Rabbi Sol Solomon’s Rabbinical Reflection #32 (12/11/11): POST OFFICE

Aired Dec. 10, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: Post Office

Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of December 11th, 2011.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor gloom of night, nor budget cuts will stay these couriers from the swift completion of – oh, wait, the budget-cut part. Yeah, that’ll keep them from their appointed rounds.

Starting in 2012, the United States post office will continue doing what every other company in America is doing – charging more and giving less. First, they’re gonna raise the price of a stamp from 44 cents to 45 cents. A penny for your thoughts? Oh, I think they know what we’re thinking.

But okay, it’s only a cent, and it’s easier to make change with 45 than 44 anyway. But wait, there’s more. They’re also going to close processing centers and fire workers, meaning that delivery of first-class mail will slow down by a day or two. Just what customers in a society that demands everything yesterday want. No wonder people are P.O.’d at the P.O.

But, let’s be honest. Does anybody really send a first-class letter expecting it to be there the next day? If it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, you empty your wallet and you give it to FedEx. Or a courier service. Or a really stocky carrier pigeon.

Honestly, this whole business of first-class mail not getting first-class service – we’re used to that. If you still pay bills the old-fashioned way, write the checks a day or two earlier, just to be on the safe side. And if you’re expecting pharmaceuticals in the mail, well, you can suffer a few hours of pain and distress. It’ll just make you appreciate the medicine more when it finally arrives.

But it won’t arrive on a Saturday. That’s right, Uncle Sam will also do away with all weekend delivery. While it’s nice that they want to take Shabbos off, does it occur to you like it does to me that the post office is making cuts that will only result in people using them less? It’s a vicious cycle: revenues are down, so prices go up and services get cut, leading customers use more email, fax and skype. This brings revenues further down. Prices go even higher, more services get cut, customers start using snail mail only for emergencies. Which makes revenues go down, prices go – all right, you get what I’m saying.

How about a new model? The post office is almost bankrupt anyway, so why not try something radical? Five cents to mail a postcard. Ten cents for a letter, $3 to mail a Christmas gift. Already, overnight mail is half the price of UPS and FedEx, but add guaranteed delivery and tracking. Make the USPS the first choice rather than the last resort. Give people a reason to run to the Post Office – “Ooh, I can send my uncle a birthday card for a dime.” “Wow, I can send my kid a care package for camp and have money left over to throw in two more candy bars.” “Hey, if I send an envelope filled with anthrax to a politician, I know it’ll be there in time for me to alert the media.”

I realize the postal service is in terrible, $14 billion debt, and that mail carriers would rather face a backyard full of Dobermans than the digital revolution. But you have two options in this world. Either you adapt and change. Or you keep doing what you’ve always done at your highest standard – and somehow find ways to make that as appealing as it used to be. Think about it. People either want a brand new Honda Civic with heated seats, satellite radio, anti-lock brakes, or they want a 1958 Plymouth Fury, painted, restored and polished to a T. What they don’t want is a 1972 Ford Pinto with a broken aerial and just enough horsepower to get you to the Safeway in one piece.

I just hope the post office brings its jalopy to the shop before it crashes on the information super highway. And when those 28,000 workers get laid off next year, well, the post office can save about 13 grand if they send the pink slips via email. Just a thought.

This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches.

(c) 2011 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.

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