Chapter Umpteen of the Gripping Tragicomedy “The Postal Service Is Struggling”

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
May 9 2014 5:27 PM

Chapter Umpteen of the Gripping Tragicomedy “The Postal Service Is Struggling”

rtr3b1am
The Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss in the second quarter.

Photo by John Gress/Reuters

While at the post office the other day, I asked the man assisting me if he had some tape I could put on the edges of my poorly sealed envelope. “That will be 10 cents,” he replied, before putting two tiny strips of Scotch tape on my letter.

I’ve gotten tape on my mail plenty of times before at U.S. post offices and have never once been charged for it, but I guess the USPS is hard-up for cash. On Friday, it posted a loss of $1.9 billion in the second quarter, the same amount it lost during the same period in 2013. Officials said they attempted to cut costs by reducing hours and staff through attrition, but the measures have not been sufficient. The Postal Service has reported a loss for 20 of the past 22 quarters.

More specifically, the volume of first-class mail (the most profitable kind for the Postal Service) declined 4.1 percent in the second quarter, and liabilities of $64 billion soared over the agency’s $22 billion in total assets. Shipping and packaging continued to provide a shred of hope, ticking up by 7.3 percent on increased demand for e-commerce deliveries.

Advertisement

Of course, it’s no surprise to anyone that the Postal Service is doing poorly, and I probably shouldn’t have been affronted by 10 cents for Scotch tape. Then again, even in these dark times, USPS found it in its heart to cut a break to Mother's Day stragglers: Greeting cards at my local branch were $1 off.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Watch Little Girls Swear for Feminism

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 1:46 PM The Real Secret of Serial Has Sarah Koenig made up her mind yet? 
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.