Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night may stay the American mail carrier, but pretty soon, the weekend will. On Feb. 6, the United States Postal Service made the long-anticipated move of ending Saturday mail delivery. With demand for snail mail and paper billing falling and the payments of employee benefits piling up, the venerable USPS is anxiously looking for ways to cut costs, having twice defaulted on its required payments to the federal government.
But how do America's mail carriers stack up internationally? In late 2011, Oxford Strategic Consulting, a British firm, released a report ranking the postal services of the G-20 countries based on three metrics: "provision of access to vital services," "operational resource efficiency," and "performance and public trust." Guess who came in first? That's right: the good old U.S. of A.
1. The United States Postal Service
Efficiency may not be the first word that comes to mind when Americans think of the USPS, but U.S. mail carriers are better at using their limited resources than any of their counterparts, according to OSC's study. In one year, America's mailmen and women delivered 268,894 letters and 2,633 parcels per carrier -- more than any other country -- to 151 million addresses. All told, the USPS accounts for 40 percent of the world's mail volume (yes, that figure counts your Victoria's Secret catalogues). And despite complaints about customer service, when researchers in a different study tested 159 countries' post offices on how fast an average letter sent to a fake address would be returned, the United States also came in first.
The Oxford authors acknowledge that the situation is in flux due to the rapidly declining demand for the post office's services. The United States already lags behind other countries in 12th place on "provision of access" -- which measures the number of citizens per post office -- and would likely worsen if the USPS follows through on its retrenchment plans.
The biggest obstacle to a more efficient post office may be the U.S. Congress, which has failed to approve reform efforts such as setting up retail outlets in post offices, raising prices, shuttering less-used offices, and ending six-day delivery. (As part of its new cost-saving measures, the USPS has managed to circumvent Congress by keeping only parcel service on Saturdays so that, technically, there's still some service six days a week.)
And in case you American declinists were wondering, China ranks last on the survey.
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