Could Drinking Solve The Postal Service's Financial Woes?

The ailing agency has been brainstorming ways to recover from its $16 billion loss in 2012. Its newest idea: Sending booze in the mail.

The USPS's Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has a new idea for how the ailing government agency can recover from the $16 billion deficit it suffered in 2012: Sending alcohol through the mail.

In an interview today, Donahoe told the Associated Press the USPS could raise as much as $50 million from annual alcohol deliveries. Mailing alcohol is currently illegal in the U.S., but in theory, the postal service would offer special boxes designed to hold bottles of wine, beer, or spirits that it could ship domestically for a flat rate.

Alcohol deliveries are the latest in a string of ideas we've heard come out of the USPS's brainstorming sessions. Among other options, it considered cutting Saturday mail deliveries, and is creating a proprietary "Rain Heat & Snow" fashion line of apparel and accessories.

[Image: Flickr user tom frison]

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  • Anthony Reardon

    Actually, I'm down with brainstorming solutions, but some of these ideas sound half _____. 

    First I think you need to start by recognizing the inherent competitive advantages of the postal service system. I don't know...what was it about UPS and FEDEX that got them into the same kind of business, and do they suffer those kinds of losses? I've always thought the amazing thing about the USPS was that they send someone around to basically every single residence almost every single day. There has to be a competitive advantage in leveraging that.

    I remember growing up that our mailman had an extended timeframe on delivery because he was supposedly expected to shoot the breeze with people. Especially when you have the same person working a neighborhood, that can really be a community service, and that personal service could probably be leveraged for so much more than mail delivery. For instance, might be kind of cool if your trusted neighborhood mailman was also your IT first responder. Millions of possibilities.

    There's a huge waste component that always came to mind with stamps. I thought when they came out with the universal stamp, they finally started to get the right idea. Come to think about it, I'm always amazed by just how much paper moves through "paperless offices". The USPS should get on board with being their own solution.

    For instance, what about universal envelopes and boxes that are reusable. It's not like the technology doesn't exist to make this feasible.

    Or how about instead of going to a big post office box, you go up to a scanner/ printer. Instead of offering PO boxes, maybe they drive electronic exchange and storage.

    If you want to talk beer, then let's refer back to the old MIT "beer game". That's a study of the entire logistics from production to consumption. You beat the game by designing the most efficient system. For beer, that could be home brewery exchange for example, cutting out all the wholesale, retail, etc, out of the model. It's simple, each step costs money and gets factored into price. You chip off the rock, rub down the hard place, and what you have in between are opportunities for competitive prices and a cut of margins normally funneled into middlemen. With all the movement to online marketplaces, individuals on the aggregate can represent a collective Amazon, and with all the talk about 3D printing, the opportunities for an organization like the USPS are unlimited.

    Best, Anthony 

  • daniel reed

    how does this story even justify this the title?  "..
    Solve The Postal Service's Financial Woes"?  $50M in revenue, plus added enforcement (which will eat in to that revenue) will make a ~0.3% dent in the 15B deficit.  Hardly a "solution".  

  • lindalorra

    The alcohol ban is a no-brainer for increased revenue. Has the USPS also asked the public to send in ideas? Brainstorming sessions are great, but if it's taking this long to find a way to overcome their difficulties, perhaps thinking outside the box- non-postal, regular people have great ideas, too.