AE Monthly

Articles - May - 2007 Issue

The United States Post Office and Politics

Ambag

The m-bag is gone.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

I hope you've already heard about this, but if you have not, as of May 15, 2007, the Post Office is enacting rate and service changes that will radically alter the way in which we ship books to our customers. For years, booksellers and their customers have benefited from media mail, the surface domestic rate, and economy and/or m-bag service for international sales. This has enabled many of us to grow our businesses and reach international customers, understanding that shipping is the single largest cost (other than the extortionist fees demanded by bookselling sites ... don't get me started on that). Customers who want books, including those overseas, have been able to buy books from the United States and have them shipped at a reasonable cost.

Now the Post Office, in its wisdom, has decided that the world no longer needs surface mail. As of the 15th, packages between 1 oz. and 13 oz. will cost between $1.13 and $3.17. A typical 2 lb. book will cost a minimum of $4.60 if the flat-rate envelope is used. The Priority Mail flat rate box is going up to $9.15. If you cannot or do not wish to use the flat rate envelope, then the same first class 2-lb. book will cost from $4.60 to $7.50, depending upon the zone.

More importantly, international surface mail no longer exists, either as economy or as the m-bag. All international mail is flying. The flat rate envelope to Canada and Mexico is going up to $9.00, and to all other countries to $11.00. There will also be a flat rate box, $23.00 to Canada and Mexico and to all other countries $37.00. The real pinch will come if the book or books weigh more than 5 lbs., as the m-bag will no longer exist.

How can it possibly serve our national interest to make it difficult and overly expensive for customers in other countries to buy books??

It is pretty obvious to me that those megalisting sites who offer shipping allowances are not going to fall in line with these adjustments, so, it is left to us, if we do not want to subsidize our customer's shipping, to raise our basic prices to make the difference. Also, instead of just using the post office, as we have for many years, we are really going to have to seriously consider the alternatives, primarily FedEx Ground and UPS. As we are, as far as I know, the single largest customer at our local post office, this is going to be a financial blow to that unit, not a ticket to increased revenue.

Now coincidentally (?) about a week ago, we received a letter from UPS saying that they had lowered our shipping rates for reasons that remain unclear, as we are not heavy users. I began to wonder if there was some conspiracy behind all this (other than what I can see as being a bad business decision) - is somebody behind the scenes trying to privatize the US post office by getting it to lose money and eliminate much-needed services? Is there some Bush appointee(s) involved in these decisions? Hey, we know he isn't much of a reader.

AE Monthly


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