An attack on the US Postal Service (USPS) is actually an attack on America’s small businesses. While media attention on cuts by Trump-appointee Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has focused on potential effects on the upcoming election, it’s important to note the effect these reductions will have on the health of our country’s small businesses.
Small businesses overwhelmingly depend on the US Postal Service for their shipping, and in a world of online shopping—intensified by the pandemic—the USPS is even more important for small businesses. Indeed, many small businesses would actually go out of business if it weren’t for USPS.
“About the time Amazon got popular, I noticed my shipping rates with UPS and FedEx skyrocketed,” said Janice Slater, owner of the promotional advertising company Concepts in Advertising in Jacksonville, OR. “Then they added a charge for residential delivery, and there’s still an extra fuel surcharge even though gas prices went down. Amazon offers free shipping—I guess I’m subsidizing Amazon’s lower shipping rates.”
That’s a feeling shared by many small business owners. Fortunately for Slater, as well as hundreds of thousands of other small businesses that ship goods, the US Postal Service still offers a level playing ground.
“The (US) Postal Service came out with these one-rate boxes with a two-day guarantee across the country. I started using the Postal Service much more than UPS or FedEx, and it was actually more convenient. My post office is close by and there are drop boxes.” DeJoy has started removing many drop boxes around the country.
Slater also noted she now asks suppliers to use USPS (she often has to pay the cost of shipping goods she receives as well as goods she sells). “I received a sample of one pencil—one pencil! And the UPS delivery charge was $17.47.”
Slater took the time to compare the cost of sending a 25-pound box from her office in Oregon to a big customer in New York for a two-day delivery:
- USPS one-rate box: $21.10
- UPS two-day flat rate: $50
- FedEx two-day: $143.05
For a small business sending to/from Alaska or Hawaii, or sending a package to an overseas US military base, it’s even worse.
“It’s not just that they’re (USPS) the least expensive,” said Alysha Cassis-Shaw, owner of the online vintage clothing store Neutral Ground in Oakland, California. “On principle, we have a postal service that serves everyone regardless of where they live.”
“I’ve been using USPS since I started my business,” said Cassis-Shaw, who noted that her business shifted entirely online since Covid-19. She used to sell at events and fairs as well.
“I currently offer free shipping—obviously some of that cost is built into the price (of the goods she sells). If I had to go with someone other than USPS, I’d have to raise the price to my customer, making it even harder to compete with big online retailers and big box stores. I’m not Amazon that can just absorb the higher prices (of other shipping companies). I know a lot of other small business owners and they’re in the same boat as I am. You’re being thwarted at every turn as a small business owner.”
Cassis-Shaw also noted that USPS had become less reliable in the last two months. DeJoy was appointed in June.
“In a time when we as consumers have become accustomed to free and fast shipping on all of our online purchases, the USPS is essential for small businesses to keep up,” wrote Lauren Behrens Wu, co-founder and CEO of Shippo, in an article in TechCrunch “Without the USPS’ support, it would be even harder, in some cases near impossible, for small business owners to live up to these sky-high expectations…89% of U.S.-based SMBs (under $10,000 in monthly volume) on the Shippo platform rely on the USPS.”
Small businesses don’t have the volume or clout to command—demand—bargain-basement shipping rates from private shipping companies. The US Postal Service is the only shipping option giving small businesses a fair shot at competing—and surviving—against the online giants. A national postal service is vital to democracy as well as fair to ALL Americans. America’s postal service began even before we were a country—in 1775—and our first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin. Don’t let anyone ruin it.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2020
This article originally ran in USA Today on August 27, 2020