Is sending mail to "current resident" the same as spamming "everyone" at gmail.com?
You could make the case that there's not a big difference between the two. In some sense, there is no difference. However, there's a lot more trust in advertising received through the mail, rather than through the Internet, partly because we have an inspection service that follows up on customer complaints and makes sure that the public is protected from what comes through the mail system. What would you say to a national "do not mail" list like we have for telemarketers with the "do not call" list?
That has come up through the years. But I would point out that there's a big difference between receiving something through the mail and aggressive, intrusive salespeople calling at certain times of the day. What's the difference?
One comes through the mail, while the other is, in a sense, invading your home through the telephone. Yet taxpayers are also footing the bill for disposing of all that junk mail.
There have been many myths about the environmental impact of mail. I think it's grossly overblown. There are more trees in America today than there were several years ago. There's more recycled material in the mail now than there has ever been. There have been many studies about the impact of mail, and it is negligible. People [falsely] think that electronic mail incurs no environmental costs, that we never throw electronic components away and that energy costs nothing.
How will the mail system change in the coming years?
If nothing else, service should shift to five days per week. I've been out there advocating that. We can think about changing the rules about retail sales in our locations as well. There will probably be other changes, too. Remember, it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln that we had regular rural delivery. It wasn't until catalogs that we had free rural delivery. And it wasn't until the 1930s that the Postal Service regularly delivered packages over 4 pounds. Has electronic communication undermined the mission of the post office?
We need to have a national debate about the future of the post office. There are still a lot of people who don't have a computer, some who don't have a bank account. There is a lot of commerce that doesn't go through the Internet. And the Postal Service is a lot more into the fabric of America than most people appreciate. For example, we have an address database and a ZIP code database that serves the electronic world very well. If we were to disappear one day, someone might wake up and say, "How do I set my insurance rates without ZIP code boundaries?" Those contributions are lost in a debate that only focuses on hard copy versus electronic mail. By the way, those debates are most often held in places that are wired, not in rural America. Are we having this national debate in an informed way?