April 11, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I had to deliver each newspaper by hand? Well I'm starting to wonder about this after I saw the news that the United States Postal Service once again is going to raise rates. For most people it's just another inconvenience, as stamps will increase in cost from 34 cents to 37 cents. But for newspapers this is a little more significant as the post office will hike the periodical rate 9.9 percent, effective in June. That goes on top of the 3.5 percent rate increase from last year, meaning since I have bought the paper postage has gone up more than 13 percent. When you're publishing 2,200 newspapers a week, a 13-percent price hike is pretty substantial when you figure that out over 52 weeks.

After I got my taxes done last month I sort of felt like all my hard work was going to the government. I nearly cried when I had to write that check. Now I can amend that to include the post office as well and I will be teary eyed every week when I submit my postal report along with that enlarged payment.

I may have misspoken earlier when I said it was probably no big deal to the average customer, as it just means three cents per stamp. That's not totally accurate because ultimately the average customer is going to see plenty of other price increase because of this as you know that businesses will have to pass on the postal increase in the form of higher prices. So expect your mail-order catalogue purchases to cost more. Maybe utilities will add on a postage surcharge since they stuck it to us with a fuel surcharge when the gas prices were higher. And unfortunately people can expect to see a price increase in subscriptions to their local newspapers.

I only wish that when subscription renewals begin in December that there was a way I could transfer all the calls complaining about the higher rates directly to the Post Master General's office. Okay that's a bit extreme. I understand that the postal service is loosing business and must raise rates - that's just the facts of commerce. I also must admit, although it pains me to do so since I don't like to have to pay the price increase, it still is pretty reasonable considering what we get for our money. I suspect it would cost me more than 37 cents to get in the car and drive to California to deliver a letter.

I would like to see a little better service in the larger sorting areas, which often times can turn into newspaper graveyards. I have absolutely zero complaints about our local service, or that in the surrounding areas for that matter. But invariably I get two or three calls a week from subscribers in Florida, or Arizona or Nebraska who did not get their paper, or who are getting it a week to 10 days after publication. I notice it here, where I get a daily newspaper from St. Joseph. I go several days without receiving the newspaper and then all of a sudden I get three or four on one day. Seems like the newspapers are setting around at some sorting center and are not a top priority. I think if they are going to raise newspaper rates by 10 percent they should also strive to improve the service they give periodicals.

Everyone has a gripe, so there was mine. I took a little poke at the Postal Service at large. Again I'll stress that this is not a complaint regarding local service, as our postal carriers go out of their way to insure timely delivery of the Memphis Democrat to its readers and we truly appreciate their efforts. Hopefully this editorial will serve more to educate our readers about some possible subscription rate increases in the near future. In addition the piece was meant to offer a brief explanation regarding some of the delivery delays that readers in our farther outreaches might suffer through. I said I probably would be getting audited after I editorialized about the IRS, but I have not been (yet). I hope I can say the same thing about the postal service, meaning that they can take a little criticism but still maintain their professionalism and provide the services that we are paying for.

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