New Postal Chief Has a Deal for Business

Times Staff Writer

The new postmaster general told some of his bigger customers Friday that he wants to provide better service to business.

At a conference of bulk-rate mailing businesses, Postmaster General Anthony Frank suggested that the post office give refunds when their mail doesn't get delivered on time. In exchange, businesses could share responsibility for presorting mail to speed service.

"I don't know why we can't offer refunds," Frank said during a speech at Le Meridien in Newport Beach. "If you're advertising a George Washington birthday sale and your mailing doesn't get delivered until a week later, you're obviously not getting anything for your money."

Frank has not made a formal proposal to offer refunds and did not indicate when he might. Only the post office's Express Mail next-day service carries an on-time delivery guarantee.

Frank, 56, left his position as chairman of First Nationwide Bank in San Francisco in March to take on the challenge of improving the Postal Service in the face of federal budget cuts. He is the fourth postmaster general in the past five years.

With the heads of American corporations taking a turn at running the $32.2-billion-a-year service, postal rates have been raised on a three-year cycle.

Among Frank's goals are extending the cycle for rate increases and working more closely with businesses.

Frank said that while the Postal Service can't offer discounts, it can offer better service with the increased cooperation from business customers.

"For instance, a local postmaster could say that if you bring the mail in on a day that isn't busy, you'll get better service."

Frank said the Postal Service can benefit by sharing some of its workload with private business and by calling in business leaders to scrutinize the organization.

But Frank is not in favor of turning the operations of the Postal Service over to businesses.

"A lot of people like the idea of privatization. I say, 'Why do this to something that is working well?' We deliver more shipments between 8 a.m. and noon on any one day than Federal Express delivers in a year," said Frank.

He said that hundreds of firms would compete for the most profitable postal businesses but that many necessary services would be ignored.

"We process 40 million changes of address every year," he said. "It's not profitable to do that. But it has to be done."

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