How Makers, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs Can Save the U.S. Postal Service

Pt 477

How Makers, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs Can Save the U.S. Postal Service @ MAKE by Phil 🙂

Over the holidays, when the Adafruit shipping staff was away, I shipped hundreds and hundreds of packages of open source electronics. I put on headphones, and did my rounds through the factory and storage shelves. It was a good chance for me to reflect on how much I like the postal service (and the companies that are built around it like Endicia and For a reasonable price, they can get almost anything anywhere. Sure, there are problems once in awhile, but for the volume and price, it’s pretty incredible. We have a daily pick up and delivery here in NYC; the postal staff is like part of my team. A few weeks ago, the postal service had a petition trying to get support so Saturday service wouldn’t shut down — things are getting grim.

You’ve probably seen the recent headlines: the postal service has reported massive loses in the billions. As I spent the days and nights shipping, I thought it would be interesting to consider how we could transform and evolve the postal system. I think makers, hackers, and entrepreneurs have unique ways of looking at things, and I’d like to share some of the ideas I had. Most of all, I’d like your input. Together we could start some conversations on how we could utilize this national logistical treasure. Which brings us to this week’s Soapbox: “How Makers, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs Can Save the U.S. Postal Service.”

Let’s go!

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  1. The biggest issue with the postal service is they are severely limited in what services they can offer as a public service. And are equally limited in their competitiveness with UPS and FedEx.

    They’d be wise to try and work a deal with amazon to provide package drop off boxes ( sort of like 7 eleven did ). The thing is… unlike fedex or UPS… there is a post office in every neighborhood in the country. That’s HUGE. They could be the physical congregation space of all digital commerce if they were simply allowed to be. But they are not.


  2. I had a thought on this a while back. I wondered if perhaps they couldn’t contract with municipalities to collect meter readings from wireless water meters. Seems like they would follow the same routes…

  3. I’ve never understood why they aren’t the primary shipping method of just about every company out there. The fact that UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc, has contracts with companies to do the shipping is what is killing them. As an example, I went to and and did an estimate on next day shipping from adafruit to me. USPS: $28.60 and there by 3PM. UPS: $56.53 and there by “end of business day.” How does anyone even *want* to use the big guys? Are there kick backs? Is the cost so significantly lower when on contract that it brings it below usps? That’s where they are losing, the contracts imo.

    PS – ty adafruit for using usps

  4. On a Tuesday, I had the bright idea to get my friend some of Ladyada’s merit badges for his birthday on Saturday. I ordered them Tuesday night, she shipped ’em out quickly, and the postal service delivered them in time on Saturday morning. My friend was thrilled as he unwrapped each one: “I’ve DONE this!” And this quick shipping wasn’t expensive. I really enjoy Saturday delivery, I hope we find some way to make it keep working.

  5. Bring back Pigeon air mail!

  6. An even simpler way to return the postal service to profitability is to remove the ability for congress to meddle with the business practices of the postal service.

    Having to get congressional approval for common sense changes to business practices as well as having to comply anytime a senator wants to keep a post office open in his district is what’s killing them.

  7. When the government “privatized” the USPS they did not give them the tools to be competitive but still expected the same level of service to deliver the mail to every place in the country where service was needed.

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