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Pay bills online through the mail

By fluffy grue in News
Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 04:48:54 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

With an increasing number of services accepting their own bill payments online, the US Postal Service, whose biggest source of revenue is delivering paper bills, is setting up a secure online billing service which will apparently allow companies to offer online billing services while allowing customers to pay all their bills at once online. Convenient for everyone involved, and customers don't have to pay $100/year or more for similar commercial services.


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Pay bills online through the mail | 17 comments (17 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
[rant] ... (none / 0) (#2)
by Skippy on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 02:05:46 PM EST

Skippy voted 1 on this story.

[rant] Would it really be so bad if the USPS died? It's a goverment protected monopoly that has for the most part outlived its usefulness. FedEx and UPS do a better job of delivering ontime and don't lose my mail. (Unlike my local post office who loses at LEAST 2 pieces of my mail a month). I think they ought to be FULLY privatized and forced to compete on a level playing field. [/rant] All the above aside, this looks like a neat program.
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#8)
by bmetzler on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 05:02:41 PM EST

(Unlike my local post office who loses at LEAST 2 pieces of my mail a month).

I've just *got* to know how you know that. Do you send yourself a lot of mail and see how much goes through, and then use probability to determine the quantity of missing mail? Do you just keep track of unpaid bills, and friends that ask why you're ignoring them? Or, *horrors*, does the post office tell you that they have lost your mail?

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#15)
by Skippy on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 11:23:40 AM EST

Unfortunately its the latter. My roommate works from home and gets a lot of business mail. He gets calls all the time saying, "Were you going to respond to that letter/bill?" I've even been bitten a couple of time. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't happen at least twice a month. It's ridiculous. What's even a worse thought is how many people sent things that got lost and DIDN'T call. Grrrr. And only once, the last. We got a one of those "We have your packages at the post office" cards and when we went to get it, they had lost it.
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
[ Parent ]
Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#9)
by rusty on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 05:34:12 PM EST

It's a goverment protected monopoly that has for the most part outlived its usefulness.

I don't think so. First of all, the USPS makes a *huge* profit. It's basically the government's cash cow at this point. What other federal agency actually makes money? Secondly, for all we gripe about the post office, how much time do you spend actually worrying about whether your mail will get delivered? I live in DC, which has arguably the worst postal service in the country, and I can still send a letter and be 99% certain it will get to it's destination in roughly three days. For the volume of mail they handle, that's fantastic service. Basically, the US has one of the cheapest and most reliable postal services in the world, and I bet you'd really miss it if you ever had to live somewhere without reliable mail.

Now, if you had aimed your rant at, say, the public school system, I'd be right there with ya. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#10)
by stimuli on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 05:55:26 PM EST

and I bet you'd really miss it if you ever had to live somewhere without reliable mail.

This is very true: folks just have no idea. My wife is South African, and their postal system is notoriously bad. Seriously, you can't send a package anywhere in South Africa and excpect a better than 50/50 chance that it will arrive. Corruption in the postal system is rampant. My wife has made several sweaters and such for her family at home, but just refuses to mail them. What we do is wait for an aquaintance to fly home and have them carry it.

The US Postal Service is great.
-- Jeffrey Straszheim
[ Parent ]

Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#17)
by Skippy on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 11:40:19 AM EST

First of all, the USPS makes a *huge* profit. It's basically the government's cash cow at this point. What other federal agency actually makes money?

The federal government isn't a business. It isn't supposed to make money. It's just not supposed to lose money. The government is supposed to run off tax money. That should be their "cash cow" and it should be their only one. If it's possible for it to be a business, it should. That's why I said it needs privatized.

For the volume of mail they handle, that's fantastic service.

Sorry, I disagree. Would you sign with a hosting company that advertised 7 hours of downtime on your server a month? Thats 99% uptime. I'd be willing to bet that FedEx and UPS have much better than 99% delivery AND you can track your package on the way. The USPS doesn't offer that service and it's not that much cheaper.

Now, if you had aimed your rant at, say, the public school system, I'd be right there with ya. :-)

All I can say is that it's a REAL good thing the subject isn't the public school system.
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
[ Parent ]

Re: [rant]... (none / 0) (#14)
by dlc on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 10:52:22 AM EST

Yeah, remember a couple of years ago, when a few trailers (as in tractor semi-trailers) full of mail were found in Maryland? Tons of mail that was just never delivered.

darren


(darren)
[ Parent ]

Oh yeah. Like I'd trust the govern... (none / 0) (#4)
by marlowe on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 02:19:09 PM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

Oh yeah. Like I'd trust the government. Wait a minute. They're handling my mail now!
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Metacomment: even if this gets post... (none / 0) (#3)
by eann on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 02:19:10 PM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

Metacomment: even if this gets posted, it's probably not going to generate a big discussion. Also, any company that's struggling with $100/year has bigger problems than whether they can bill online.

Metacomet: a mountain in northern Connecticut.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: Metacomment: even if this gets post... (none / 0) (#6)
by fluffy grue on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 04:54:34 PM EST

I guess I was a bit vague on the $100 commercial service. The commercial services are for the customers of the companies. You have your current service providers send the bill to these collection agencies, who scan the bills in and let you pay them online through a payment proxy. This costs the other company nothing. This costs you $100/year, or a percentage of your bills, or whatever (I'm not too familiar with the payment options).
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

The USPS is great. There isn't a c... (none / 0) (#1)
by ramses0 on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 02:44:22 PM EST

ramses0 voted 1 on this story.

The USPS is great. There isn't a company out there that I'm more impressed with. Next time you lick a $0.33 stamp, and your letter arrives goes from NY to CA, remember be impressed.

Plus, about 2 1/2 years ago, the USPS actually had a functional website complete with programming, zip-code lookups, a payment calculator for packages (based on weight)... really impressive back in 1997/98.

I'm glad to see that they're getting their act together, looking out for the future, and competing in emerging markets.

(ps... great writeup fluffy, nice links and everything!)

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Re: The USPS is great. There isn't a c... (none / 0) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 04:57:38 PM EST

I agree... I used to hate the USPS, but in recent years they've become VERY competitive and good. I prefer them over UPS or FedEx for all my shipping needs, as they're cheaper and have all of the services of either of the big two shippers, though I wish their package tracking would tell you where the package was, and not just if it's arrived, which isn't really that useful. :)

(And I wish more people did writeups like mine. Links which just say "a link" or "here" are pretty crappy. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

US Gov competes with big biz - film... (none / 0) (#5)
by sethcohn on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 03:53:27 PM EST

sethcohn voted 1 on this story.

US Gov competes with big biz - film at 11

Re: Pay bills online through the mail (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by cthulhu on Mon Apr 10, 2000 at 07:46:54 PM EST

What concerns me is that according to the article, the USPS is partnering with CheckFreeCorp and YourAccounts.com to provide the service.

If the entire process is electronic (which I would be surprised if it isn't), then I fail to see why a Federal Agency should be involved in the process.

Should we allow Federal, State or other governmental agencies to use governmental funds to promote a financial service for which there are already sufficient commercial entities?

Would we allow the FAA to use federal funds to partner with <pick your favorite airline> or <pick your least favorite airline>?

I think the USPS has lost the focus of a governmental entity providing goods or services when commercial entities can't or won't.

Is it really in the public interest that the USPS enter this market?



Re: Pay bills online through the mail (none / 0) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 01:33:05 AM EST

Hm, that is a good point, which I hadn't thought about. However, my knee-jerk reaction is that the USPS is different than other federal services in that they provide very consumer-oriented services, and also help to keep private consumer-oriented services running well through such measures as delegating zip codes which aren't necessary, but are damned useful for a lot of things such as very localized, regional services which work better as effectively a 5-digit PTR query returning a physical chunk of land, an idea which is becoming VERY useful in today's electronic society - it's a lot easier for, say, a delivery service to keep track of who goes where based on a 5-digit number than on an arbitrary collection of street names with inconsistent lower and upper bounds on each one. (Here in Las Cruces, for instance, street numbering can get VERY screwy in places.)

Also, I'd much rather keep the USPS in charge of mail and package deliveries. Have you ever been into one of the newer USPS branch offices? They're clean, happy, cheerful places, with employees who love what they're doing (the benefits of being a civilian government employee certainly don't hurt that any). Contrast that to your typical UPS branch - all the ones I've been to are glum, depressing, filled with hate-filled people who hate their job and long lines of people who are only going with UPS because they don't know of anything better (namely the good ol' post ofice).

Okay, so that doesn't defend the USPS partnering with private industry any, so I'll get to some useful points now. The federal government is ALWAYS partnering with private industry. They're usually just not very loud about it. The government goes with various private contracts for everything from buying office chairs to the design and building of weaponry and wartime vehicles and the like (what do you think keeps Boeing and Lockheed-Martin in business?). Also, Area 51 is, according to my dad (who used to be a civilian contractor for the air force, and is one of the more level-headed people I know), a Boeing test hangar where they work on highly-classified stuff. Of course, that might include reverse-engineering of alien spacecraft, but it's still a privately-run but government-funded establishment.

As far as the specific case of financial services: what do you think FDIC is? It's the federal government giving individual banks the blessing that if they should go belly-up, their holdings are insured, up to $10,000 per account. That money doesn't come from nowhere; usually it's - say it loud, kids - federal funding.

The FAA doesn't partner with specific airlines for travel needs, but they do partner with specific companies for travel safety needs. My dad, a Lockheed-Martin employee (via Sandia National Labs - set up on federal DoD and DoE funds), has worked on their aging aircraft non-destructive inspection program for many years now, and it's his biggest recurring contract at work.

I'm sure you're at least aware of federal credit unions. There are plenty of private banks out there, but since they have a bottom line to watch out for, they don't always act in their customers' best interests. That's why FCUs exist. They are a government agency providing goods or services even though commercial entities can and do. USPS - same thing. There are plenty of other posts on this discussion sticking up for USPS's general quality of service, and I wholeheartedly agree, and would like to add that they're a fuckload better than the similar services offered by UPS and FedEx and quite a bit cheaper, as well. $3.00 for expedited mailing for letters and packages up to 1 pound, 20 cents extra for delivery confirmation - I challenge you to find the same level and quality of service from UPS or FedEx for $3.20.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Pay bills online through the mail (none / 0) (#13)
by rusty on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 01:51:00 AM EST

Contrast that to your typical UPS branch - all the ones I've been to are glum, depressing, filled with hate-filled people who hate their job...

For a while one miserable summer I loaded UPS trucks at a warehouse in MA (I didn't work for UPS-- they were just our shipper). Nearly ever truck had "UPS == UnderPaid Slaves" written inside it somewhere. I didn't get the feeling UPS employees were all that happy with their working conditions either. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Pay bills online through the mail (none / 0) (#16)
by fluffy grue on Tue Apr 11, 2000 at 11:34:01 AM EST

Not to be outdone, I took up my own challenge. Here's what I found for the shipping rates for a 1-pound letter at the lowest level of service with delivery confirmation: (times based on service descriptions, service based on past experience)

USPS: $3.20 (priority mail). Usually 2-3 days, mailman happily slides it under your door or leaves it in your mailbox, or if they can't drop it off safely, they take it back to a branch office where you can just ask for the package and show some ID, and they'll happily retrieve it and give it to you

UPS: $7.60 (second-day air). Usually 2 days, but if you're not home, the UPS guy happily takes it back to the branch office where they don't allow you to pick it up yourself, and instead you need to be at home exactly when they come around to drop it off, and they're complete bastards about it, and tell you about when they'll be around the next day but are usually off by several hours in either direction. If it takes 3 tries, they return to sender, with no way for you to hold them at the branch for pickup without making "special arrangements" (which apparently involves selling your soul, since I've been unsuccessful in actually making such arrangements with important packages in the past).

FedEx: $8.84 (express saver). 3 days or more, the delivery guy usually will leave it by your door (in plain view) if you're not home unless you live in an apartment, in which case he'll take it back to the branch, but won't actually be back there until 9 PM after they've closed, but at least the branch office will call the delivery guy on a cellphone to see where he is so that you can meet him at some corner (oh, and they don't ask for any identification).


--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Pay bills online through the mail | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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