Dear, Mr. Bezos-
It’s time to think big, real big. About a year ago, you accepted the Retailer of the Year Award from the National Retail Federation (NRF). The citation said, in part, “Amazon operates a global online retail business with low prices and fast delivery on millions of items.” In the almost 20 years since you founded the company, you have grown to be one of the largest and most beloved retailers on earth, delivering more goods, faster, all the time. In your brief acceptance speech, you talked about the hard work being done at Amazon, the dedication of the team, and, as Forbes summed up at the time, you spoke about how “innovation and adaptation are ongoing.” Amazon’s well-known mission statement, “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online,” clearly says to me what might happen next.
Since you accepted the award at NRF, you have expanded a partnership that I think needs further – aggressive, immediate – consideration. The United States Postal Service (USPS) and Amazon are already working closely together on package delivery. Seven day delivery is now occurring in select areas around the country, with many more to come throughout 2014. St. Louis, Missouri, is just the latest city to join in, kicking off Sunday delivery this past week.
Allow me to make two proposals in regards to your ecommerce strategy: Work with the USPS to deliver Amazon goods and services to every U.S. address every day; and Rent or buy Post Office space nationwide for physical Amazon “stores” and customer service centers.
Deliveries, Every Day, Everywhere
First, I propose that you work closely with the leaders of the USPS, the labor unions, and the U.S. Government itself to create a landmark public-private partnership. Expanding to seven day delivery is a start. But what about using the vast distribution network the USPS has in place? Connect your distribution center system to the USPS’s, and upgrade their technology along the way. Provide guaranteed minimum packages to be delivered, per day, per ZIP+4. Work with every seller in the country – yes, every – and make the Postal Service crackle with activity delivering packages as never before. This can help make same-day delivery happen much easier as well, as goods move closer to their target destinations, faster. You will make more money, faster. The USPS will be stabilized, and grow once again.
Announcing Post Offices, Now with Amazon Retail Stores!
Second, I propose that a long-term, national leasing agreement be negotiated for the 31,000 plus (Postal Facts 2014) Post Offices in the country. These are a ready-made set of locations for pick-up of Amazon goods. They can be places where businesses drop off goods to ship to customers for their own Amazon stores – thereby helping these hundreds of thousands of small businesses. Add Amazon Lockers to every Post office, right next to the PO Boxes. Customer service can occur face-to-face for Amazon. Returns can be made in person, saving shipping costs and time. In addition, how about selling people Kindles or allowing them to sign up for online streaming services in person? This is the true essence of Amazon being both global and local, and part of it means re-imagining and re-purposing Ye Olde Post Office. I once thought you might grow with Best Buy and take on more space in its 1000 plus US stores, or you would buy out Barnes and Noble and take on their locations nationwide — but why acquire their (mere!) 675 stores, when you can have over 31,000?
There are many, many topics to discuss and issues to hammer out. For one, how can Amazon do this without excluding or alienating other potential businesses? Ebay, for example, has a long relationship with the USPS as well. Can we negotiate a new world in which Ebay *and* Amazon have a physical presence in every Post Office in America? Sure, why not? Further – it has been suggested separately that the USPS could help the poor get access to safe and easy banking by allowing some changes on that front and allowing the USPS to be a bank. Ebay owns PayPal, an enormous, successful, and easy way to send and receive money online. Perhaps they could benefit from having 31,000 physical locations as well? There’s the bank.
What about the current Postal workforce? Or the government mandate to deliver first class mail? Or the nature of a public-private partnership on this scale? These questions – and many more – are all yet to be answered.
Here’s to New Ideas!
Securing the future of the USPS is personal to me. My parents met while working together at a Post Office. My father worked for the USPS for 46 years – starting in the long-gone “Railway Post Office” which capitalized on the time spent sending mail over the rails by sorting it in train cars at full speed and tossing it out in mailbags (without stopping!) at Postal depots along the route. He then spent time from the 1940s onward helping to set up the ZIP code system still in use today. Innovation has happened before, I would love to see it happen again.
I wrote this letter to provoke conversation, Mr. Bezos. As the text-book “disrupter” and innovator that you are, I think this is worthy of your time and consideration.
Yours Truly, Timothy Peterson