snail.jpgSan Franciscans can now receive all mail from the city in an electronic mailbox. No, not by a regular email address; this account is tied to your street address. Zumbox, a product the USPS must be kicking themselves for not owning the rights to, is allowing the City to use the service at no cost. The inaugural mailing was a letter reminding citizens of the universal recycling and composting ordinance, which was taped to snails in paper form as well. We hope the paper letters will get recycled and the snails freed into the compost pile.

But, the poor US Postal Service. According to the article, the city is hoping Zumbox will catch on with 10-15% of the population. If we assume this means 10-15% less mail sent by the city (a mathematically unrigorous evaluation, we know), then that’s 750,000 less pieces sent through the financially troubled federal agency. Now, we’re guessing this is mostly bulk mail, and that 750,000 pieces is not much compared to the $7 billion net loss currently projected for 2009 by the USPS, but what would beloved, late San Francisco postmaster Jefferson Wilson have said?

The service could also potentially move all those takeout menus off your doorknob and into another onerous inbox, since Zumbox could be used by local businesses to target messages at their respective neighborhoods, if this catches on. We’re assuming those folks will pay the 5 cent per message fee, and here enters the genius of the plan. Zumbox lets the city create the market for them, and then charges advertisers. At least there will be less wasted paper?

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