Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why Postal Companies Are Going Down the Drain

Warning: rant!

Today I sent off an MS of 60 pages to the USA. Since that weighed over 200 grams, I had to pay 10.45 euros for the privilege. The economy option for post outside the EU has been discarded: it's either the priority rate or nothing. This is insane: I will now endeavor to send MSs only through email (even more than I already did).

Then I wanted to send a small envelope of business mail to the UK. Not only has the economy option for that been dropped, as well, but you must buy a minimum of 5 stamps, as of January 1. I only need one stamp, not five. Also, years ago postage rates would remain the same for years on end. Now the rates are increased every year, so those other four stamps will be useless if I don't use them before the end of the year.

The lady at the post office had already put the 5-stamp package in front of me, expecting I would accept that kind of policy without question. This sort of monopolist shenanigans makes my blood boil, and in turn my stubbornness goes to 11 (on a scale of 10).

So fuck that: I've sent it off with two old stamps I still had who together were worth more than the priority rate. On top of that, I'll scan the signed contract at the day job next Monday, and email it. I will try my damnedest to do as much of my correspondence over email (if possible *all* correspondence).

Thus, large national postal companies (I understand that the Royal Mail and USPS are just as bad) will continue to lose small customers (yes: citizens like you and me) through their insiduous ways of charging outrageously, and will end up mostly servicing large customers that send of mail in bulk, and thus get good discounts.

However, there are already many private companies doing that, and since these offer cut-throat rates (for bulk shipments only: just try to send a single package through a private mail company, and watch the price) in combination with horrible service (and I've seen quite some rants aimed at UPS, DHL and FedEx in the blogosphere), that is the way the national mail companies will go.

And indeed, Dutch TNT Post (already partly privatised) has already announced job cuts for the upcoming five years, even if they continue to make a profit. You see, they have to *continue* to make a profit, as they're not a fully national comany anymore. So they increasingly focus on the commercial market, and keep increasing the prices for small customers.

SF magazines are one of those 'small' customers: sending out a few thousand (let alone a few hundred) is not enough to get a bulk discount. So the postal rates for them go up, considerably, as well. Therefore, SF fiction print magazines are doomed (or more doomed than they already were): mailing costs will go up, and sending the magazines through commercial companies is even more expensive. In the abscence of growing subscription numbers, the only thing left (apart from going fully online) is cutting costs. Therefore Asimov's and Analog have changed size, and F&SF has lowered its publishing frequency. However, if USPS keeps raising its prices -- and they will -- it's a losing battle (and it pains me to say so).

And the national postal companies will become indistinguishable from commercial shippers, with the only difference that they must deliver mail to even the smallest of customers. By boy, will they charge you for it!