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The Most Depressing Business Story of the Year

April 30th, 2014 - 12:23 pm

OUTBOX

I’d never heard of Outbox, a now-defunct “digital mail” service which operated in Austin and San Francisco. Notice that’s digital mail, not email. What Outbox did was, for a small monthly fee, receive all of your snail mail for you, scan it, and then make it available to you digitally on your computer or smartphone. Outbox could even halt delivery of junk mail. The genius bit is that the Post Office would still receive the full postage price for delivering cross-country mail no further than the local Outbox processing center. USPS is losing billions of dollars a year, mostly due to the overhead of their outdated and outmoded and largely unwanted delivery model.

Having found its salvation, naturally the Postmaster General killed it dead:

When Evan and Will got called in to meet with the Postmaster General they were joined by the USPS’s General Counsel and Chief of Digital Strategy. But instead, Evan recounts that US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe “looked at us” and said “we have a misunderstanding. ‘You disrupt my service and we will never work with you.’” Further, “‘You mentioned making the service better for our customers; but the American citizens aren’t our customers—about 400 junk mailers are our customers. Your service hurts our ability to serve those customers.”’

Outbox closed down in February, following the valiant-but-desperate attempt to stay afloat by picking up your mail from your mailbox, after the Post Office refused to continue forwarding to Outbox.

Are you steamed yet? Read on:

According to Evan, the Chief of Digital Strategy’s comments were even more stark, “[Your market model] will never work anyway. Digital is a fad. It will only work in Europe.”

And here’s what the USPS had to say in its defense, in its entirety:

Hi Derek

Thanks for contacting us about your story. Please see our statement below—that is all we have to say on this topic at this time.

Thanks

Dave Partenheimer

Manager, Media Relations

U.S. Postal Service

The Postal Service is focused on providing an essential service in our mission to serve the American public and does not view Outbox as supporting that mission. We do have concerns regarding the destruction of mail—even if authorized by the receiver—and will continue to monitor market activities to ensure protection of our brand and the value and security of the mail.

These are the same government types now in charge of most of the economy and trying desperately to gain “control” of the environment. The more decisions government gets to make over the private sector, the less room there is for disruption, and innovation — the three things which make a dynamic, growing economy happen.

What happened to Outbox is just a small taste of what we might as well admit is The New Stasis.

Progressivism, as I’ve had to say many times now, is an essentially feudal ideology.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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Wait a minute...They OPEN MY MAIL!?
And "scan it" all ?
And they have CUSTOMERS!?

Here’s a clue: I dont let MY WIFE open my mail, mmmkay?

But even if they DONT open it and up-load the contents…show me the utility in this service?

What do I gain in “convenience” for such a RIDICULOUSLY high security risk?

I have to log on to site, use a password, and scroll through PICTURES of every piece of mail? Every DAY? And then, when I finally see that REALLY important piece I’ve been anxiously WAITING FOR…. its not already at my fingertips?

I have to interface with my PHONE to get my MAIL….and say “ooh, hurry, send me THAT one, please!” and WAIT for it to arrive?…because it went to THEM first?

Am I getting this right?

They EITHER:
A) Read my mail FOR me, (which is totally unacceptable)

OR:

B) Get the stuff I DO need, FIRST, (which is totally useless)

What am I not getting here? Who would ever WANT such a thing?

And it’s the POST OFFICE, you say, that put the kibosh on this bizarre idea?
Not The Marketplace?

My God, we’re in worse trouble than I thought.


29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sounds like you're not a potential customer.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lighten up, Francis.

Outbox (past tense) robotically opened, scanned, OCRed, and digitized your mail. Think of it as turning them into encrypted PDF documents. The originals were destroyed, leaving you only the encrypted digital files. These were not mere "pictures," mind you, but searchable -- encrypted -- documents. No encryption is perfect, of course. But your mailbox doesn't have so much as a diary lock.

Either way, lighten up. Not only is the service defunct, but unlike getting first class mail delivery from the USPS, it was totally optional.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"hey, nobody touches my stuff, see...And NOBODY calls me Francis!"

:)
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Progressivism, as I’ve had to say many times now, is an essentially feudal ideology.

Have you? Well I agree totally. Progressivism is a European idea, and Europe is still fundamentally a feudalistic society. Lately I've been trying to add a meme to the conservative lexicon and that liberalism is a rejection of Enlightenment values. Which it is and the charge would hit them right in their smugness.

But back to the post office, did they really say their customers were not the American people, but the junk mailers? I know that's true, but I can't believe they would admit it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The genius bit is that the Post Office would still receive the full postage price for delivering cross-country mail no further than the local Outbox processing center."
Then the mail carriers will have no mails to carry, then taxpayers may think they need fewer mail carriers.

The truth is the postal office never loses money. The taxpayers lose money. Postal office's management make bonuses on top of their 6 figures salaries, postal union workers make very decent wages, benefits and pensions. Postal union bosses make even more making contributions to politicians who give the workers raises. Outbox's fatal mistake is trying to make a govt. agency efficient.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd say a feudal theology as it's a faith-based belief system and is all about punishing heretics.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
USPS customers are junk mailers. The one thing I hate as much as telemarketers. Honestly, I and most I know pick up the mail, thumb out the pieces that matter - not even one a day, and the rest goes in the can. Same thing with phone books.

I have a mind to route my mail to a UPS store box, and rip out my mailbox. Nearly all my bills, and important communication happens electronically already.

Can't wait until they go belly up.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. All my bills (or reminders) electronically and pay them in the same manner. The only check I write now is my rent, and I'm thinking of using my bank's online check-writing service; I tell them who to pay, and they'll do so electronically if possible, or cut a check & send if necessary.

I could show you a photo of the box I keep next to my front door of all the junk mail; I dump it out once a month. Amazing how much crap advertisers shove through subsidized bulk mail.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I live in an area with no door-to-door mail delivery. There isn't even the neighborhood boxes for delivery. That means that I'm forced to rent a PO Box for any mail delivery.

Every year I'm getting closer to the point where I don't even need the PO Box and then I'll be done with the USPS. I only get 4 items in my PO Box that isn't junk mail, one is a magazine that I can live without and 3 are bills. One of the bills is switching over to email, as soon as I can get the other two to do the same I'll close down the box.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Austin and San Fran? My thread of consolation is that these guys might be Democrats.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
So it's ok for new businessmen/women to get screwed over, as long as they're the "enemy," is that it?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...ensure protection of our brand..."

That's OUR brand, you are the hired help Dave.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment

"...Chief of Digital Strategy’s comments...Digital is a fad."

Time to laugh and point. And cry.

End the USPS's first-class mail monopoly, and this problem will fix itself.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Absolutely. End the monopoly. In a few years there might be a few rural and remote routes that need to be subsidized, but the vast bulk would be better served by commercial entities.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or pass legislation to force bulk mail to pay the going 1st class rate for it's weight.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The first time I worked for a government agency, I learned a very expensive and painful lesson: Don't, unless you have a favorable, iron-clad contract, and have something they really want.

If your next big thing in ANY way, shape or form can be construed to encroach into the bureaucracy, go sit on a beach instead.

Never, ever underestimate the little eichmanns protecting their fiefdoms.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I heard of Outbox last year and immediately tried to sign up. Unfortunately it wasn't available in CO.
This was a great idea and hopefully it will resurface. Yet another example why the UsPS should be spun out of the Federal government and forced to compete or die.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
If I could give FedEx or Amazon $5 a month to send as many letters as I want, and expect the usual level of FedEx/Amazon service, USPS would be done in about a week.

It was time for that to happen about a decade ago.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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