Putting The US Postal Service Out Of Its Misery

My attitude towards mail is pretty much the same Cosmo Kramer’s. I hate it. Every day I get a stack of mail, 95% of which is utterly useless to me. I put it in a pile on my bureau to deal with later and the pile just grows and grows. Every time I walk by it, I get incredibly annoyed. It’s a reminder to me that I have to take an hour or more out of my life sorting through a stack of junk. And it’s not just junk I can throw in the garbage; at least half of it is sensitive junk that I have to shred — one. at. a. time. I can’t stand it. If I could pay the post office not to bring mail to my house, I would.

Now maybe I can’t pay the U.S. Postal Service not to deliver my mail, but I can pay a new Austin based startup — Outbox! As far as I’m concerned this is the best innovation in mail delivery to come along in a very long time the entire multi-century history of the government mail monopoly. For the bargain of the century price of only $8.99/month, Outbox will send their drivers to your house to take the mail out of your mailbox, sort it, shred the junk, scan the rest, and display it for you in a convenient online inbox.

Outbox Inbox

Just let this sink in for a second. The U.S. Postal Service is soooo bad that the government has to use tax money to subsidize the delivery of mail to people’s houses, only to have a private “unpostman” (as they are called) drive behind the mailman taking the mail out back of the mailboxes. I can’t think of more appropriate contrast between capitalism and socialism. One continually innovates, always striving to find new better ways of serving us. The other is old and stale and fails to serve anyone. It does little more than beg for more tax money while trying to justify its existence. There is no way an innovation like Outbox would have ever come from a government bureau.

Initially, Outbox worked out a deal with the regional postmaster in Austian, TX that allowed the company to pick up the mail directly from the post office. However, when U.S. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe got wind of what was going on, he was furious and put an end to the operation. When Outbox founder Evan Baehr met with the Postmaster General, he was told that the Postal Service’s customers are not the American public, but rather a few hundred bulk mailers. Imagine that! This may remind libertarians of the great Lysander Spooner who started the American Letter mail Company to compete directly with the U.S. Postal Service. Afterall, the Constitution only authorizes the government to deliver mail, it doesn’t grant it a monopoly. The government (surprisingly) disagreed and drove Spooner out businesses.

UnpostmanOutbox was undeterred, however. After being prohibited from picking up the mail directly from the Post Office, they purchased their own fleet of vehicles to pick it up directly from your mailbox. If there are any important items in your inbox, with just a click of a mouse you can have them delivered to your mailbox the next time an unpostman comes by to pick up your mail. I can’t think of a better way to receive postal mail.

Unfortunately for me, this service is only available in San Francisco right now, but the company has plans to expand nationwide. They emailed me a survey asking whether I would use their service and why. I was more than happy to leave them a positive replay. Hopefully one of these days we will move out of the stone age and allow competition in mail delivery. Then we can look forward to putting the Postal Service out of its misery once and for all.

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