In his recent Office of Inspector General blog article, “Rethinking Mailbox Access,” UPS executive Keith Kellison proposes giving other delivery companies access to your mailbox. If delivery companies want to discuss stuffing your mailbox with their packages, then that discussion needs to start with why mailboxes are reserved for the Postal Service in the first place.
The fact is that exclusive mailbox access isn’t some kind of gratuitous privilege. Rather, it reflects commonsense ways of helping the Postal Service shoulder its enormous and unique responsibility: namely, delivering mail and packages to every home and business in America at affordable prices, and not just delivering packages to the most profitable addresses or with hefty surcharges.
Regulators, courts, and experts who have studied the issue in depth agree that exclusive access provides many important benefits to the American people, and that open mailbox access would take away those benefits.
– Security: Open mailbox access would make it an everyday occurrence for third parties to enter private mailboxes. It would be much harder to distinguish legitimate actors from common criminals. The RAND Corporation, a leading think tank with national security expertise, found that “relaxing the Mailbox Rule will have a negative effect on public safety and mail security,” as it would increase criminals’ opportunities for mail theft, identity theft, and explosive attacks.
– Efficient delivery of mail: Open mailbox access would cause clutter and confusion in customers’ mailboxes. Most of what goes into the mailbox today are letters, catalogs, and magazines. If unlocked, curbside mailboxes were open to package delivery companies, however, a mail carrier would not be able to fit those very items into the mailbox, or to distinguish between outgoing mail and privately delivered items. At the very least, the carrier would have to spend extra time at your mailbox in order to figure out what’s what. This would slow down the entire mail delivery process, increase the costs of mail delivery, and ultimately raise the price tag of mail for customers.
– Universal service at affordable and uniform prices: Whether you are sending a regular letter or card across town or across the country, the same Forever stamp will get it there. Exclusive mailbox access helps make that possible. By contrast, open mailbox access would make it easier for competing delivery services to strip certain profitable types of mail away from the Postal Service, such as catalogs and certain types of advertising mail. The Postal Service would be left delivering less profitable types of mail to less profitable areas, and yet it would have less of the more profitable types of mail with which to support those deliveries. This sort of “cream-skimming” competition would gut the Postal Service’s ability to support universal service and to keep it affordable.
Exclusive mailbox access goes hand in hand with the sort of secure, efficient, universal, and affordable mail service that the American people expect and require. Mailbox access cannot be “rethought” without realistic consideration of how else to provide Americans with the efficient, universal delivery of letters and other mail: a public service that the Postal Service currently performs without taxpayer dollars. And yet, virtually every expert report and customer poll to have discussed the issue is unanimous in supporting continuation of exclusive mailbox access as a way to support universal postal service.