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The Virginian-Pilot Kerry Dougherty column
[February 08, 2013]

The Virginian-Pilot Kerry Dougherty column

Feb 08, 2013 (The Virginian-Pilot - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Do you come home from work and dash straight to the mailbox Do you enjoy riffling through the fresh stack of envelopes Do you pour yourself a cocktail and sit in a comfy chair to savor the delights in that day's haul Of course you don't. Chances are, you open your box and find it crammed with, well, trash. When was the last time you actually received a handwritten personal letter Every day, another mountain of unwanted envelopes, circulars and postcards arrives. Almost all destined for the shredder in an effort to keep identity thieves at bay.

Shoot, I don't even open most of the stuff.

Some people claim we've entered a sparkling new, paperless era. A greenie's dream. In many ways, we have. Bills are online. So are bank statements, invitations, even greeting cards.

Yet in this age of easy electronic communications, I recently had to replace a shredder that died after years of pulverizing the dreck delivered every day by the U.S. Postal Service. As it happens, I have a hill of postal debris waiting to be sliced and diced. Here, have a peek: Multiple entreaties from the AARP begging me to join their club of gimme geezers.

Department store circulars full of coupons designed to get me to the mall.

Postcards from real estate salespeople boasting about the property they've sold.

Credit card offers.

Promotions from my cable company -- yeah, you know who -- trying to sell me phone service.

Postcards from several cultural organizations, including one from The Virginia Opera offering me 25 percent off tickets. No thanks. I went to an opera. Once.

Solicitations from charities and schools and churches. Letters from financial advisers promising to make me rich. Missives from insurance companies offering to save me money.

And it's all junk.

Why do businesses bombard us with so much detritus Because it's cheap.

I don't have room here to outline all of the problems plaguing the Postal Service. Simply put, this hybrid "quasi-governmental agency" is hemorrhaging money for a multitude of reasons, many having to do with the way it is hamstrung by Congress.

At the risk of oversimplifying, here's one small example: The Postal Service is not allowed to charge for the real cost of letter delivery. It has to offer "universal service" for one set price. While remaining self-sufficient.

Any wonder its balance sheets are a wreck All of us share some of the blame. If we're honest, we'll admit that the postal service's prixe fixe menu appeals to the socialist in all of us. We like knowing that we can mail a birthday card to Kalispell, MT, for the same measly price we can send one to Richmond. We howl when the price of a stamp jumps a penny.

No doubt you've heard: Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe this week announced that he was slashing postal expenses by ending Saturday mail delivery in August. By axing six-day delivery, Donahoe reckons the USPS will save $2 billion a year.

Attaboy, Patrick.

Sure, we'll miss saying hello to our mail carriers on Saturdays. But for most of us, the change also will be a welcome day of rest -- for our poor shredders.

Kerry Dougherty, 757-446-2306,, ___ (c)2013 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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