Going Postal

Pony Express

Hey, maybe this is better for customers too!

I’m sure most of you have seen the commercial the US Postal Service has been running on TV lately. The one where they say, “A refrigerator has never been hacked. An on-line virus has never attacked a cork board.” When I first saw it, I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was so ludicrous that I wondered if it was a joke. Sadly, it was no joke. The postal service wants to encourage businesses to send more paper statements and receipts. Perhaps their next commercial will encourage people to use typewriters instead of computers. Or horse-and-buggy instead of cars. Heck, let’s just stop using electricity too.

Again, this commercial is just so ludicrous, it really isn’t worthy of rebuttal. So I’ll just do it for pure entertainment. First, here is the transcript of the entire commercial:

A refrigerator has never been hacked. An on-line virus has never attacked a cork board. Give your customers the added feeling of security a printed statement or receipt provides – with mail. It’s good for business, and even better for your customers. For safe and secure ways to stay connected, visit USPS.com/mail.

Let’s start with the specifics. Sure, no refrigerators have ever been hacked. But how is this relevant? The premise of the commercial is that a printed statement or receipt is more secure – or at least it gives an added “feeling” of security. So the USPS is basically saying that e-mailed statements or receipts are at risk of being hacked. I wonder how they think this might happen exactly? I don’t believe there are any documented cases of private information being compromised from a “hacking” incident targeting e-mailed statements or receipts. If we follow the logic of the post office all the way through, computers are far too risky to store personal information. We might as well stop using computers altogether because they just might get hacked.

Similarly, they claim that viruses put e-mailed documents at risk. Really? Exactly how? Are there any documented cases of viruses that compromised private information through e-mailed statements or receipts? This is just the USPS grasping at straws. Basically, if we again use the logic the post office is offering, we should simply stop using computers for everything because the risk of viruses is simply too great.

Sending paper through mail is good for businesses? Simply ridiculous. Besides the cost of postage, paper, and ink, the labor and equipment to produce and mail out paper statements is significant. Smart businesses long ago recognized this and incentivized their customers to use electronic billing and statements instead. And are we really going to take business advice from an organization that is bleeding red ink?

Finally, this ad finishes up by saying that paper statements are good for customers and implies that postal mail is safe and secure. Sure, because printed statements contain no personal information that identity thieves love to get their hands on and envelopes are impregnable fortresses of privacy. No, here in the really-real world, postal theft and dumpster-diving are some of the most common ways that people become victims of identity theft. Experts highly recommend shredding documents with sensitive information on them before throwing them away, especially all the junk mail credit card offers. Of course, if you were receiving e-mailed statements you could just hit delete on your keyboard, but apparently paper is “better for customers”.

Overall, the premise of this commercial is just so bad that it is almost insulting. Who exactly does the USPS think this ad is going to convince? People who are still using postal mail aren’t the target of this commercial. People who switched to electronic statements aren’t likely to switch back. And businesses aren’t going to encourage their customers to go back to paper. This commercial really just makes the USPS seem pitiful and desperate. I can’t imagine that this commercial generates ANY consumer confidence.

The postal service needs to realize that the era of paper mail is ending and adjust their business model – which will be highly difficult as long as they are a quasi-governmental organization. They need to focus on package delivery and run commercials like the funny “creepy clown doll” commercial if they have any chance of surviving past this decade.