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May 3 2011 12:46 AM
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Today I had the privilege of attending a breakfast for the press at the National Postal Forum. It was an informative, intimate affair with about eight or nine members of the press, and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. It was a great way to pick the PMG's brain on any topic, from five-day delivery to greening the fleet to the new advertising campaigns, and I'm delighted I could be there. Here's a quick run-down of some things we discussed:

Greening the Fleet
Someone asked the PMG if, as one of the USPS' cost-cutting measures, it was likely that the USPS would green its fleet, considering that the current vehicles are often quite inefficient, getting something like four miles to the gallon (OK, that amount may have been a slight exaggeration). PMG Donahoe replied that while the USPS takes its environmental responsibility very seriously, other factors have to be considered. "We keep our vehicles an average of 25 years," he explained, noting that that alone is an environmental plus. And while other methods (such as electric vehicles) are being tested, those are not a cure-all, either. PMG Donahoe noted that as of right now, gasoline is still the most efficient method, and furthermore, the fleet would cost $7 billion to replace-not exactly something the cash-strapped Postal Service has in its budget right now.

QR Codes
The PMG brought up some exciting technology that the USPS hopes to utilize even more of in the coming years. Similar to a QR code, a "watermark" would allow consumers to scan a picture on their mail with their smartphone, and it would then take them to a webpage with more information. "Unless you know about a website, you're not going there," Donahoe stated. This would be an excellent way for marketers to use technology and mail in a seamless combination.

APWU Contract
PMG Donahoe thinks it's likely the contract will be ratified. He believes that since many of the people affected are closer to retirement, they're willing to give a little in return for the stability the contract provides.

Five-Day Delivery
If the PMG is right, moving to five-day delivery wouldn't really have much of an impact. He notes that the media often talks about the elderly, who may not be as technologically connected as the rest of the population, as a reason to keep six-day delivery, when the actuality is that the people most in favor of getting rid of Saturday delivery are those over 65. Those people, he says, advocate cutting a delivery day instead of raising prices. Going to five-day delivery won't really impact volume, he says (other than the expected drop in volume as more and more people do electronic bill payment, etc.) Saturday is traditionally the worst day for mail delivery, he notes; people look at their mail on a daily basis Monday-Friday, but on the weekends get caught up in other pursuits and often don't even check their mail until Sunday afternoon or evening, anyway.

He said that Netflix is fine with going down to five-day delivery, as they would rather have a stable Postal Service their customers can rely on that only delivers five days a week, rather than keeping six day delivery and risk being unable to continue.

As you can see, our press breakfast was very informative. I'm heading to a lunch at which the PMG will be speaking on Tuesday, so I'll update with my comments then.