Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: Stay off the Yard

Many mail customers get mad when the mailman walks across their yard. Sometimes, the trail of the mailman can easily be seen. The Postal Service understands this, and allows people to request that the mailman stay off their yard.

As a mail carrier, I have no problem if someone is trying to win "Yard of the Month." Mail routes are timed to take into account the amount of walking done on a route. If we have to stay off a yard, it is accounted for in our route rating. Besides, yardwork is sometimes a person's main hobby. For those who make it a hobby, I will gladly stay off their lawn.

However, besides the grass looking neat, there are monetary factors to consider. A mailman who has to walk around a yard, on average, incurs a delay of between 15 and 30 seconds, with an average of about 20 seconds. Over the course of the year (303 delivery days), that adds up to an average of 101 minutes added to the mailman's route per yard. At an average pay of $22.00 per hour, staying off your one yard has cost the US Postal Service $37.03 per year.

It gets worse. In our city of 70,000, we have entire neighborhoods where we cannot walk on the yards. The routes that have these neighborhoods have many less houses than a normal route. It all adds up to having to employ an additional mail carrier, to work an extra route, just so these neighborhoods can have good looking lawns. As a postal worker, I'm happy that this extra person has a job just because we cannot walk on some lawns. However, this extra employee cost the Postal Service over $100,000 per year. (It's not just the salary. An extra route means maintaining another truck, and the computerized sorting system must divide the mail for an extra route, requiring workers to load trays of mail for another route, etc.) And that's just a small city of 70,000. If you count the rest of the United States, not being able to walk on some lawns cost the USPS millions of dollars a year. Who pays for these increased costs? We all do, with increasing postal rates. Ninety-nine percent of the cost is borne by people who do not benefit from this "stay of the yard" service.

As a mail carrier, I'm happy to stay off your lawn. As a private citizen who buys stamps, you are getting a premium service from the Postal Service, but you are not paying for it. I'm proposing an idea to help solve the increase in postage costs. People who want us to stay off yards should have to pay for it, so that the rest of us don't have to. A $75 annual fee should be charged to homeowners who want us to stay off their grass. That would cover the $37.03 they are costing the Postal Service, and provide some money to oversee the program. This program could easily be administered on a local basis, and would ensure that the cost of staying off a yard would be paid by those benefitting from this service.

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