"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Next Day' Is Not Really 'Next Day'
To anyone who has ever tried to make the argument that only the government can deliver mail, I have something to say about that. I run an Internet company that sells blinds and ships them. Our main market is in the United States, but we also will ship to other places for an extra charge. Sometimes customers will want to look at a sample of the product before making a decision, and we have to ship them a sample; that's where the story begins.
A customer in Canada had just purchased a new home and needed blinds. He called and said he really liked a certain product on our website, but wanted to see a sample of the product before making his decision. Normally I would have just put the sample in the mail using the government monopoly mail system and hoped for the best, but since this was a fairly large sale, I decided I would pay for 'Next Day' Air.
I arrived at the U.S. Post Office with fabric samples in hand and asked the nice government zombie behind the counter if I could send the samples 'Next Day' Air? Why yes, he informed me, but then told me there was no guarantee that it would get there by tomorrow. I looked at him and was bewildered because on the front of the envelope in big letters were the words 'Next Day' in the traditional American patriot colors. I was told that although it said 'Next Day,' they don't guarantee that it will get there by the 'Next Day.' He informed me that it might get there by the 'Next Day,' but it might also be as long as three days.
I started looking around for the cameras because I just knew I must have been on one of those new reality shows and had just been punked. After realizing that he was serious and there was no guarantee, I asked him what I was paying for? He told me I was paying for faster service. I asked him if I were to send it regular mail, would it get there in about three days as well? He said probably, but there was no guarantee. I asked what's the difference; there is no guarantee on the 'Next Day' either?
Rather than continue to argue with this minion, I decided to suck it up and just pay for the faux 'Next Day' service and be done with it. What I forgot to mention was that this package needed to go to Canada. To my surprise, I was told that the government syndicate mail system does not offer 'Next Day' Air to Canada , but they could offer me 'Express Mail.' Now judging by the title, one would assume this would surely be quick, after all the name of the service was 'Express Mail.' I asked how long it would take to get to Canada using 'Express Mail,' and he said 3-5 days, but (you guessed it) it was not guaranteed.
I then went into a long diatribe about the free market and how in a real free market, the government was not allowed to manipulate through monopolies and regulation, and the U.S. Post Office would need to find a way to offer 'Next Day' Air or go out of business. I told him that if I were to go to UPS or FedEx, they could provide me with 'Next Day' service. After my rant, he just stared at me from underneath his glasses and replied, 'You should go there, then.'
I could not take any more of this nonsense, and decided to take his advice. I took my package to UPS , where I was able to send my package by 'Next Day' Air. Not only was it called 'Next Day,' it really was in fact 'Next Day.' When the 'Next Day' arrived, I was able to call an 800 number and not only find out what time it was delivered, but who signed for it as well. Thus proving once again that anything the government does can be done better and more efficiently by private enterprise.
Only the government could get away with running a business like this. If I were to run mine this way, I would be out of business; but then I have to rely on customer service and market forces for my business to succeed.