices (from governments who refuse to switch to all-electronic communication)
- Cheques from companies who refuse to do direct deposit (see note below.)
- Parcels (lots of these, though many more from UPS/Fedex/etc.)
- A tiny and dwindling number of personal cards and letters. Perhaps 2-3 personal xmas cards.
The abolition of general mail delivery would force all those parties who refuse to do electronic communication to switch to it. The concept of an official e-mail address would arise. We would also need to see a better e-cheque service, something priced like a cheque (ie. not paypal which takes 2% or more) and as easy to use (ACH is not there yet.) This would force it into existing if you could not mail a cheque.
A replacement for registered mail would need to arise — that is what is needed for legal service. Putting that into e-mail is doable though challenging, as it requires adding money to e-mail, because you want people to have to pay to use it so that you don’t get it all the time.
And of course, parcel service would continue. And people who really want to send a letter could send it via parcel service, but not for sub-dollar first class mail prices.
Magazines would have to go all-electronic. Some may not see the world ready for that, but I think the time is very near. Today, one can make cheap large tablets in the 14 to 17 inch size that would be great for magazines. They would be too heavy to handhold (though possibly if they had no batteries and used a small cord they could be light enough for that) but they could easily be held on laps and tables and replace the magazine.
Few would mourn the death of junk mail, though it might lead to more spam in e-mail boxes until that’s under control. Senders of junk mail (notably politicians) might mourn it.
So the only sad thing would be the loss of the dwindling supply of personal letters. People getting married could use the parcel companies or go electronic. Thank-you notes would go electronic, making Miss Manners spin in her grave, but spin she eventually will. Truth is, the parcel companies would probably start up a basic letter service priced higher than 1st class mail but less than their most basic parcel. The more addresses you can share the cost of a truck on, the better — until the deliverbots arrive, at least. This is not easy, though. The postal service got to use the economies of delivering several letters a day to your house, and this could pay for a person to walk the street with a bag full, while the parcel companies use trucks.
We all know this day is coming. The question is, can we do better if we force it, and shut down letter delivery sooner rather than later?