The U.S. Postal Service announced today that Saturday delivery of first-class items will end in August.
When I asked a few years ago whether we should eliminate the Postal Service entirely, the question generated a good discussion, with many readers agreeing that the best solution to the perennial problem of the service not generating enough revenue to operate would be to cut back service. Calling for the elimination of Saturday delivery was a frequent suggestion, and others further suggested even fewer delivery days.
The U.S.P.S. has listened to suggestions like these and has come up with a plan to save money by cutting service without disrupting certain services that might be considered essential, even on the weekends.
The elimination of Saturday delivery pertains only to letters to street addresses sent via First Class mail. Post Offices will remain open on Saturday, and First Class mail sent to P.O. boxes will be delivered and available for pick-up on Saturday. Shipment and delivery of packages will still be available on Saturday, even deliveries to street addresses.
The above point is important for anyone who relies on the Postal Service to deliver medications, one of the biggest concerns with the elimination of Saturday delivery.
Maintaining the package delivery service six days each week allows the U.S.P.S. to continue working with other delivery companies like UPS and FedEx without any cutbacks. The Postal Service works with these companies in several ways. The companies occasionally share aircraft, and some items sent via an outside company are delivered by the Postal Service.
A recent experience with such a service was not very positive. I ordered a custom-printed cell phone case as a gift well in advance of the holidays from Vistaprint, choosing the least expensive shipping option. This option was called “UPS Mail Innovations.” The service seemed to work with UPS handling most of the transportation of the package except for the final delivery, where the Postal Service takes delivery of the package and handles that last mile from the Post Office to the final destination.
The package didn’t arrive by Christmas though the scheduled delivery date was a week before the holiday. In fact, it didn’t arrive at all. The company offered to send the same product free of charge, and the second shipment never arrived either. When I called the Post Office to check on the two items, the postmaster said she’d need to check with the carrier and get back to me. She never got back to me.
Vistaprint sent a third package gratis, this time with the standard, more expensive, UPS delivery option, and the package arrived without a problem on the scheduled and promised delivery date. The two earlier packages, sent via UPS Mail Innovations and tracked until their hand-off with the Post Office, were never to be found.
For standard First Class mail, I’ve never lost a letter with the Postal Service — as far as I know.
Given that the bulk of the mail I receive consists of junk mail from credit card companies, coupons I wouldn’t use, local newsletters, and other advertisements, I won’t miss Saturday delivery. I would be comfortable with mail being delivered fewer than five days a week. Outside of junk, I receive bills, banking statements, and holiday cards. That’s about it. I can — and should — turn off my remaining paper bills and statements in favor of electronic communications.
I only check the paper statements for changes in terms, like a new banking fee, while I reconcile my accounts online to ensure I haven’t been charged for something I didn’t purchase.
Service cuts at the U.S. Postal Service won’t end with Saturday delivery of First Class mail. While cutting back Saturday delivery of letters might save some money in terms of expenses today, it’s only a temporary fix. The Postal Service’s expenses will continue to grow, and increasing the cost of postage alone won’t offset those costs. It might take several years, but I expect the service to drop even more days of First Class delivery.
What will U.S.P.S. look like 20 years from now? Will it just be a service for delivering packages? Will we receive First Class mail just once a week? Will all First Class mail be digitally scanned and sent instantaneously? We don’t want to see the Postal Service disappear, but will there be a need for it at all within two more decades?
Published or updated February 6, 2013.