Friday, 22 March 2013

07:51 – Congress has given the US Postal Service no relief, insisting that it must continue 6-day service. However, some in congress, along with USPS officials, have pointed out that congress has not specified which types of mail must be picked up and delivered on Saturdays. So the USPS currently intends to proceed as planned, dropping Saturday pickup and delivery of all types of mail except Priority Mail and Express Mail, primarily packages, as of this summer. This change would have zero effect on our business, as we ship our kits by Priority Mail.

I asked our mailman yesterday how this change would affect him, other than the fact that he’d then be working only Monday through Friday, with weekends off. He said it wouldn’t affect him or any the other full-time staff that had permanent routes. The main effect would be on the employees who covered those routes on the full-timers’ days off. I asked him how many of those would have to be retained to cover Saturday Priority/Express Mail pickup/delivery. He said that our zipcode has 36 routes, all of which could be covered on Saturdays by only two or three people.

The USPS unions are utterly opposed to any changes to Saturday delivery for the obvious reason. If dropping Saturday delivery of first-class and junk mail allows the USPS to reduce staff by a factor of 12 to 18, from 36 to 2 or 3, what would be the effect on employment of the USPS discontinuing 2nd-class and junk mail entirely? Only a small percentage of our mail is first-class. Nearly all of it is 2nd-class (catalogs) and junk mail. If those were eliminated–leaving only first-class, Priority, and Express mail–the USPS could reduce its delivery staff by some very large percentage. If 2 or 3 people can cover this zipcode for Priority/Express mail pickup/delivery, how many more would be needed to add first-class mail to the mix? Four or five?

10:11 – I’ve just been running some numbers, trying to get a handle on what’s likely to happen for the rest of 2013. One of the comparisons I ran was on kit revenues by month versus year-ago. In December 2012 kit revenues were 4.4 times those of December 2011. In January, February, and March 2013 versus the same months in 2012, kit revenues were 6.9X, 2.8X, and 8.8X, respectively, for an average of about 5.7X.

One commenter the other day suggested that I just buy a year’s supply of everything and keep it inventoried. The problem with that is two-fold: first, I don’t really know what a year’s supply is. If I order in enough for 5.7X last year’s kit sales, that’s 1,500+ kits’ worth. Second, there’s the issue of storage space and working capital. So I’ve decided to buy large quantities only of those items that are single-source and, based on our previous experience, are likely to be backordered at some point. Stuff that I can get from two, three, or four of our wholesalers I won’t worry about. So I may end up with 1,500 spatulas in stock, 600 dozen of the thick cavity slides, and so on. That, we can deal with. What I don’t want to have to deal with inventorying is 40 gross of beakers or 750 dozen test tubes or 125 dozen 100 mL graduated cylinders.

12:26 – I just ordered another two cases of the Sterilite 6-quart plastic storage bins from Home Depot. With the case of 60 we just received, that gives us 180 total bins, plus the 37 that I’d bought earlier in the store. I’m going to keep 30 of the bins for building chemical bags, small parts bags, and so on. The other 187 will be used for storage. I just checked and found that the Sterilite bins will easily hold more than 60 of the 30 mL bottles and twice that many of the 15 mL bottles. With our current kit lineup, we have 142 chemicals to store and roughly 100 more equipment and component items. Many of the latter don’t need storage bins. For example, we order goggles by the case of 100, and they stay in those cases. Same deal for items like beakers and so on. Subassemblies like chemical bags and small part bags are much too large for these small bins. A batch of 30 of those bags fills a good-size box, so we store them in, uh, good-size boxes.

28 Comments and discussion on "Friday, 22 March 2013"

  1. SteveF says:

    Ex-cuse me! I think you’re losing sight of what’s important. Next thing we know, you’ll be suggesting that the entirety of TSA could be let go as serving no useful purpose, but of course you’re forgetting that the federal government is a jobs program above all else.

  2. Miles_Teg says:

    Here in Oz the crew of the Titanic just re-elected everyone’s favourite atheist prime minister. The guy she displaced in 2010, Kevin Rudd, didn’t have the numbers to topple her so he didn’t challenge, so she was re-elected unopposed. It doesn’t matter. They’re heading for a monumental train wreck in September.

    The thing that bugs me most is the Carbon Tax, which is just taking money from some groups and re-distributing it to others, with the government taking a slice.

  3. SteveF says:

    taking money from some groups and re-distributing it to others, with the government taking a slice

    If you’d put in something about forbidding you to do something — for your own good, of course, and because you’re too stupid to know what’s in your best interest — you’d have described 90% or more of government operations.

  4. OFD says:

    I’m basically a paleoconservative with a libertarian streak and a traditionalist Roman Catholic but I’m with Bob on cutting all government to the bloody marrow. We have several million people in this country who work for the State; that’s insane. For a better perspective: the NYC publik skool system had many thousands of “administrators” for their empire; the Catholic parochial system, with huge numbers back in the day and still, made do with twenty-four, total.

  5. Roy Harvey says:

    He said that our zipcode has 36 routes, all of which could be covered on Saturdays by only two or three people.
    If dropping Saturday delivery of first-class and junk mail allows the USPS to reduce staff by a factor of 12 to 18, from 36 to 2 or 3,

    I think that overstates the reduction. The full-timers rotate their days off. I would expect most part-timers to work two or three days a week filling in on different routes each day. Also the staff reduction factor shown does not count the 36 full-timers that simply switch to a stable M-F work week. If we assume an average of about 2.5 days per part-timer today, the number of staff would go from 51 (36 + 15) to 39 (36 + 3).

  6. MrAtoz says:

    Here’s race baiter Jackson’s idea of saving Detroit because, you know, raaaacist trying to suppress the Black vote. I guess he thinks the Black population is going to rise up and make Detroit a mecca. Wait, just the opposite. He’ll keep the Black population poor to maintain his “base”.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Most of the people involved *are* full-timers. For example, Danny, our regular mailman is full-time. He works five days a week, often including Saturdays. On his day off, another carrier takes his place. In our case, that’s been Vicky, who doesn’t have a permanent route. She works full-time, five days a week, but she carries five different routes. She just got a promotion/demotion. She now has a full-time route, but she’s taking a pay cut to get it because USPS pays people who have to learn multiple routes more than they pay people who work only one permanent route. She took the permanent route because many of the people who carry multiple routes will be laid off when the USPS drops Saturday delivery, and she’d probably have been one of those.

    It takes 36 full-time people to deliver to this zipcode five days a week. Saturday delivery increases that headcount by a fifth, or just over seven more full-timers. Call it 7.5 to allow for vacations, sick days, and so on. Saturday delivery of Express/Priority mail requires 2 or 3 FTEs, call it 2.5, and therefore cuts the total full-time head count from 43.5 to 38.5, a reduction of 5 FTEs.

    The major reduction I was speaking of was if the USPS eliminated delivery of 2nd-class and junk mail. Delivering only Express/Priority Mail requires 2.5 FTEs for one day, which is 15 FTEs for six days. Adding back 1st-class deliveries five days a week, would require some additional but relatively small number of FTEs. I don’t know what percentage of mail is 1st-class, but judging from our own I’d guess maybe 10%. Cutting the non-Express/Priority Mail deliveries by 90% would allow much, much longer routes to be covered. First-class volume has fallen precipitously over the last ten years, and continues to fall.

  8. OFD says:

    We have no mail carriers. There is zero mail delivery in our town. We all have to hump to our boxes in the local post office to retrieve all our mail. My hump is about two minutes, walking across the street and past the town hall. The postmistress is a blonde cougar but too short for me.

  9. Miles_Teg says:

    OFD wrote:

    “The postmistress is a blonde cougar but too short for me.”

    Have you forgotten about the Prime Directive?

  10. OFD says:

    No, but I go to Church nowadays. There is a primer directive there. And I ain’t in my prime anymore, either, quite frankly. And Robert has reported that our sperm is not only probably defective but toxic so there you go.

    You just go on without me, with all them sheila’s in g-strings on them paradisial beaches in Oz.

  11. Ray Thompson says:

    And Robert has reported that our sperm is not only probably defective but toxic so there you go

    Speak for yourself. My sperm quit making the journey about 29 years ago when the Dr. severed the delivery mechanism.

  12. OFD says:

    Wow, Ray; you were really cutting-edge back then!

  13. Sharp wit, OFD. Cutting comment. Makes my nads cringe.

  14. OFD says:

    I’m not a young blade anymore but I try to help folks get the point when I can and at least now in modern times they don’t staunch the bleeding with a singe.

  15. ech says:

    You couldn’t cover all the routes with only a handful of staff to handle first class and above, as you have to be able to pick up first class at any house on the route. Now, if you eliminated first class pickup and required drop off at a box or PO, you could slash delivery staff by quite a few. Of course, you’d need something for the permanent staff to do, since the current contract doesn’t allow them to be laid off.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, but first-class mail is a small percentage of the total, and the vast majority of first-class mail is sent by businesses, not from residences. With junk mail and catalogs, the delivery folks have to stop at essentially every house every day. If the USPS were delivering and picking up only first-class and higher, they might have to stop at only every fifth or every tenth house on a given day, so their routes could be much, much longer. (We, for example, have outbound first-class mail only once every six or eight days, and we often have no incoming first-class mail.)

    Also, USPS is getting more radical about enforcing their rules for having a curbside mailbox. For many years, they’ve grandfathered in delivering to existing mailboxes on the porch, but the rule has been that a new resident or even an existing resident who wants to replace his mailbox is required to put up a curbside box. That rule hasn’t been enforced until recently. Of the three homes that have sold on our block recently, two have newly-installed curbside mailboxes. I’m not sure how the third got away with not installing a curbside box. When we bought our house in 1987, we were technically required to put up a curbside box, but we never did. At the time we moved in, there were zero curbside boxes on our block. Now, about a third of the houses get curbside delivery.

    Neighborhood mailbox clusters are also getting a lot more common, mostly in new developments, but they’re sprouting in older developments as well.

  17. Miles_Teg says:

    About 99.999% of residences here have curbside mail boxes, and have had for as long as I’ve been around (over 50 years). There’s no pick up from the residence that I’m aware of, you haul it to the post office or mailing box.

    Australia Post doesn’t deliver much junk mail, as contractors and private citizens are allowed to here and they’re cheaper than AP. I’d say I have real mail deliveries about two days out of five.

    We have been on five days delivery a week since the Seventies, occasionally around Christmas we get Saturday deliveries I think, but not always.

  18. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    USPS is pretty flexible. Ordinarily, we get one delivery a day Monday through Saturday. During the Christmas rush last year, with Christmas on Tuesday, they delivered packages that Sunday and Monday to make sure they got everything they possibly could delivered before Christmas. They were even delivering Express Mail and Priority Mail packages on Christmas morning. They were also on a twice-a-day schedule for several days before Christmas, making one run through early in the morning to deliver and pick up packages, hitting only those houses with a package arriving or departing, and a second normal run later.

  19. Lynn McGuire says:

    Neighborhood mailbox clusters are also getting a lot more common, mostly in new developments, but they’re sprouting in older developments as well.

    I maintain that USPS could drop 10 to 20% of their staff if they would install those neighborhood mailbox clusters everywhere across the USA. They have been requiring those in Texas for about 20 years for new housing developments. They really work well since someone has to break into your box to get your mail.

  20. Clayton says:

    2nd class and junk mail should be only once a week if at all. Trash day a la Lucifer’s Hammer!

  21. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Ah, yes. Harry the mailman. What a truly excellent idea.

    I’ve also argued for years that USPS should maintain a Do-Not-Mail list that allows people to exempt themselves from receiving 2nd-class mail, junk mail, or both.

  22. OFD says:

    I read “Lucifer’s Hammer” many years ago but what is the connection, if any, between that and “Harry the mailman?”

  23. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Harry/Hairy the Mailman was one of the minor characters in Lucifer’s Hammer. He got himself in trouble with his USPS superiors by instituting Trash Day, holding all of the junk mail and then delivering it in a big batch.

  24. OFD says:

    Ah, thanks. I wonder if there will ever be a movie version of that book; seems very apropos in the present times.

  25. Chuck W says:

    I am baffled by you folks who actually WANT cluster boxes and no more to-the-door delivery. Just keep volunteering to do more. Then YOU will be doing the work while still paying the taxes to get that job done for you. Just like Walmart having YOU check yourself out, and not paying you to do it. If I pay taxes, I want some service, not a half-mile walk in winter storms to pick up my mail.

  26. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    USPS isn’t tax-funded. Its only source of operating funds is postage.

  27. Miles_Teg says:

    Neighborhood mailboxes? You’re kidding! I want my mail delivered to the box on the edge of my property.

    Like Chuck I’m sick of getting less service for the same postage, payment or taxes. I value my time sufficiently to not want t spend a lot of it so others can make a tiny saving.

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