Postal Service plays games, goes electric


The US Postal Service gets a bad rap in technology circles.

"Snail mail" has taken a big hit since e-mail hit the scene – a 7 percent decline in first-class mail volume since 2001. But many – including web-era mail-order companies like Netflix – rely on the Postal Service to do business.

Now Gamefly, a mail-order video-game rental service, is alleging that the big players – Netflix and Blockbuster – are receiving preferential treatment [PDF]. In a complaint filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, Gamefly claims that their discs are being broken by Postal Service automated sorting equipment. At a replacement cost of about $50 a game, the 1 percent of Gamefly's 590,000 shipped discs per month ends up costing the company $30,000. (Ouch.)

Gamefly tested more robust protective packaging last year at nearly double the postage per disc shipped, but claims an even higher breakage rate occurred.

Gamefly employees claim – and a Postal Service report confirms – that most of the other mail-order disc rental companies' envelopes are being manually culled from the automated sorting machines thought to break discs. Gamefly says it wants the same treatment.

Electric mail trucks?

Chrysler on Thursday took the wraps off what could be the next generation of Postal Service vehicles. The offering from embattled Chrysler is designed to make use of a grant made possible by the US Department of Energy’s Transportation Electrification stimulus program. Based on a modified Town & Country minivan, the new vans would have a range of 40 miles. A hybrid version powered by an electric motor backed up by a gas engine is also being offered.

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