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October 18, 2011

Fixing the USPS with QR Codes #usps (@OIGUSPS)

The struggles of the US Postal Service have been well documented. The looming bankruptcy is exposing the weaknesses of the union contracts and lack of competitive focus. Responding to the pressure, the USPS is raising the price of standard postage to $0.45. This is a small step in the right direction, but it’s not nearly enough to fill the $8.5 billion hole.

If the USPS wanted to accurately price the service and drive more volume, they should adapt a bar code / account system for retail users.  Instead of, or in addition to, selling fixed-price stamps, they should offer users the ability to create an account online, register a credit card (or bank account, PayPal, whatever), and order custom coded stamps.  These stamps would be read by machine, and the USPS would charge back to the account a variable price based on location and weight.

If someone is shipping a letter from New York to Casper, Wyoming, the cost (and the price) should be higher than a person shipping a letter down the street.  If someone put a stamp on a package,  they would apply extra cost for the weight and volume. This system would be flexible enough to apply those costs without making the process cumbersome to the user.

The USPS website would have a rate calculator to approximate the cost if anyone really cared to determine the difference between a $0.50 letter and a $0.61 letter.

These tools are available today for larger businesses, but they should be driven down to the consumer for letters and other small parcel, non-urgent postage.

-Chris

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