By Ellen Endo
“Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch to be sure.”—Anonymous
Postal Customer Council Day comes around every year in mid-September. Never heard of it? That’s probably because the intrepid United States Postal Service is adept at many things, but self-promotion isn’t one of them.
In addition to a bigger marketing and advertising budget, the USPS could use a new business plan. Competition from such factors as email and electronic bill-paying combined with the economic recession, rising costs, and the dominance of United Parcel Service and Federal Express in the overnight package delivery market, have led to a river of red ink for the Post Office.
Last year, it reported a $2.8 billion loss. Even larger losses are expected by the end of 2009.
Despite its troubles, the USPS is an American institution worth saving. But, as the ads from the 1984 movie, “Ghostbusters,” queried, who you gonna call?
Postmaster General John Potter has turned to Congress for help, but (chuckle) Congress has a tendency to make things more complicated, not better.
Fortunately, I have come up with a plan. Are you ready? Here it is: Let McDonald’s run the United States Postal Service. Brilliant, right?
Cue the fanfare.
Before dismissing the idea as the product of an idle mind, let me remind everyone that the ubiquitous burger-selling, kid-centered, arch-building, fries-with-that company is also enormously successful. The fast-food behemoth posted a whopping $4.5 billion net profit last year, 80 percent higher than the year before.
It is one of the few major corporations to see an increase in business in the midst of a sluggish economy. McDonald’s is enjoying record sales and growth as consumers turn to them for low-cost meals. Today, McDonald’s has 32,000 restaurants in 119 countries. The second most popular fast-food chain, Burger King, also does well but only has 11,200 locations in 61 countries.
McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it,” has become more of a battle cry than a slogan. Writer Daniel Gross of the business blog, Slate, recently proclaimed, “McDonald’s has won the recession!”
More than food, McDonald’s sells convenience and value.
The Post Office offers many of the same attributes. Forty-four cents to mail the average first-class letter is still a bargain. The USPS delivers to 144 million doors each day. Of all the government agencies, the Post Office consistently is the most trusted. What’s more, the Post Office guarantees that your regular first-class letter will arrive… eventually.
What would happen if McDonald’s took over the Post Office?
First of all, the Post Office would probably need a new slogan. It’s current slogan, “We deliver for you,” is much too soft. Keying off of McDonald’s successful “I’m lovin’ it!” campaign, how about “I’m mailin’ it!”
Picture families piling into the van for a trip to buy Happy Mail kits for the kids. The kit would contain a picture of the Post Office’s new mascot, Zippy the Zipcode Clown, along with some Hannah Montana stamps, and a mini-CD of Elvis’ classic song, “Return to Sender.”
Next, postal workers’ uniforms ought to be much brighter. Light blue and gray will be replaced with bright red, yellow, and electric blue. There would be a lot more post offices—one every few blocks—with drive-thru’s.
It is possible that McDonald’s executives would institute other changes. Longer service hours—6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week—and Value Mail combos that might include everything one would need to send a letter or package, such as stamps, packing tape, mailing labels, and a Sharpie.
Both McDonald’s and the Post Office have illustrious histories. The Post Office was founded in 1775 when Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General.
McDonald’s roots date back to 1940, when Dick and Mac McDonald opened McDonald’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif.
By now, some of you are remembering a time when McDonald’s hamburgers cost 15 cents.
We can also remember a time some years ago when a customer could pretty much count on the Rafu Shimpo arriving the next day. Those days seem to be gone.
So how about giving McDonald’s a shot at delivering the mail. Soon, instead of conducting business electronically, we might all be saying, “I’m mailing it.”
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, GM was apparently unaware that the phrase “no va” means “it won’t go.” After the company figured out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
“Never cut what you can untie.”
—Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist and essayist
Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Rafu Shimpo or its management. Comments and/or inquiries should be directed to [email protected]