One of those inherent problems with government services

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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38 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    No, he told me, the post office was sure that when people learned that some bad apples were cheating the system, everyone would be happy to have their packages gone through.

    It’s as if they learned nothing from the TSA debacle with body scanners.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    So lessee here: the USPS generates less revenue for media delivery than otherwise and incurs an additional cost, which requires invading (literally!) people’s privacy, than otherwise. Sounds like a good business decision!Report

  3. LWA says:

    That’s the problem with government agencies. They consistently fail to learn how to invade people’s privacy from the more efficient masters of the art at Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to LWA says:

      If the USPS starts spamming customers with delivery options based on their past mailing behavior (eg. “if you liked mailing 32 copies of National Geographic, you might like to mail 20 copies of Foreign Policy”) we’ll know the Googlization of gummint is complete.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    If the government went after the bad apples in the government with this enthusiasm, I’d probably not see this as worth complaining about.

    As it is… well. This is the future we, apparently, wanted.Report

  5. Glyph says:

    Of all the things I want government employees rifling through, “media” is definitely not the top of that list.

    Why on earth is there a special media rate, anyway? From a shipping entity’s POV, weight/size is weight/size.

    In a microcosm, isn’t this sort of the issue with a lot of govt. carve-outs, no matter how well-intentioned they start out? So we have a carve-out…and some people try to game the carve-out…so we have to do something dumb to prevent that gaming…etc. etc and so on and so forth…until eventually I’m at H&R Block trying to figure out WTF I owe Uncle Sam this year and hoping I got it right, since two different tax professionals can look at the same facts and give you two radically different answers…Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Glyph says:

      The USPS says it was created to promote the spread of educational materials.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

      Glyph: Why on earth is there a special media rate, anyway? From a shipping entity’s POV, weight/size is weight/size.

      Back in the day, when everything was paper, bound bundles of paper are kinda heavy for the price and the size of the goods shipped. Also back in the day, USPS was all about weight, not volume. (it still mostly is)

      To use another example, the military used to have a special allowance for officers (and they may still do) to ship professional books that was separate from the household goods weight allowance. (usually, it was only lawyer and medical types that needed to take advantage of such a benefit)

      And you’ll find today that you can’t really get rid of large quantities of old, ‘ordinary’ books unless you’re able to hand deliver them because a mover’s box filled with them weighs about 30 pounds and has a value of less than 5 dollars.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe says:

        To use another example, the military used to have a special allowance for officers (and they may still do) to ship professional books that was separate from the household goods weight allowance. (usually, it was only lawyer and medical types that needed to take advantage of such a benefit)

        Though using sheet lead as dividers was highly discouraged.Report

  6. So, if you don’t want your stuff gone through, pay the higher rate.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    I generally like USPS. I find they are pretty reliable about getting me stuff. Most of my headaches are with UPS. I’ve never sent anything media mail though. I usually use Priority Mail which is pretty cheap for getting a package or something cross country in two or three days.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      There is a long-standing meme in our culture of complaining about the USPS. I think it might have been justified in the ’70s, but then again most complaints were, back then. Nowadays, the post office does an incredible job under restraints that could easily be crippling.

      UPS? Don’t get me started. Oops! Too late. The first few years I was married, we lived in an apartment. It was in a perfectly nice building, with enclosed stairwells. I never had any trouble with packages left at the door. At some point, UPS decided that they wouldn’t leave packages. They wouldn’t even accept a signature on the little note they stuck on the door asking them to leave the package. So the dance routine was that they would leave the note, and I would sign the note asking them to leave the package at the rental office. This was closed by the time I got home, so I would have to wait to Saturday to actually get the damned box. If I called UPS about this, the solution they pushed was for me to drive to their distribution center two counties over. fooey. USPS never gave me any trouble. It got to the point where I refused to place an order with any business that wouldn’t ship USPS.

      Now I live in a townhouse perhaps a quarter mile away from my old apartment. UPS has no problem leaving packages on my front stoop, open to the eyes of God and everybody else. I’ve not had any trouble. It isn’t a neighborhood where I would expect any. But I am amused at the classism of UPS.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I ordered a barbecue, a couple of years ago, because it included free shipping. I could have gone to the hardware store about four kilometres away and picked it up for the same price, but we don’t have a car, so getting bulky heavy items home is actually a bit of a bother.

        The courier company, I can’t even remember which one, finding us not home, “for our convenience” left it at their depot, five kilometres away.

        In at least one case, the courier ran up to the front door, where the “please just leave the package” note from last time was posted and signed, neither knocking nor reading the note, sticking another note to the door and running back. My wife was home, but couldn’t make it around the corner to the door fast enough.

        When we finally received the thing a month or two later, I could navigate the company’s voice menu from memory, our front and back doors had both the official forms and handwritten 8×11 notes written in short words, large type, and thick marker, and the parcel itself had at least three sets of instructions on it instructing the drivers to just drop the thing off without a signature.Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    In the 90s, my father and I would send books back and forth to Hawaii media mail. It was cheaper, but it also took an average of 3 weeks to a month to make the journey one-way. Normal priority mail packages from my mother took about 4-5 business days. That was how I thought they prevented people from cheating the system.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    Feels like government subsidies to Big Media.

    I’m only half joking.Report

    • aarondavid in reply to Kazzy says:

      At this point, it is gov’t subsidies to used book dealers.Report

      • You wouldn’t know it from what they charge for shipping.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          If you’re talking about third-party sellers on sites like Amazon, that’s because they get a fixed shipping allowance. The difference comes out of the item’s price, which is why a lot of used items sell for one cent. They cover all their expenses and make all their money on the difference between the shipping allowance and the actual cost of postage.Report

          • More the bookstores that are clients of, who set both their own books prices and shipping prices. Though I honestly don’t know how they decide how to divide what they’re charging between nominal “price” and shipping; often, you’ll see two stores selling the same book for the same total cost but split differently.Report

            • aarondavid in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              When I was selling on ABE, it was $4 book, and I would pick up all my expenses through the price of the book. Others try to pick up “handling” in the shipping costs. International shipping often killed me, and I would almost always send a revised cost that would cause the seller to cancel.Report

  10. Gabriel Conroy says:

    Are they inspecting all the packages, or just a randomized selection of them? If the latter, I don’t really see much a problem with it.Report

  11. Reformed Republican says:

    Tin foil hat time: Media mail is cheaper than regular mail. If people do not want to get searched, maybe they are more likely to use regular mail, even for media. As a result, people are more likely to use the more expensive option. In other words, instead of getting rid of the less cost effective option, they make it less attractive.Report