Back in 2006 the government decided to close an Air Force base near where I live to save money. You can imagine the outcry at the time. The base, which had been in operation since the mid 1920's, had provided thousand of jobs and was a major part of the surrounding community. People were expecting its demise to be an economic disaster. Small businesses were panicking. The two local topless bars were up in bare arms.
But of course, it wasn't such a big deal. The closure took about five years to complete. Most of the military operations were transferred to other bases with excess capacity. The National Guard took over some of the facilities. And now the community is weighing options for either developing the area into a regional airport, converting it into township parks or building industrial space. Small businesses are doing fine. And I can personally attest that both topless bars are still in operation. Hey, it's called journalism, OK?
Would small businesses suffer if the postal service shut down altogether? I doubt its disappearance would have much impact on my business, and most small businesses like mine. It was recently announced that the postal service would be cutting next day mail and closing facilities. The move would save about $3 billion a year. They need $20 billion in cuts just to be profitable, according to one account.
Some, like our own Nate Hindman, reported that many small business were bracing themselves for the effects. Some have offered good ideas for fixing the system. Others, like Forbes' Roger Kay, says we should end the service all together. Roger is right. And not just because he has a relationship with an online document signing company that would benefit from the demise of the postal service. It's because the post office isn't needed any more.
So what if, with all this talk of deficits and national debt and budget overages, our government takes the unprecedented step of shutting down its mail services? Many small business would worry. But I say to my fellow small business owners: do not fear. Your questions and concerns can be satisfactorily addressed. In fact, I'd like to address some of these questions right now, in order of importance.
Will I still receive my Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?
Dude, it's almost 2012. Give it up. They are not interested in you. And besides, you haven't figured out how to look at pretty girls on the internet? Some of them will even talk to you too, if you have a credit card. Just don't turn on your webcam.
Will this cut down on the amount of junk mail my small business receives?
Unfortunately no. Direct mail is still a very important marketing medium for many companies. How else could we receive those ValuPak coupons offering 10% off the price of aluminum siding or to power wash our deck? Private companies would most likely pick up the slack to ensure that the most important junk mail still finds its way into our hands.
Will this cut down on the amount of junk mail my small business can send?
It might. Those same private companies will probably cost you more than it costs today. But this could be a good thing. For example, if you're like my landscaper and you mailed me that stupid color brochure last fall then you may be in for an unexpected windfall. It might actually occur to you that you could've just knocked on my door and offered ways for me to extend the life of my rose bush and other revenue generating opportunities for your business. With the post office's demise, you may actually be encouraged to think harder about how you're spending your marketing dollars so that you get a better bang for your buck.
What about my mailman? I love that guy.
You're not the only one. My mailman is awesome. He's friendly and makes funny jokes. He always seems to have a lot of time to chat with people, and play with dogs, and take a little snooze in his little mail van. It's so sweet. My kids think he's the coolest. They miss him when he takes his vacation every month. I'll definitely miss him when he chooses to retire on full pay at the age of fifty. No worries though. I'm sure those companies who will be picking up the slack will also be bringing on experienced letter carriers.
Can I use the postal service shut down as an excuse for paying my bills late?
I don't see why not. Many of us do that now anyway. In fact, it'll be much easier to blame the government's lousy mail delivery service in this country when there's no mail delivery service at all. The biggest risk we have is our suppliers now requiring us to sign up for those annoying electronic banking services which have proliferated over the past few years like the plague. hese services pretty much ensure that our bills get paid on time. No float. No "oops, forgot to sign the check." No "oops, it got lost in the mail." It's yet another dis-service imposed by the banking industry on us small business owners.
My small business is located in Tensleep, Wyoming. Will I be able to get mail?
Probably not. But does it really matter? You're not going to know the difference anyway, are you? Your main industry is "Dirty Sally's Souvenir Store." You have a population of 304 people. It's almost impossible to get quality sushi on a Saturday night. But the scenery is unbelievable and you don't have to wait in line at the mall to see a lousy movie like "Jack and Jill" and get upset about the downward spiral of Adam Sandler's career. I'm not sure the frequency of your mail delivery will really impact the quality of your life. You already got it pretty good.
Will my small business only be able to use Fedex and UPS?
Yes you will. They have planted boxes everywhere. Their trucks are all over the place. Their boxes contain invisible agents that subconsciously make us use their services without paying attention to their prices. They have billions of dollars with which to take over the marketplace. And their deliverymen are sexier than you. Sure, there will be plenty of smaller companies vying for your business. But the women in your office will demand Fedex and UPS. Just wait and see.
Will my postage costs go up?
Probably. But they will be offset by the significant decrease in your health insurance costs brought on by the implementation of Obamacare. So it'll be a wash.
What about the "The Hangover 2" that I just ordered from Netflix?
I mean, it's OK and all, but definitely not as good as the first one. And besides, can't you just watch it for free on YouTube or something?
What if there are legal contracts that need signing?
Roger, the Forbes blogger I mentioned above, is discreetly easing us into considering using document signing companies like EchoSign and DocuSign . And he's right. In fact, electronic signatures are now being accepted in most states. Just like legalized gambling. And marijuana. Wait a second here....
But won't my business lose important paper documentation that supports our transactions?
Oh, you think you're so important with your important paper documentation, don't you? Well here's news for you: no one's reading your silly terms and conditions anyway. If a customer wants to sue you, he'll hire a decent attorney and figure out a way to do it. Forget all that paper. Save the space.
Aren't there other benefits from closing the postal system altogether?
Absolutely. Private, better-run companies provide their business customers with a much higher level of service. Tracking of packages can be easier and quicker. Shipping stuff like anthrax would be much more difficult. And if more people were encouraged to send their announcements electronically we could avoid tragedies like the one that caused George's fiancée Susan to die so suddenly from licking toxic envelopes in the season 7 Seinfeld finale.
Can I still use the term "going postal"?
If you're referring to people like Alec Baldwin and this kid then by all means go ahead. But looking to the future, we may find ourselves saying "he's going Dropbox on us."
Will international deliveries to my customers be affected?
Probably not. The Chinese will likely step in to take up the slack. Just like they always do.
Where do I mail my payment for the cool ShamWow that I just bought from TV?
Please send to 45 E City Avenue, Bala Cynwyd PA 19004 and make the check out to "Gene Marks." Serves you right.
Does this kill my chances of ever getting my face on a U.S. postage stamp like Elvis?
No. Your chances remain the same.
What happens to my Mailpiece Design Professional Certification?
First of all, I'm not kidding around. This certification does exist. And for those of you who have worked hard to attain this certification for your business I'm sorry to say it will be worthless if the postal service is shut down. You may want to consider replacing this qualification with others of equal value. Like a degree in Art History or a BlackBerry Certified Professional.
Won't our national prestige be damaged because we don't have a postal system?
Yeah, like Abu Ghraib, the ShamWow and Ron Paul haven't done enough to damage our national prestige. Shutting down our postal service, by comparison, is small potatoes.