Saturday Mail Delivery Threatened Again
In what seems an annual exercise, the Postal Service is complaining about resources and proposing to end Saturday mail service.
Customers are continuing to migrate to the Internet and to cheaper standard-mail options, and away from the Postal Service’s signature product — first-class mail, Postmaster General John E. Potter will report in announcing the projections.
The Postal Service experienced a 13 percent drop in mail volume last fiscal year, more than double any previous decline, and lost $3.8 billion. The projections anticipate steeper drops in mail volume and revenue over the next 10 years, and mounting labor costs only complicate the agency’s path to firm fiscal footing.
In an effort to offset some of the losses, Potter seeks more flexibility in the coming year to set delivery schedules, prices and labor costs. The changes could mean an end to Saturday deliveries, longer delivery times for letters and packages, higher postage-stamp prices that exceed the rate of inflation, and the potential for future layoffs.
The U.S. Postal Service will release projections Tuesday that confirm for the first time the suspicion that mail volume will never return to pre-recession levels. In response, the agency is pushing anew for a dramatic reshaping of how Americans get and send their letters and packages.
The irony of course is that people are increasingly accepting of the possibility of losing Saturday mail delivery precisely because of the obsolescence of regular mail. That is, if you absolutely, positively need it overnight, you don’t mail it. So, for the most part, all that comes on Saturday is junk mail and sundry other crap that can wait for Monday.
Potter has a more fundamental problem, in that what remains of his “business” is what used to be its loss leader. First Class mail was highly subsidized by package delivery and other functions that are increasingly performed by private competitors or by the Internet, facsimile, and other technologies. While a First Class stamp may well cover the cost of sending your check to the cable company across town, it’s ludicrously cheap for sending something from small town Georgia to small town Alaska.