Deepak Chopra’s War on the Mail
No, not that Deepak Chopra.
Back in December, Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra announced that mail service would be changing. Prices were going up…dramatically, and service would be scaled back. The biggest change will be with door-to-door mail delivery, which will soon cease to exist. In the not-to-distant future, all residences will be served by community mailboxes, to which residents will have to trek in order to get their oh-so-important junk mail.
Chopra has not come through all this unscathed. Canada Post is bloated, but he stands by the bloat. Canada Post has relied on recommendations by the Conference Board of Canada in determining the best course of action. Chopra is a bigwig with the Conference Board, so it’s quite possible their suggestions weren’t made with pure intentions.
Finally, he has said some really stupid stuff:
Chopra brushed off questions that elimination of door-to-door delivery would disproportionately hurt seniors and instead suggested regular walks to community mailboxes might actually do them some good.
“Seniors are telling me that ‘I want to be healthy, I want to be active in my life,’” Chopra said.
Despite the well-deserved criticism aimed at Chopra, Canada Post needs to change. They’re not currently in the red, but they’re clearly on their way, with forecasts revealing the giant financial sinkhole that is their balance sheets. They’ve been running on an antiquated business plan and were nearly brought down (allegedly) by a very mild labour protest.
Let’s get this out of the way; last century’s mail culture has been rendered ludicrous. Door-to-door delivery is unsustainably costly. Few (if any) would be willing to pay what it actually costs to send a letter from Resolute to Cornerbrook, and, in the end, most of us would just email, facebook or tweet, instead.
Further, door-to-door delivery isn’t quite the norm that our over-romanticized Norman Rockwell-esque* memories might suggest. When new developments are planned, community mailboxes are the default. Condos and apartment buildings don’t–and can’t–sustain door-to-door delivery. Rural areas have been slowly and not-so-slowly weened off the service. It is mainly older urban areas that still receive this premium service. If anything, the new reduced service will just mean an increase in equality.
The problem, however, will come when Canada Post gets around to building all these community mailboxes. In older neighbourhoods, lawns and green space can be scarce. Private land will have to be appropriated or public space will have to be re-purposed. As many cities move to make their urban centres more walkable, bike-able, usable and livable, having the post office take a bunch of land (that may turn into dumping grounds for flyers) isn’t necessarily the best option.
In the end, Canada Post held on to its legacy business plan for too long. Innovation will come, but change will placed on the backs of the Canadian public, whether they actually want mail delivery or not (seriously, email). And while all this is occurring, you will have a cheeky CEO of a bloated crown corporation telling you that if you’re a good enough person, you’ll welcome it all as a means of getting in shape.
*Dear Canadian readers: is there a Canadian version of Norman Rockwell, or can we just acknowledge our pop culture inferiority?