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Postmaster general addresses postal misconceptions

By Ed O'Keefe

Postmaster General John E. Potter at the National Press Club in October. (AP)

Postmaster General John E. Potter defends the U.S. Postal Service against five misconceptions, writing in Sunday's Washington Post just days before the nation's mail service is expected to outline significant changes in its business plan.

"Tough technology and market conditions are creating new challenges for our business," Potter writes for Sunday's Post Outlook feature "Five Myths." "Misconceptions about the future of our enterprise abound; dispelling these myths will show that we can continue to deliver the mail."

Potter's five myths:

1. The Postal Service wastes taxpayer dollars.

2. The Postal Service is inefficient.

3. Mail is not reliable.

4. The USPS is not environmentally friendly.

5. The USPS can't compete with the private sector.

Regarding the fifth myth, Potter notes that UPS and FedEx are two of the Postal Service's biggest customers.

"Our competition pays us to deliver more than 400 million of their ground packages every year in residential areas and on Saturdays," Potter writes. "In turn, the USPS contracts with UPS and FedEx for air transportation to take advantage of their comprehensive air networks."

What would you change about the Postal Service? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 26, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
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I love, love, love the post office. Always have. I find it amazing you can send something across the country for less than 50 cents. How many other government agencies work on Saturdays? Not many.

Posted by: Marimom | February 26, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Priority Mail from Florida to California takes about 8 days and cost $8.50. I get Small Packet Mails from Europe that takes the same 8 days and cost less Air Mail. All of my packages arrives looking like they were caught in a conveyor belt. Putting Fragile or Handle With Care means nothing to the USPS. But, they are efficient in delivering Junk Mail. I must say that I do like the people who deliver my mail because they are dedicated. I don't think I can say that for John E. Potter who likes to give managers million dollar homes to live in when they make a transfer on their own.

Posted by: truth1 | February 26, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

1. I would demand that the junk mail which politicians (on behalf of special interests now force the Service to deliver) be required in the future to pay a non-subsidized rate sufficient to defray all costs, at a minimum. No more free rides.

Businesses who often complain the most about UPS "inefficiency" are mainly to blame for burdening the system with billions of pieces of mail which are like plaque in the arteries of circulation system. Most are unread and are produced from millions of trees and the earth and critters thereon need trees.

Support your local postpersons, as a group they do a great job and one is amazed that despite the variety of customers (most tolerable while some are truly intolerable) are all served with both efficiency and good humor. Especially at Christmas.

The big difference between "snail mail" (which really is not slow at all) and e-mail is that with the former I have far more assurance of security. One never truly knows how many folks read one's inbox does one?

Posted by: AmericanInterestsFirstandLast | February 26, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

if i was getting his pay and perks i would say anything to protect my butt.he has it better than the president and we the taxpayers are footing the bill.

Posted by: SISSD1 | February 26, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, for those of us who do virtually all our work electronically (mail, bank business, shopping, etc.), the Postal Service is relatively useless. In my house, it's main role is to distribute bulk spam in the form of unwanted ad flyers, offers for credit cards, mail order catalogs, etc., etc., etc.
Close it down.

Posted by: willowglen | February 26, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

I would like to inform the Post Office that anytime I visit there there is a VERY long line of people waiting to be served. Although I do agree that mail-delivery is mostly on time, I do NOT understand why more employees are not assigned to man the counters so that one does not have to wait in line for 30+ minutes to be served. This is the most obvious and visible flaw in the system, and could be a public-relations nightmare.

Posted by: gabordobay | February 26, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I had to pay thousands to my congressman to have our post office removed from the closure list.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 26, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I had to pay thousands to my congressman to have our post office kept off the closure list.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 26, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Number 3 is NOT a myth. In the 24 years I've lived at the same address, the US postal services has lost more than 50 packages and pieces of mail, including bills, checks and tax material, and returned pieces of sent mail in plastic bags when their machinery ripped them to shreds. Misdelivered mail is also very common, for the next street over, not next door.

The US postal service is losing business daily because many people like me use paperless statements for our credit cards, banking, investments, utilities, insurance, etc.; I try to avoid receiving anything through the US postal service. THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE.

Posted by: ccs53 | February 26, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

If the USPS, under Bush, had not undertaken busting the union and creating total chaos, we would still have a functioning postal service. Mr. Potter should address the union, the layoffs, the early retirements of thousands of career workers, the hiring of temporary workers to replace career employees, the promotion of hundreds of incompetent people to positions that were union exempt, ALL IN THE QUEST TO BUST THE UNION. Who believes this guy?

Posted by: pkbishop1 | February 28, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I worked part time at the post office for a while - sorting packages, odd size and junk mail. I believe the post office (and businesses) would save a significant amount of money if we could implement a national "do not junk mail" registry, just like the phone registry. I'm sure unscrupulous credit card companies and those preying on the elderly would fight it. You may wright to individual companies to try and stop them from sending junk mail (good luck), many operate under more than one name.

Posted by: mudbirdy | March 1, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

There is not much else that can be done for under $.50 these days, of any quality, anyway But I am fairly confident that the Post Office will get what I put in their box where I want it to go, no matter where that is. The post office has gotten mail to me with my maiden name (haven't been that for 20 plus years), the wrong street address, and delivered it in some of the very worst weather - last Wednesday for example. I love the USPS!!!

Posted by: electricmagnolia | March 1, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm a big supporter of the USPS. The service is reliable and the cost to get first-rate service is truly reasonable. There is nothing I would change in the USPS -- and I hope the day won't come when it is no longer part of the American scene. Keep up the good work there are millions like me who feel the same way.

Posted by: hoganac | March 1, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The top misconception about the U.S. Postal Service is that the 'Postmaster for Countrywide' and his cronies are truthful in the press.

Posted by: dryMAILman | March 1, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

There was a time when USPS-bashing was a favorite sport. However, we should acknowledge good performance when it's due.

In the area that should matter most to us users, I started noticing a few years back that the things we mailed such as bills, greeting cards, etc. normally made it to the destinations in 1 to 2 days, depending on the distance. I thought that was quite remarkable. So I have often asked my correspondents to let me know when they receive my mailing so that I can keep that in mind in estimating my mailing deadline. I must admit that I am consistently impressed.

One example was recently I asked my son on the West Coast to put something in the mail for me on a Saturday afternoon. We got it on the East Coast (with an unfavorable time zone difference, over a weekend also) in the Monday delivery! Indeed not bad for 44 cents.

I do agree that the line is often quite long before one is served at the counter. I have also noticed that there is some variance in the speed that agents work. Hopefully with attrition and hiring improvement, the situation will improve as well.

Even though I correspond and do some of my business on line, it is still useful and prudent to keep the not-so-snail mail as a complement or alternative when there are relatives or friends who are not computer users, when the computer crashes, or when we simply could not access our account, or for security reasons. Those who advocate getting rid of the Post Office might regret it one day when such an alternative is not available.

Posted by: msquare | March 1, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely support the idea of "do not junk mail" registry, that would save so much money, time, trees and emotions!

Posted by: firtree | March 2, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that a mail clerk that has less "menu items" than McDonalds should be paid over $50K and get such great benefits..the Post office should be privatized!

Posted by: ebay1970 | March 2, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

i am a 21 yr employee of the a rural letter carrier i see so much waste of time and poor management of people.1st of all if the USPS is doing so badly then why has Potter been rehired by congressinal officers and allowed a large bonous and guarenteed a great retirement for himself and his top people while he is trying to cut jobs and spend billions of dollars on machinery that will take so many years to recoup losses that the USPS will most likely not succeed because of his wasted work practices.they need to cut middle and upper manegement rather then cut clerks and carriers causing long frustrating lines and bad service that we as the bottom of the ladder are forced to is very frustrating not to be able to do my job and give great service without getting harassed but most of us do it anyway.plz people wake up help stop Potter from distroying the USPS

Posted by: kathygarvey1957 | March 2, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

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