The U.S. Postal Service Is Open To Delivering Anything To Raise Cash

Do you need something delivered? Perhaps a case of water, some booze, or maybe a box of fresh fish? Consider turning to the same people who bring you birthday cards and jury duty summonses: the U.S. Postal Service is now delivering groceries to customers in seven cities, and also doing same-day delivery in some markets of things you might not expect to see on a postal truck.

The USPS is a quasi-governmental agency that gets some small government subsidies, but mostly has to support itself. One expense it has that most businesses don’t is funding employee retirement and health benefits far into the future. Without this requirement, the current Postmaster General told the Wall Street Journal, the USPS would actually have turned a profit in 2014.

The delivery of items like water, fish, and groceries are part of an experiment, but the experiment looks promising. Right now, it means paying employees during hours that the postal service normally isn’t out making deliveries, and they also will need to find vehicles better suited to deliveries of perishables.

Ultimately, grocery delivery could make the postal service $10 million per year if it works out. Another proposal is finally allowing the USPS to deliver alcohol, something that the new Postmaster General estimates could lead to $50 million in revenue if Congress approves it. The ban on booze by mail dates back to Prohibition, and somehow just stayed in place until now.

Another problem: competitors like UPS, FedEx, and regional carriers wonder whether the USPS is charging too little for services like Priority Mail for high-volume shippers. USPS has been successful in the market for small e-commerce packages, and also bringing packages on the last leg of their journey, from the local package depot to the customer’s doorstep.

U.S. Postal Service Tries Hand as Fishmonger, Grocer [Wall Street Journal]