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The First Last Mile Solution: The Paperboy…now in Winter

My first job was being a paperboy. In the mid-80s a big truck would deliver your pile of newspapers to some spot near by you, preferably a main artery for traffic. The paperboy was the proverbial last mile.

They were tightly wrapped with a small cord, I want to say in piles of 50 +-. Loose papers would top off the batch — I think I had 60 to 70 houses on my route, around the Murdoch Farms area of Squirrel Hill. I was fortunate in retrospect to have also the condo development on the other side of Forbes.

I’d have a huge amount of rubber bands around my left arm. (The rubber bands came in boxes…from time to time?…from the same delivery vehicles? I forget.) The bag was under my left side, with the strap over my right shoulder. My left arm would reach down and take the still flat (if askew in the bag) paper, wrap it into a cylinder. My right arm would take a band from the ones around my wrist, swaddle it down to the cylinder of paper, then reach back to throw to the steps of the target house on the route.

This couldn’t be done with the Sunday paper, I forget how I’d deliver those – I had an afternoon/Sunday route for the Pittsburgh Press which was smaller but more or less the same area as my Post-Gazette route. I had the morning route longer: the papers had to be delivered before 7 AM. Maybe 8 AM Saturdays?

I later learned of the Justice Department giving an anti-trust exemption to enable papers in the same market to consolidate delivery. This made some sense at the time.

Maybe it was the worst thing to happen to newspapers. They had the local delivery mile, decades before Amazon…before! Soon they were rolled up into older men in cars, who could have also carried packages.

I thought about this today calling into the Wall Street Journal, whose on-dead-tree edition wasn’t delivered again today, and this is the second weekend edition missed. Neither was the Post-Gazette — surely sharing services now as in the late 80s. They acknowledged there was a problem…not just my town, but _in all of Pennsylvania_, and that it was going on for a while. They said they’d try to fix things for Monday. But, sorry there was no chance of getting a paper. I could wait 5-15 days…or remember I could go online.

Meanwhile I saw at least four Amazon delivery vehicles. It struck me anyone who drove around delivering papers must be getting better offers to do the same type of work for Amazon. Maybe they’ll also deliver some Washington Posts.

Or the newspapers could bring back the stone age paperboys.

Published inBusinessMemories

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