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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Would you miss Saturday mail delivery?

There’s been a lot of talk in the U.S. in recent years about the United States Postal Service’s proposal to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. It heated up again recently when a plan to eliminate Saturday delivery beginning early next year was formally submitted by the USPS to its regulator. Says CNN.com:

The Postal Service said the cutback would save about $3.1 billion in the first year and as much as $5.2 billion per year by 2020; the Postal Regulatory Commission estimated annual savings of $1.9 billion.

Saturday delivery was selected for elimination because that is the lightest-volume delivery day of the week and a day when more than a third of U.S. businesses are closed.

Still, Express Mail deliveries would continue and post offices that are open Saturdays would remain so, the Postal Service said.

Mail volume has dropped from a peak of 213 billion pieces in 2006 to 177 billion last year, and volume is predicted to continue to fall, the Postal Service said. “Quite simply, there is much less mail to be delivered, yet costs to deliver the mail continue to rise,” it said.

In a preposterous editorial at CNN.com against the proposal, Bob Greene made an argument that sounded like it was right out of 1994:

If mail delivery goes from six days to five, more and more Americans may decide they just don’t need it. People have available to them, as none of us needs to be reminded, computers with e-mail capability. You can correspond with friends and family and business associates; you can pay bills; you can send greetings.

Using the U.S. mail already means accepting that letters will be held up for a day between Fridays and Mondays. Elimination of Saturday mail would extend the bottleneck. And this is a country that increasingly demands speed; you’d think that someone, if only in an effort not to fall further behind, would be suggesting a seventh day of delivery be added.

It seems pretty clear to me that the American people have already decided that we don’t need snail mail as much as we used to. It’s ridiculous to suggest that anyone not already using the Internet to communicate and pay bills would suddenly start doing so if mail delivery stopped on the slowest day for mail anyway. And no one uses the USPS for delivering anything that must arrive on a particular day… unless they’re using the USPS’s Express Service, which wouldn’t be affected.

(See the Washington Post blog Federal Eye for more on that report to the regulator, including a link to the full report. See PostalMag.com, an independent news source for postal employees, for a 2001 editorial on the Saturday-mail issue; the date alone gives you an idea of how long this matter has been under consideration, and the editorial itself covers some of the concerns involved for postal employees.)

I would barely notice if Saturday mail delivery ended. I receive mail both at my residence and at a PO box, and many days I receive no snail mail at all. My bills all arrive online now (and get paid electronically). Most of the mail I do receive these days is catalogues or unsolicited commercial material.

Would you miss Saturday mail delivery? What unforeseen complications might there be if Saturday delivery ended? Or would life just continue with hardly anyone even noticing?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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