USPS, Amazon, And The Death Of Small Business

There are always complaints about the Post Office and how slow it is. These have become worse with the explosion of online shopping and delivery. As one with experience in the trucking industry, Christmastime is always a very difficult month, as the trucks are running constantly and a single delay (which is going to happen) combined with the “Just-In-Time” inventory scheduling mentality creates s nightmare situation for truckers, dispatchers, fleet managers, load planners, and customer service managers alike in the scramble to get product delivered and still hope to earn a profit. All the major carriers- USPS, UPS, and FedEx alike -are overbooked, overworked, and unable to make deliveries not because they are bad, but because there is only so much that any one company can do in an imperfect world filled with all kinds of surprises.

However, this year is special, and I say truly special because there are historically unprecedented backups at the USPS, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

An overwhelmed U.S. Postal Service has been struggling for weeks to deliver packages, veteran employees said, warning that holiday gifts might not arrive by Christmas as tens of thousands of packages pile up inside Philadelphia-area processing facilities.

“Don’t be using the post office right now, because we can’t deliver the mail,” said Laurence Love, an assistant clerk craft director who operates mail-sorting machines at the Philadelphia Processing and Delivery Center.

Facilities across the region are so full of packages, there is barely enough room to walk, employees in Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, and South Jersey said. In Allentown, about 10 trailers filled with mail are sitting in the parking lot, with no room to unload the items.

In Philadelphia, there are packages dated from before Thanksgiving scattered across the facility, employees said. Last week, a miles-long caravan of dozens of delivery trucks filled with mail waited for hours outside the Southwest Philadelphia site because there was no room to unload the parcels.

Dozens of trucks waited in an hours-long line outside the Philadelphia Processing and Delivery Center last week to unload packages.

People across the region say they are seeing their items scanned into processing plants but never scanned out. Packages have taken so long that customers are demanding refunds from already-strapped businesses struggling to survive the pandemic.

The widespread delays are caused by a massive staffing shortage due to rising coronavirus cases, long-term job cuts, and a liberal pandemic leave policy, combined with a record rush of holiday packages as more people shop online. On top of that, private express carriers like UPS and FedEx, similarly seeing record package levels, cut off delivery service for some retailers, which has funneled even more parcels through an already overwhelmed Postal Service. (source)

Having spoken with a friend who is a postmaster as well as a postal delivery worker I have known for a long time, they have said that even they are overworked and there is a possibility that packages and even letters sent by mail from anywhere out of state could take up to a month or longer to arrive, let alone local mail, which is significantly delayed by up to a week.

Even in my own family, I can say that a Christmas card with gift cards for my children sent by a family member of my wife’s took almost three weeks to get here, and another card as well as present from my family is still held up at the post office a long while away where they were also told that it could potentially be significantly after Christmas until anything is processed, potentially arriving in mid-January or later.

Even a Christmas gift I purchased weeks ago, which was held up in New York, just shipped out and arrived today- almost three weeks after I ordered it.

I am sharing these stories because they are not just me. Many people are experiencing them. My wife has been frantically contacted by sellers- including one that lives not even fifty miles away from us -about late products, and if we were going to be OK. We were fine- some packages will arrive late, some were cancelled, some we are going to get the product with a refund.

One woman my wife spoke with- the one who lives close to us -sells Avon-type (but not Avon) beauty products, and she ordered a few small things from her. She spoke with this person and she expressed how concerned and stressed she was, and while this person did not have yet to issue any refunds so far as we know, it came up that there was a concern about the viability of her business.

This made me think, remembering how a lot of online shopping policies work. It does not matter if it is Ebay, Amazon, Etsy, or another, but that many of these “store holders” who allow independent vendors to operate charge vendor heavy fees but will immediately side with the customer in any dispute and to the detriment of the seller with no real way for recourse. They will force refunds at the expense of a seller, even if a package has already shipped, thus having the vendor not only lose the income received, but the income he spent on the product, making it a double loss. When operating on thin margins, something like this can be devastating, and too many of these losses and a shop will quickly have to close.

Sure enough, I was reading the Chans when I came across an interesting thread on /pol/ describing a similar situation. A lot of people are making a similar complaint, where they say their businesses are at risk of destruction from this virus.

Even on Amazon seller forums, there are sellers almost panicking in wonder and fury about why Amazon is telling customers who buy through Amazon that they can ask for a replacement and a refund if their packages arrive late (read here).

Now, I am NOT saying that this is what is happening absolutely. However, as a trend for the future, there is a grave concern that one may see, in addition to the ‘retail massacre’ happening right now at brick-and-mortar stores that I predicted due to the pandemic (as a minimum of 25% and up to 40% of most retail income is made in December alone for a retail store) is also happening to online stores, but due to a combination of “seller policies” and the USPS being unable to handle all the packages.

This makes one wonder, possibly, if such may have even been designed to happen, especially since Amazon’s “free shipping” essentially functions as a taxpayer-funded service at the direct loss of the Post Office. The reason I say this is that the close collusion between them that has gone on for so many years, and how Amazon is known for her very aggressive and abusive business tactics that show a callous disregard for human life.

If anything we can draw from this, as a trend for 2021, is that the economic problems are going to get a lot worse because a lot of small business sellers online are going to be forced to close for being forced to issue constant refunds amid shipped product. This has a strong chance to be highly destructive.

Likewise, if you are thinking about sending anything through the mail, unless you are using UPS or Fedex, don’t do it until next month, because one can only imagine when it is going to get to you.

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