Side Note

The Postal Service wants to become an ad agency

This is what happens when the government convinces itself it’s a business.

The US Postal Service is a great case study in the frustratingly rigid thinking of the managerial state. The agency’s job is to send stuff from one place to the other. But because we live in hell, someone decided that oh wait actually, the Postal Service is a business, and therefore its job is to make money for the government (which, under this line of thinking, is also a business). Somehow, this has led to the Postal Service commissioning studies about itself whose conclusions inevitably determine that the Postal Service is great and that anyone who doesn’t realize this is a fool.

The Postal Service’s latest discovery about itself, according to a recent report from its Inspector General, is that people don’t think getting bullshit junk mail isn’t an annoying waste of paper and is actually an extremely effective way for a company to build its brand. Physical ads (as opposed to digital ads), the report claims, “are more powerful for eliciting lasting recall of brand names and creating subconscious associations between product categories and specific brands.” While that sounds like a bunch of hokum — I, personally, cannot remember the names of brands that mail me crap that I immediately throw away — the report goes on to make the even more hokum-sounding suggestion that companies should be mailing people ads for “high-engagement, high-dollar items — such as automobiles, jewelry, or travel packages.”

Call me old-fashioned, but this seems like a bad idea. The Postal Service literally has the word “service” in its name. It should be providing its services to individual people in ways that make their lives better, not by convincing automobile/jewelry/travel package companies to mail people marketing material that will annoy them and therefore, in some small way, make their lives worse.