The following is a perspective by postal commentator Gene Del Polito. The views expressed are the author's and do not constitute official AMMA policy.
The Postal Service has stopped poking its finger into the eye of its domestic competitors by abandoning the use of comparative ads. While these ads were very successful, they also were extremely controversial. Ads such as these can aptly be described as the business equivalent of negative political campaign advertising. Federal Express, for instance, made these ads a subject for judicial challenge and the centerpiece of some of its more recent lobbying up on Capitol Hill. People are wondering whether the Postal Service has lost its stomach for a competitive fight just as the dawn of legislative reform has begun to break on the horizon.
According to senior postal officials, however, the change is born more of a realization that the real competitive threat to the Postal Service's long-standing hegemony in the domestic mail delivery marketplace isn't coming from the likes of Federal Express or United Parcel Service, but rather from foreign postal services who have been given by their domestic authorities a privateer's writ to range across the seas in search of new booty. When you take a look at the rapidly changing mail, parcel, and express delivery landscape, you can see why the Postal Service may have just cause for concern.
For instance, Deutsche Post (the German post office) has been on a postal buying spree that would make even a Microsoft blush. The about-to-be-privatized German post office clearly intends to position itself through its DHL and other completely-owned or partially-owned subsidiaries to become the west's premiere international shipper.
The Dutch post office, largely through its TNT Express subsidiary, also has established an American beachhead in the international shipping and overnight express markets. Through its investment in an American company known as Mail2000 (a company specializing in the electronic-to-hardcopy hybrid mail business), the Dutch also have positioned themselves to step into any breech made legislatively in the Postal Service's letter-mail monopoly.
And, if you've been following the recent debate in the United Kingdom over Royal Mail's future, the Brits don't want to be cut out of potentially lucrative international markets. Royal Mail already is well-positioned with the U.S., and has established partnerships with some of America's foremost printing and publishing companies.
In short, we've been invaded. Now, the only question is how much stomach will America's legislators have to grant the world's largest postal service a freer hand to reshape the American postal marketplace competitively rather than through statutorily-imposed restraints.