No Surcharge for Holiday Packages, USPS Says
Key Point: In preparation for the 2023 holiday shopping season, the United States Postal Service is hiring 10,000 seasonal employees, putting 348 new package sorting machines into service, and adding other perks meant to boost the speed and reliability of its service. One thing USPS isn’t doing, though, is adding a holiday surcharge for residential deliveries, Saturday deliveries, or low-volume shipments.
Will that decision help or hurt the bottom line for the USPS? One shipping expert says “we’ll soon find out,” but adds commentary that suggests a misfire in the rollout: “Frankly, not only did the announcement come late, but also in my opinion, it was made it [sic] too quietly. The Postal Service keynoted sessions at the Parcel Forum conference in Nashville just this past week, and did not reveal the pricing strategy, missing an enormous opportunity to gain competitive ground with hundreds of the highest volume parcel shippers in the U.S.”
Early August, it seems, would have been the ideal time to roll out the change — since shippers tend to budget for holiday deliveries early and may be “too far down the road with FedEx and UPS to change course now.”
FTC AND 17 STATES SUE AMAZON ON ANTITRUST CHARGES
Key Point: Amazon has sidestepped antitrust charges — until now. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the company is leveraging “monopoly power” to raise prices, lower quality, and compete unfairly for shopping dollars. The move comes as no surprise to onlookers, but the filing in Seattle federal court is now official. Seventeen states — from Maine to Oregon — joined the FTC as plaintiffs in the action.
Amazon’s general counsel responded by saying “The FTC complaint is wrong on the facts and the law.”
He continued, “The practices the FTC is challenging have helped to spur competition and innovation across the retail industry, and have produced greater selection, lower prices, and faster delivery speeds for Amazon customers and greater opportunity for the many businesses that sell in Amazon’s store. If the FTC gets its way, the result would be fewer products to choose from, higher prices, slower deliveries for consumers, and reduced options for small businesses — the opposite of what antitrust law is designed to do.”
Much of the controversy centers around Amazon’s increased fees to third-party sellers that depend on Amazon for order fulfillment and the company’s alleged scheme to push shoppers toward more expensive products.
The case makes an interesting read. You can get the full scoop and even download a pdf of the action here.
U.S. TO SPEND $1.4B ON RAILROAD INFRASTRUCTURE
Key Point: Should the U.S. government subsidize the railroad industry? Opponents say railway freight carriers are already hauling in billions of dollars in profit, while supporters point to the government’s funding of highways while “rail freight infrastructure and waterways receive nothing.”
While it shouldn’t take much research to point out the flaws in both sides of the argument, the Federal Railroad Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation announced awards of more than $1.4 billion of federal money via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to “benefit every region of the country.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation website says this:
“While the majority of selected projects support freight rail safety and supply chains, CRISI investments are also helping to expand world-class passenger rail to more communities nationwide. Investments in Virginia will result in two new Amtrak round trips and three new commuter rail round trips on the RF&P corridor between Washington, D.C., and Richmond — a critical link between Northeast and Southeast states — while also improving the fluidity of CSX’s freight network. In California, two additional daily round trips will be added to the Capitol Corridor between the cities of Sacramento and Roseville, and a project eliminating grade crossings in the Central Valley will bring high-speed rail one step closer to becoming a reality.”
About 70 projects to repair railway bridges and tracks are expected, with about $600 million of the funds aimed at freight railroad operations.
How to Fill the U.S. Job Gap? Look No Further than Minecraft
Key Point: Parents concerned about how much time their children invest in video gaming may soon discover the time is well spent. Forecasters say the rise of the “industrial metaverse” means skills polished via Minecraft and other online games could be excellent preparation for future employment.
A spokesperson from the National Institute of Standards and Technology framed it like this: “Manufacturing is about designing, creating, and working with diverse teams of people to solve problems. That’s a great description of what online gaming is all about today.”
The Game Lab director for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said online gaming is akin to the scientific method: “People learn how to approach a problem, break it down, try a tactic, fail, and try again.”
Could it be that video games, once thought to be the destroyer of American youth, could be the key to their financial future?