Congress has tied the hands of U.S. Postal Service officials for years by blocking efforts to drop Saturday deliveries, close post offices that few use, and other wise attempts to manage its costs.
Meanwhile, the Internet has reduced mail volume as people email instead of writing letters and pay online instead of by the mail, which cuts into revenue.
On top of that, the unfunded liabilities in the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund top $100 billion. The service posted $21 billion in losses over the last two years and those losses are expected to rise.
Postal officials and unions have trimmed 280,000 jobs over the last 13 years. The service has slightly more than 500,000 employees remaining.
Now Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has cut a deal with Amazon to deliver packages on Sunday at regular delivery prices. Postal officials do not need an Act of Congress to add Sunday deliveries.
The move will give the Post Office a leg up over UPS, FedEx and other private companies.
"As online shopping continues to increase, the Postal Service is very happy to offer shippers like Amazon the option of having packages delivered on Sunday," Donahoe said.
The deal also gives Amazon a leg up over Wal-Mart, Google, eBay and other online competitors.
"This is part of a continuing effort to make online shopping a normal, seven-day-a-week, any-time-you-want experience," said Dave Clark, Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.
This is the marketplace making the decision. People want convenience. Period.
"People want instant gratification," said Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the USPS. "And letter writing, as wonderful as it is, and as good as a letter smells and feels, is a lost art. People aren't doing it any more."
The only misgivings are the Postal Service is competing with tax-generating companies for business and it apparently is favoring one company over another.
However, these problems are inherent as long as the service is an agency of the federal government and not truly independent. Spinning off the Postal Service would require many caveats to ensure that people could still send letters and cards to Grandma and pay bills by mail.
The Amazon-Postal Service deal shows great promise. Kudos to Postmaster General Donahoe and his staff for getting Amazon to go Postal.