With the run-up to Christmas one would expect the US Post Office to be busy. For sometime now their website, though never brilliant, has helped to cut queuing times at the counter by providing basic services, including the ability to print postage labels and arrange shipment pick-up. For those of us with schedules to keep it can be a boon.
This week I needed to send a parcel to my father in the UK. Having already ordered and received the necessary USPS ‘Flat Rate Mailing Envelope’, I completed the packaging and began preparing to print out the shipping label/postage, only to be presented with a USPS webpage informing me my ability to print labels had been temporarily curtailed – that the ‘service was temporarily unavailable’.
The service has proved to be ‘temporarily unavailable’ for the last three days, with still no indication when it will be restored. My guess is it won’t be back until sometime in January, if at all.
Under the ‘service is temporarily unavailable’ notice is further information suggesting that those in need of this ‘temporarily unavailable service’ should avail themselves of the services of ‘one of our approved vendors’. It provides links to two private companies, Endicia.com and Stamps.com..
Both these companies will happily provide the software that will enable USPS consumers to print out their required shipping labels, complete with postage. The one drawback is that both will charge a monthly fee for this service. Endicia imposes $10 per month for their ‘basic’ service and requires that its customers purchase one of their printers for the purpose. Their software (surprise, surprise!) doesn’t function on a normal home printer.
Stamps.com will allow use of a home printer, but will charge $15 per month for their ‘basic’ service.
Suddenly, a free service provided by USPS is no longer available, at the busiest time of year, and the only option apart from a long trudge to the town post office is to sign up for one of two grossly overpriced alternatives.
The questions that spring nimbly to the forefront of the mind are:
1) How many board members of USPS are sitting on the boards of Endicia and Stamps.com, and
2) Is the federally-owned United States Postal Service complicit with two private companies in ripping off the American people?
Filed under: USPS business practices