Netflix should buy the US Postal Service

Congress last week began hearings about whether to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, close local branches and other measures to try to balance the postal service’s budget. On the national news last night was a story about how a small town in Maine fought to retain its lone street mailbox. I say desperate times call for much bigger measures, and my suggestion is to sell the entire USPS outfit to Netflix, lock, stock, and … Well, you don’t want to say certain words around postal employees – at least until they become Netflix staffers. More on that in a moment.

It isn’t so far-fetched when you start to think about the possibilities. After all, Netflix is keeping the USPS afloat with more mailings of DVDs than McDonalds sells burgers. They have more than 50 distribution centers around the country, all of them in locations that are more secret than Dick Cheney’s bunker. They certainly understand how to run a distribution network, they have the machinery and the personnel. Plus, something that would warm the cockles of my Republican wife’s heart, I can’t believe that I am saying this but having a truly private mail carrier might actually bring some economic sense to our mail system.

How would this look? Here are my suggestions: First all, all mail would be one size and have to be sent in those familiar red mailers. That would mean that anything larger would have to use some other carrier, such as Fedex or UPS. International mail? Same thing. Magazines? Well, this is hard for an old magazine editor like myself, but they will have to change to the Netflix form factor if they still want to be mailed. Junk mail? Same deal. Standardization is key. No more post cards. If it doesn’t fit in a mailer, you can’t mail it.

Next, we eliminate postage stamps. Since we all will be using the standard mailers, we have standard postage. You buy the mailer and pay for the postage right then and there. Forget about metering based on weight: whatever you can cram into one of those envelopes is what you get to send. This obviates the need to run local post offices: if you need to mail something bigger, you can go on down to Kinkos or the local UPS store. They give better customer service there anyway. No more postage meters, but Pitney Bowes has been on the decline for years anyway.

And while we are at it, we should eliminate business delivery of postal mail. Don’t need it. You want to send something, use one of the other private carriers and get it there overnight. I recall a funny story a few years ago, when I was doing some work for a publishing firm and mailed in my signed contract. My editor kept saying that he never received the contract, because he never thought to ask where his actual postal mailbox was – there was little point because he never got anything via USPS that he cared about. The only thing that I get these days in my mailbox are checks, and we might as well move towards electronic payments anyway. Some of my clients now do direct deposit to my bank account, and I wish more did.

Netflix is a good choice to run the USPS for one other reason: it has an amazing employee base. You couldn’t pick something that was more the polar opposite of the feather-bedded, anti-customer oriented, highly unmotivated, hyper regulated postal system if you tried. How so? There is no vacation or hourly time card tracking policy at Netflix. There is also no specified uniforms or other dress code policy there but no one has come to work naked lately. Their entire T&E policy is “Act in Netflix’s Best Interests” and not much more than that. I think that says a lot about how much a company can trust its employees, unlike many firms that make you take odd flights to save a few dollars that consume hours of your time, or jigger your expense report so you can get almost reimbursed for your actual out-of-pocket expenses. The lesson is that you don’t need detailed policies for everything. (You can see the details of this for yourself if you are interested here.)

I know having Netflix run the postal system is probably a fantasy. But it is fun to dream, and have hopes, right?

24 thoughts on “Netflix should buy the US Postal Service

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  3. One of my readers mentions a service called EarthClassMail.com. He used them when traveling before and absolutely love it. Works like this:
    1. They receive your mail
    2. They scan outside of envelope. You choose whether they mail it to you, open it, or destroy it.
    3. If they open it, they scan the inside pages and then you have 2 of the same options as above (forward or destroy)
    The scans are high resolution so it even solves the problem of needing to fill out forms, etc. And you can have the mail forward to you anywhere in the world if need be.

  4. Netflix? Are you kidding Storm? They have a great employee base because they don’t have a union contract, an employee tracking system, they trust them and there is no dress code? So the Postal Service is a government agency that has some rules. I guarantee you, any Netflix employee offered a job at the Postal Service would take it in a heart beat. Listen, Netflix is a revenue generator for the Postal Service, but it’s also costing the Postal Service millions to handle their DVD’s in those crappy-flimsy DVD mailers they use. Those DVD mailers are barely so-so in the outbound mail stream, but have to be handled manually when returned. The proven fact is the Postal Service is spending millions handling Netflix mailings manually instead of by automated machinery. If you want to mail a DVD, don’t send it in a flimsy letter sized mailer. A simple re-design of the DVD mailer (see Blockbusters design) would help eliminate the countless damage to Netflix DVD’s and packaging and improve their service. Netflix management really doesn’t care about that and refuses to change. Now GameStop is suing the Post Office. They want the same manual treatment as Netflix. Can’t blame them, they’re not paying for it.

  5. And in the end it’s still us mailmen that that get that Netflix into your mailbox. I just can’t wait until there is a computer malfunction and everyone will be crying cause there is no more postal workers to sort ev erything manually

  6. Is this guy a lobbyist for Fed-Ex or UPS? Less than 1% of all business mail is sent overnight. Who would like to pay for overnight(19+ dollars) to have something delivered to a business? There has been a huge decline in Netflix business as more Redbox outlets show up on every street corner. I will stick with being able to send a letter from Maine to California for .44 cents. Heck, make it 50 cents. It is still the best deal around.

  7. “And while we are at it, we should eliminate business delivery of postal mail. Don’t need it. You want to send something, use one of the other private carriers and get it there overnight”

    You’re kidding right! Do you have any clue what brown or purple charge for overnight? Guess who’s going to pay for that increase in doing business? Consumers will moron!

    And where would Netflix be if the Post Office had “standardized mail piece size”, as you suggest, years ago to the more common #10 white business envelope? Netflix and thousands of other businesses would not exist that’s what. Be careful what you ask for, you might get it!

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  11. The privatizers look around and the see failure of their model all over the world. So they try humor andto spread their falsehoods. It’s not working. No private company could do what the postal service has to do by law and make any money. And any thinking person knows it. Netflix has been a great company for their owners in recent years. But their business model will have to change if the company is going to exist in ten years. They are already getting away from sending hard copy dvd’s with direct downloads. Netflix is not interested in the mail business. The way they interact with the postal service and the way the USPS kisses their ass (Look up the story of former postmaster general Henderson and decide for yourself how corrupt he is.)will tell you something about special treatment. The are using the USPS as long as they have to as cheaply as they must.

  12. These are all great comments. I agree with many sentiments, and don’t really think — as I said — that this could possibly happen. I do see that Netflix is moving towards digital delivery of their videos, but the number of devices is extremely limited. For example, while I bought a Sony BluRay DVD player, it was one model down from the one that supports the streaming videos. Oh well.

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  14. The ship is sinking and there arent enough boats! We will continue to serve to the people while the ship continues to sink. It isnt our fault the scumbags upstairs couldnt see the iceberg right ahead. Just continue to play the music even though they dont wanna listen to us.It doesnt matter what class your in anymore on this ship. 1st class, 2nd class or 3rd class if the ship is sinking we’re all going DOWN!And soon enough the public will find out the truth about the rats upstairs and how much money and bonuses they make.The game is over! better know how to swim boys!

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  16. Um, do you realize that all of you are forgetting something crucial? That Netflix won’t even use DVDs in a few years; everything will be streaming. I’m surprised they still mail DVDs at all, wasting so much money on postage, when they could just make every movie streaming. Anyway they would be pretty stupid to buy the US Postal Service (if it’s even possible to privatize it).

  17. April 13th, 2010
    Hello my name is Marty Grace and I have proof that I can help save in part, the Postal Service budget. I worked for the Post Office for 22 years before I left to follow my dream as a designer. While I was still employed at the Postal Service I begun designing tee shirts for my co-workers. The cost for my shirts is considerably less than the allowance given for uniforms however, because it is not the official uniform the allowance cannot be used.
    The workers like the alternative tee shirts so much that they begun to spend their own finances to purchase them. To date my shirt designs along with the new style pants and shorts are worn by 17,000 workers in 21 states. I would like you to see the proposal that I have submitted and maybe you can tell me why although it will save money for the Postal Service, it continues to be declined. If you have any interest in my story please contact me I have more to show you. I can be Googled if you’d like and I am also on Facebook with a cause “Help Marty Grace Change the look of the Postal Uniforms”
    Attached see pictures of the Postal Workers wearing my design.
    Thank You.
    Marty Grace

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