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#331214 - 22/03/2010 15:24 The USPS Enters or Does Not Enter the 20th Century?
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5284
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: Redrum
I did, USPS and Medicare are a good example of a gov-o-fuck.


I'll let Bitt dispute your assertions about medicare, I don't know enough about it. But if you think USPS is a bad example, [insert impolite, disparaging phrase here].

The USPS ran at a 2.8 billion dollar loss in 2008. Terrible, isn't it? On revenues of 68 billion dollars, that's a 4% deficit. I'll bet none of those so-called "free-market" businesses lost 4%. Oh, wait...

The USPS delivered 177 billion pieces of mail in 2009. Had they been allowed to increase their rates by 1.6 cents per item, they would have shown a profit which they have done many times in the past.

So why does Federal Express show a profit? Must be because it's a free market thing, I guess. Let's see, I want to mail a four-pound package from Florida to Alaska.

$04.85 USPS Flat-Rate Priority Mail (3--4 day delivery)
-------
$04.85 total cost


$23.62 Federal Express Ground (1--2 WEEK delivery)
$02.10 Home delivery surcharge
$12.50 Saturday delivery surcharge
$03.50 Fuel surcharage
$10.00 No zip code fee
-------
$51.72 total cost

So at nearly 11 times the expense for about 1/3 the service (defined as the inverse of the number of delivery days) Federal Express manages to eke out a profit on the transaction, while the Post Office loses about a penny and a half. Clearly the Post Office is a shining example of ineptitude and we should all take full advantage of the free market expertise of Federal Express.

Of course, the Post Office only manages to stumble along because of the massive federal subsidies it receives. Why, in 2009 alone the USPS received, umm, let me look it up, yes, here it is: $0.00 in tax money. The United States Post Office is an independent, federally controlled (but not federally funded!) business. It competes directly with other delivery companies like DHL, Federal Express, and UPS, offering services at a small fraction of the price with considerable reliability.

When you consider the miracle of being able to stick a small square of paper that cost most of us less than one minute of working time to pay for onto the corner of an envelope, and know with some certainty that that envelope will arrive at its destination on the other side of the country in a matter of a few days... it absolutely boggles my mind that anybody in their right mind can disparage the USPS.

Just consider the alternative...

tanstaafl.
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"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#331215 - 22/03/2010 15:33 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: tanstaafl.]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
OK, Iíll start a business that delivers mail to your mailbox. Oh wait, thatís against the law. So there is not way of knowing how much cheaper a privately run mail company would be that delivers to your mailbox. Seeing how snail mail is becoming extinct Iím sure weíll never know what might have been.

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#331217 - 22/03/2010 15:43 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5284
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: Redrum
So there is not way of knowing how much cheaper a privately run mail company would be that delivers to your mailbox.


It probably doesn't cost Federal Express $46.85 ($51.72 -$4.85 -$.02 to cover the USPS deficit) to put the letter on my doorstep instead of in my mailbox.

If you want to try and deliver a letter in half a week clear across the country for 44 cents, be my guest!

tanstaafl.
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"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#331218 - 22/03/2010 15:45 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Originally Posted By: redrum
OK, Iíll start a business that delivers mail to your mailbox. Oh wait, thatís against the law. So there is not way of knowing how much cheaper a privately run mail company would be that delivers to your mailbox.

To repeat Doug, the USPS effectively is a private company, except the government gets to dictate their prices. And they're not dictating high prices.

Also, in many urban areas, people's mailboxes are at their door, either a wall-mounted box or a slot. So, in those cases, the USPS does no less work than FedEx or UPS, and still charges far less. Alternately, in the case of larger packages, the USPS also does the same work for less money.

In my opinion, the two things that the USPS has wrong are that their tracking is lousy and their rates are confusing. If they fixed those, mostly the rates issue, I think they could improve their customer base for packages significantly.
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#331221 - 22/03/2010 15:49 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Originally Posted By: wfaulk


In my opinion, the two things that the USPS has wrong are that their tracking is lousy and their rates are confusing. If they fixed those, mostly the rates issue, I think they could improve their customer base for packages significantly.


I can't agree more on the tracking. It is beyond bad.

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#331225 - 22/03/2010 16:33 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
TigerJimmy
old hand

Registered: 15/02/2002
Posts: 1049
Originally Posted By: wfaulk
Originally Posted By: redrum
OK, Iíll start a business that delivers mail to your mailbox. Oh wait, thatís against the law. So there is not way of knowing how much cheaper a privately run mail company would be that delivers to your mailbox.

To repeat Doug, the USPS effectively is a private company, except the government gets to dictate their prices.


Bitt, I like you, and I enjoy our discussions, but you have managed to convince me that you don't know what you're talking about. The government owns all of the capital property of the USPS. How, exactly, is this a private company? Do you mean it's self-funding? There is an enormous difference between those two things.

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#331226 - 22/03/2010 16:40 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: TigerJimmy]
hybrid8
carpal tunnel

Registered: 12/11/2001
Posts: 7738
Loc: Toronto, CANADA
Does congress, the senate or other such government body dictate the operations of the USPS?

I don't think you'd see any improvement to the USPS if it were run by any other private entity.
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Bruno
Twisted Melon : Fine Mac OS Software

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#331227 - 22/03/2010 16:48 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: TigerJimmy]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Yes, self-funding. I realize that it's not a totally separate organization, not even to the level of a GSO, but its operations are independent of the government and it receives no funding from the government. Yes, the government would certainly bail them out if they became insolvent, but that is not the case.

All of that is why I said "effectively". Beyond the price dictates and the surety of existence (which seems to be a no-op, for now, at least), I fail to see how a completely private entity would act differently.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331228 - 22/03/2010 16:54 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
hybrid8
carpal tunnel

Registered: 12/11/2001
Posts: 7738
Loc: Toronto, CANADA
On US healthcare reform: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/03/why-this-moment-matters/37798/

Short and to the point.

I think the rest of the world is saddened to see so many in the US constantly trying to bring it down. These are usually the same people giving the country a bad name internationally. I don't think any one president is going to be the magic cure-all, but you have to start somewhere. And the Bushes... They didn't do anything but put your country years (even decades) in reverse.
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Bruno
Twisted Melon : Fine Mac OS Software

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#331229 - 22/03/2010 16:58 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5284
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: wfaulk
In my opinion, the two things that the USPS has wrong are that their tracking is lousy and their rates are confusing. If they fixed those, mostly the rates issue, I think they could improve their customer base for packages significantly.


Lousy tracking? I just spent 26 seconds (by stopwatch) tracking a package I sent out last week. That includes going to my cliptrak program and loading the tracking number into the clipboard, starting Firefox, going to usps.com, pasting the tracking number and clicking the Go button. What more information could I want, and how much faster could I have gotten it?

Rates confusing? Use their flat rate shipping, and you have a grand total of three rates, one for small, one for medium, and one for large packages. No matter what the weight. No matter where (within the US) you are sending. How could anything possibly be less confusing than that?

In the attached tracking info, note that after the considerable delay getting out of Mexico (using a forwarding service) through customs and into the US postal system, delivery took three and a half days (84 hours) from Texas to Alaska. [Well, it hasn't been delivered to his home yet, that'll be this afternoon, so call it four days] I was able to print my own postage and charge it to my credit card, track it effortlessly on-line, and use shipping materials provided for free by the USPS. Simple, fast, secure, $4.85 -- an incredible bargain.

If you haven't spent time on the USPS website, you should do so. It is (IMHO) a shining example of what a commercial website should be.

tanstaafl.


Attachments
Tracking.jpg


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#331230 - 22/03/2010 17:00 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: tanstaafl.]
hybrid8
carpal tunnel

Registered: 12/11/2001
Posts: 7738
Loc: Toronto, CANADA
Anyone complaining about USPS has never used Canada Post. For that matter, FedEx and UPS are both a much bigger PITA to use, both from a service and from a web site perspective.
_________________________
Bruno
Twisted Melon : Fine Mac OS Software

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#331232 - 22/03/2010 17:20 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: tanstaafl.]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
That is all "after the fact tracking."

Tracking a package and getting a deliver date when in progress is something USPS does not do well, or at all from what I can tell.

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#331233 - 22/03/2010 17:27 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: tanstaafl.]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Originally Posted By: tanstaafl.


If you want to try and deliver a letter in half a week clear across the country for 44 cents, be my guest!

tanstaafl.


The infrastructure needed for a phone call halfway across the country is not cheap either but private companies are doing that everyday for a profit.

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#331235 - 22/03/2010 17:39 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
peter
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/07/2000
Posts: 4140
Loc: Cambridge, England
Originally Posted By: Redrum
OK, Iíll start a business that delivers mail to your mailbox. Oh wait, thatís against the law. So there is not way of knowing how much cheaper a privately run mail company would be that delivers to your mailbox.

No, no way save for baseless speculation such as that, if operated solely by the profit motive and not with a mandate of universal single-price service[*], a company would immediately drop service to unprofitable rural communities in favour of the lucrative city-to-city market. And that an already somewhat disenfranchised sector of the US, the rural poor, would just disappear and drop off the end of the world. That's why ending Saturday service prompts endless USPS soul-searching whereas a for-profit company would drop it like it's hot: because it's a service serving up valuable social inclusion.

In fact the example of the postal service is a reasonably good analogue for the benefits of healthcare reform. You get the government involved when the free market would cause unconscionable harm to those at the bottom of the market. USPS = Useful Single-Payer Simulator.

Peter

[*] Um, which I'm assuming they have. Certainly our equivalent Royal Mail monopoly is tied to a universal-service mandate.

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#331237 - 22/03/2010 17:43 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Originally Posted By: Redrum
That is all "after the fact tracking."

Tracking a package and getting a deliver date when in progress is something USPS does not do well, or at all from what I can tell.

What he said.

As far as rates go, I will readily admit that their new Flat Rate stuff is a great step in the correct direction. However, that doesn't get rid of their existing hugely confusing rate structure. Honestly, it would help if they would just quickly summarize what the differences are between Priority, Express, First Class, and Parcel Post. I'm sure it's simple, but I never can remember from time to time. In addition, there's no way to get a quote for all of them by entering your information once; you have to enter it multiple times. The kiosks at the post office actually do this pretty well, but I usually want to compare USPS, FedEx, and UPS, and I can't do that there.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331238 - 22/03/2010 17:45 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: peter]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Originally Posted By: peter
You get the government involved when the free market would cause unconscionable harm to those at the bottom of the market.

Peter wins the Internet.

Sometimes it takes someone on the outside looking in to clarify things so well.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331243 - 22/03/2010 18:20 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: peter]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Originally Posted By: peter
a company would immediately drop service to unprofitable rural communities in favour of the lucrative city-to-city market. And that an already somewhat disenfranchised sector of the US, the rural poor, would just disappear and drop off the end of the world. That's why ending Saturday service prompts endless USPS soul-searching whereas a for-profit company would drop it like it's hot: because it's a service serving up valuable social inclusion.




I consider the postal service and the cell phone industry to be very similar. They both require a high investment and infrastructure and are better served by a few large organizations. I agree with your urban/rural analogy, to a point. Mail service and cell service (in its infancy compared to the USPS) both started out servicing urban customers only. Once that market was saturated they both expanded to the rural community. Most rural residents (me being one) accept this fact. We are the last oneís to get ďthe latestĒ and greatest. I just recently (10/2009) got acceptable (not great) high speed internet access. However I was not yelling to the government demanding that ďIím entitledĒ to high speed internet. The market finally found it profitable to provide the infrastructure needed to get my money. No one else had to subsidize my internet because I made the decision to live in the sticks. I made my own bed and reap the consequences.

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#331244 - 22/03/2010 18:30 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
You can consider all you want, but the USPS has a special place in US law. And, no, I'm not talking about the legislated mandate. It (specifically, certified mail) is one of the few accepted ways to legally inform someone of a subpoena, etc.

Also, you think that rural folks not being able to send or receive mail would be okay? I hope they don't have any bills to pay.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331250 - 22/03/2010 18:56 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Originally Posted By: wfaulk
You can consider all you want, but the USPS has a special place in US law. And, no, I'm not talking about the legislated mandate. It (specifically, certified mail) is one of the few accepted ways to legally inform someone of a subpoena, etc.

Also, you think that rural folks not being able to send or receive mail would be okay? I hope they don't have any bills to pay.


I'm saying if the USPS would have started out as a private model it would be in better shape now.

Or should the government take over the phone companies because cell phones don't work at the bottom in the middle of the desert in Nevada. Some poor smuck might decide to live there?

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#331252 - 22/03/2010 19:07 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
The Communications Act of 1934 stated, in part:
Quote:
It shall be the duty of every common carrier engaged in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio to furnish such communication service upon reasonable request

This was in relation to wired telephones, obviously, but, yes, if a service becomes part of the national infrastructure, it should be mandated. The postal service has been that way for years, and health insurance, or some equivalent, has been that way for at least 50 years, probably longer.

So, yes; yes; a thousand times: yes!
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Bitt Faulk

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#331254 - 22/03/2010 19:25 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Originally Posted By: wfaulk


So, yes; yes; a thousand times: yes!


What the hell. Weíll just print more money or go deeper in debit. A cell phone in every pot!

If the government ran everything and protected us from ourselves wouldnít that be wonderful. I think not. Some of the more controlling governments are no more for good reason. Lucky for China they work cheap.

Too bad but greed makes the world go round not love.

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#331256 - 22/03/2010 19:34 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
We're paying for it now, just backhandedly. This bill should reduce costs and improve coverage. The CBO thinks so. I don't think I've seen any reputable economist say otherwise.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331257 - 22/03/2010 19:36 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
To be clear, I think that cell phones are currently a convenience, not a necessity. This may change in the future; I don't know. I'm not saying that the government needs to mandate universal cell phone coverage; I'm saying that I don't think your analogy is (at least currently) valid. A comparison between the post office, land-line phones, and health coverage would be accurate, and the first two do have universal mandates.
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Bitt Faulk

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#331258 - 22/03/2010 19:36 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
siberia37
old hand

Registered: 09/01/2002
Posts: 702
Loc: Tacoma,WA
Originally Posted By: Redrum
[quote=wfaulk]

[quote]
What the hell. Weíll just print more money or go deeper in debit. A cell phone in every pot!

If the government ran everything and protected us from ourselves wouldnít that be wonderful. I think not. Some of the more controlling governments are no more for good reason. Lucky for China they work cheap.



Lucky for China they have government health care too. They have the greatest surplus per GDP of any large nation as well hmm.

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#331261 - 22/03/2010 21:02 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: wfaulk]
TigerJimmy
old hand

Registered: 15/02/2002
Posts: 1049
Originally Posted By: wfaulk
The Communications Act of 1934 stated, in part:
Quote:
It shall be the duty of every common carrier engaged in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio to furnish such communication service upon reasonable request

This was in relation to wired telephones, obviously, but, yes, if a service becomes part of the national infrastructure, it should be mandated.


There truly seem to be no limits to your great plans for improving our society. I ask you, is there anything that a strong, centrally-planned government (ruled by the enlightened leaders of your personal choice) can't improve for us? Thank god we stupid rabble have these great leaders to protect us from ourselves!


Edited by TigerJimmy (22/03/2010 21:02)

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#331266 - 22/03/2010 21:39 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: TigerJimmy]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1626
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Everything I read on here about all the great things the government can do to us and for us reminds me of the great Simpson's episode when Homer is garbage commisioner.

Yes, the garbage man can!

Stu
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#331269 - 22/03/2010 21:59 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
canuckInOR
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/02/2002
Posts: 3120
Loc: Portland, OR
Originally Posted By: Redrum
Originally Posted By: tanstaafl.


If you want to try and deliver a letter in half a week clear across the country for 44 cents, be my guest!

tanstaafl.


The infrastructure needed for a phone call halfway across the country is not cheap either but private companies are doing that everyday for a profit.

Hey, didn't the government subsidize that infrastructure?

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#331280 - 23/03/2010 02:15 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5284
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: Redrum
I'm saying if the USPS would have started out as a private model it would be in better shape now.


Specifically, what is it that makes you think the USPS is in such bad shape? That they ran a 4% deficit last year? I bet many if not most of the "private model" companies in the country wish that their deficits were only 4%.

Would you be happier if the USPS followed your private model scenario, so you could pay $52.71 to mail a package instead of $4.85?

tanstaafl.
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"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#331281 - 23/03/2010 02:26 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: Redrum]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5284
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: Redrum
That is all "after the fact tracking."

Tracking a package and getting a deliver date when in progress is something USPS does not do well, or at all from what I can tell.

Untrue. This particular tracking was after the fact only because I didn't print it until after the package had arrived. Before that, I was able to see each stage of the delivery as it happened. The post office even sent me an email each time new tracking information arrived. I got an email when I printed my Click'n'Ship label. I got an email when it went into the system in Texas. I got another email when it arrived in Anchorage, and another when it got to Fairbanks. The final email was when it was actually delivered, and yes, there was a four hour delay between the actual time of delivery and when I received the email notification. Boo-Hoo. How could the tracking possibly have been better? Normally I wouldn't request the email notification, but I wanted to see how it worked. Pretty well, if you ask me.

tanstaafl.
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"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#331282 - 23/03/2010 02:53 Re: The United States Enters the 20th Century! [Re: tanstaafl.]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 11865
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: tanstaafl.
Originally Posted By: Redrum
That is all "after the fact tracking."

Tracking a package and getting a deliver date when in progress is something USPS does not do well, or at all from what I can tell.

Untrue.

Ehhh...not to contribute anything useful to this thread, but package tracking on USPS is the worst. Every single time I order something online and it ships USPS with a "tracking" number, all I get when I go to their site is three-stage tracking. It says when the shipping info is received, when the package is shipped, and when it is delivered. I never have a clue as to where it is. And more often than not, the site doesn't update that the delivery has occurred until the day after.

Other than that, I disagree with the naysayers in this thread. I also can't believe nobody commented on someone comparing human health care with animal health care. That was absurd. Besides, I've known several people who have been buried in medical costs for their pets, so the argument is wrong anyway.
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