Several weeks ago, as part of a roundtable discussion on lists and circulation, I asked a number of catalogers whether the January postal rate hike had influenced their mailing plans. The answer was a unanimous no: Postage – and by extension, postal rate increases – was just a cost of doing business. The catalogers certainly weren’t happy about the rate hike, but what could they do?
The next day, when I arrived to a planning meeting for next June’s Annual Catalog Conference, the postal service was again the topic of conversation. This time catalogers were comparing notes about spotty delivery (as per our cover story, “You’ve got (late) mail”) and joking about leading a Million Mailer March on a bulk mail center or a sectional center facility.
It seems that the U.S. Postal Service is like the weather: Everyone talks about it, but you can’t do anything to change it. Of course, some people try to do something (about the USPS, that is). During every postal rate case, representatives from industry groups such as the Direct Marketing Association and the Association for Postal Commerce testify before the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) as to why the proposed rate hike is unnecessary or inflated. Certainly the PRC listens, and such testimony may have lessened the sting of some rate increases. But the USPS has never been denied a rate hike.
So it’s little wonder that mailers suffer from postal passivity. Indeed, some may say it’s less a matter of passivity than of picking one’s battles.
Perhaps, though, the time has come to pick this battle. After all, not only will postage go up in January, but as discussed in Paul Miller’s cover article “Double trouble,” there’s a good chance that the Postal Service will ask for – and implement – another rate hike for 2002.
Now, in Britain, Germany, and Belgium this fall, truckers and farmers formed traffic-stopping road blockades to protest rising fuel costs. In France, everyone from driving instructors to building inspectors joined the protests, nearly paralyzing the country. In this context, a Million Mailer March isn’t so absurd.
If catalogers, magazine publishers, and other direct marketers banded together and marched into the USPS headquarters in Washington, the Postal Service – not to mention the government and the media – would have to take notice and respond in some way.
I’ve got my marching boots ready. Is anyone else in?