Monday, December 21, 2009

More Ignorant Consumers - Symptoms of the Same Problem

A NY Times article titled "In New York, Paying More to Send U.S. Mail at UPS Stores,"  has me fired up.  Now, I know that sarcasm doesn't come across well on the internet sometimes, so I'll try to be explicit.

"Posing as customers, reporters for The New York Times visited several U.P.S. stores last week looking to mail an item by Priority Mail — one of the postal service’s signature offerings. In nearly every instance, they were quoted prices well above the government postal rate, and only one of them was told they were paying a premium for the convenience of using a U.P.S. Store."

and then:

"“I think there’s a natural assumption on the part of the consumer that if you’re sending something through the U.S. Postal Service, even when it’s from another store, you’re not paying more, and if you are paying more, it’s just a pittance,” said Tod Marks, a senior editor at Consumer Reports."

Well guess what, Tod Marks, the consumer is a dipshit, and these sorts of "assumptions" are exactly why we're economically hosed as a country - because our consumers make too many assumptions and don't educate themselves enough about the rules, realities and fine print.

There's an old saying:  "Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME."

In this case, I can't understand why anyone thinks that UPS would let you mail something at USPS (US Postal Service) rates. Can you go into McDonalds and send a USPS package?  Can you go into your real estate office and send a USPS package?  No - but you actually can go to UPS and send a USPS package, so you should be thankful for having the opportunity to have that convenience, and guess what - THEY WILL CHARGE YOU FOR THE SERVICE!  SHOCKER!   Do they have a duty to tell you how much it would cost to mail the item at the post office?  Maybe, maybe not - if you want to know how much it costs to mail at the post office, then, ... wait for it... GO TO THE POST OFFICE!

When I lived in New York City, I didn't have a doorman, so I had my packages shipped to a store around the corner called "Your Neighborhood Office."  I paid a fee for each package received, and they'd notify me so I could come pick up the packages.  It was a terrific service, and, I judged, well worth the $3 a package.   If I wanted to send a package, I could either go to the post office and pay the USPS rates, or I could go to my package store and pay a premium for them to handle it for me!  I certainly never expected them to send a package via USPS at USPS rates - and since I'm a frugal (cheap bastard) consumer, I'd  choose to walk to the post office  if I had to send a package.

What is it with this sense of ignorant entitlement on the part of the U.S. consumer?  Such ignorance is a large part of why we have a financial crisis - because the evil greedy bankers (note: if I had a sarcasm font I'd be using it right now!) took advantage of us by giving us loans we couldn't afford, or by not making it clear that these mortage payments would eventually change, or by telling me I'd just be able to refinance in a few years.  Because my greedy evil bank charges me when I spend more money than I have in my account - or because I have to pay an unfairly high interest rate on all the money I've spent that I don't actually have.

Responsibility. Education.  Common Sense.     Read the fine print - don't make assumptions.  And for goodness sake - don't think the UPS store owes you the right to ship USPS packages at USPS prices.



Yangabanga said...

H. L. Mencken: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people

SM said...

When you drop your letter into the mailbox in that store do you pay an extra fee?
It probably makes sense to have the usps services as a loss leader and have super high margins on the packaging (maybe even under usps to be the lost cost option!).

maynardGkeynes said...

Nothing to see here. Consumers are choosing to pay a surcharge to the UPS store, because they have decided that the surcharge is less than the search costs and costs of waiting in line at the Post Office.

Kid Dynamite said...

yes - just to be clear, this post takes issue with the fact that the NY Times reporter seems to think there's something wrong with charging a premium, not with the fact that the UPS store is charging a premium

Child Boomsitcks said...

Not sure if I'm extrapolating your point here...but making an analogy from charging a premium on a package (with one layer of opaqueness) to the financial industry (based on 1000's of layers of opaqueness) is a bold one indeed!!

Say I were a an investor for a small European country, and I did read the fine print to discover that it was all stochastic calculus. I then looked at the genius financial wizard and he said "there's only a 1/1,000,000,000,000 chance this doesn't pay's nearly a sure thing", I guess it would TOTALLY be my fault for being uneducated when it blew up.

Sorry dude, but misleading people by purposely obfuscating information is simply greed. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Kid Dynamite said...

@ChildBoomsticks: see, if you're iceland, and you bought some US subprime mortgage backed CDO's because someone told you they were a good deal and you really didn't understand what you were buying, well then, you didn't do your fiduciary duty, and you should be fired and held accountable....

the fact that everyone underestimated the likelihood of default does not absolve the buyers of crappy paper of their responsibility.

if your small european country bought anything because someone else told them it was a good deal, they deserve whatever is coming to them. just like how if i buy a stock because it's rated STRONG BUY by Goldman Sachs, i have no recourse against them if they are wrong.

the ONLY exception to this may lie with culpability on the part of the ratings agencies - who demonstrated gross negligence, in my opinion.

Onlooker said...


Indeed, the lack of critical thinking in our populace is depressing. It shows in all kinds of gullibility, credulousness, and yes, downright stupidity.

And the marketers, politicans and scammers (sorry for the redundancy) take full advantage.