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part of a small rebellion | 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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  • no, i think it’s fine. people would just have to plan to mail out important things (like birthday cards, and such) a little earlier. i find the post office remarkably efficient and great value for the money. but saturday delivery just isn’t that essential. my aunt talks about when she was a girl, there’s was mail delivery twice a day! USPS went to once a day, and civilization (or at least the american way of life) didn’t end. it won’t end with the end of saturday delivery either.

  • RyanT

    I think ultimately I would be fine with it though I have to seriously tinker with my Netflix schedule. I usually mail out movies Thursday so I can get new ones on Saturday for the weekend. If I want new Netflix movies I have to now mail out my old movies on Wednesday which may not mean a lot by I go through my Netflix movies pretty quickly and waiting getting robbed a day is not ideal.

    But yes, of course I realize this is Netflix I’m talking about. If this ever happens, I’ll live. I still have dozens of things I can watch instantly.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I wish they wouldn’t deliver mail on Saturday, personally. It’s inconvenient for me, and a security risk. Now, I’m not the only postal customer, and it doesn’t revolve around me, but that’s my vote.

    Actually, I don’t need mail delivery more than once or twice a week.

  • @bitchen frizzy: i may be sorry for this, but… “security risk”???

  • ashok

    hell yes I would miss it. My Netflix DVD receiving/sending schedule would go completely out of whack. I’d get less DVDs each billing cycle.

    I know, I know. I should get a life.

  • PaulW

    What are the costs of bulk mailing? You know, all those extra ad flyers and coupon sheets I don’t ever use cluttering up half my mailbox? If you all got rid of that, would that help reduce the costs of handling mail?

    The biggest problem is that print mail competes with email, and that’s a war that’s already lost. The postal service has to start looking at 1) becoming Internet hubs ala cafes, 2) focusing more on items that still need shipping (boxes, valuables, things that can’t be done online), and 3) fighting the forces of evil as mentioned in Pychon’s “Crying of Lot 49”. ;-)

  • bitchen frizzy

    @bitchen frizzy: i may be sorry for this, but… “security risk”???

    “Pretty pink houses…”

    Mailbox on a post by the curb in front of the house.


    Bulk mail is a significant part of their revenue stream. The P.O. now regrets a decision made long ago to make bulk mailing really cheap to attract business, but it still generates a large part of the P.O. income even if it should cost more.

    Also, the Post Office does have a mandate. It cannot refuse to deliver mail that complies with the rules.

  • Jessica

    Heck yes, I’ll miss it. For regular mail, for Netflix, for packages, for the fact that I’m lucky if I get EW by Saturday now (and won’t the new schedule be awesome on long weekends- I won’t get my copy until Tuesday). I went to grad school in Toronto, and the lack of Saturday delivery was painful. I’m in the minority and so be it, but I hate this idea.

  • Greene had one point about the weekend hold up. I think Monday-Friday delivery for business mail would make sense, and Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat for personal mail could be an alternative (just an example).

  • You guys get mail on Saturdays?! Geez, we never have in Australia…

  • mel

    And we cope don’t we stuart? i was just coming to say that we don’t get weekend mail either, and pretty much no post offices are open on saturday, and they shut at like 4:30 on a week day.
    You really do cope.

  • Mo

    To echo Stuart, mail on Saturday? Really? That’s kinda weird.

    If we had it here everyone would probably forget to check their boxes until Monday anyway. It’s not that hard to live without.

  • Dokeo

    @ Paul

    I’m not sure separating business vs. residential mail would solve the problem. The cost savings are going to come from paying mail carriers to work 5 days a week instead of 6 (which is what the mailman I know does now – of course, how he’s going to manage to make his mortgage and raise 2 kids on his reduced pay is a question no one seems to be asking). I’m not sure how much overlap there is for carriers on business & residential – I imagine that in cities, the same carrier does both for a given area.

  • RogerBW

    A UK perspective: they haven’t started to talk about cutting Saturday deliveries, but the Post Office admits that junk mail is the only thing that keeps them afloat.

    What they have recently done is shift delivery hours, so that residential post is only delivered after people have gone out to work rather than early in the morning. It’s not clear whether this is actually saving any money, but it certainly annoys a lot of people.

  • deb

    we can’t do away with it Not everyone has computers and many depend on the United States Postal Service. The world is becoming too computerized. Get back to the personal touch.

  • Brian

    Saturday delivery is convenient but unnecessary. I’d rather eliminate that than pay still more for stamps. But who am I kidding? Stamps will probably be over a dollar before 2015.

  • The cost savings are going to come from paying mail carriers to work 5 days a week instead of 6 (which is what the mailman I know does now – of course, how he’s going to manage to make his mortgage and raise 2 kids on his reduced pay is a question no one seems to be asking).

    That’s because everyone knows that government workers are paid by magic and it doesn’t really matter what said workers are being paid as long as you’re not gauche enough to actually admit knowing anyone–save a famous politician or an influential judge, of curse–who works for the government.

    Case in point: When the government shut down a military base in South Texas to save money in the early 1990s, the only famous person who kvetched about it was director John Sayles in Lone Star and even then his message was ignored by a lot of people. Yet when Michael Moore made a film about the people affected by GM”s layoffs in Michigan during the 1980s, everyone and his brother seemed to determine to kvetch about what a bad man Roger Smith was and how cruel he was to cause so many problems to the employees who had been loyal to his company.

    To be fair, I didn’t like Mr. Smith’s actions either–and not just because I have relatives in Michigan–but after I started working alongside a woman whose family and hometown was just as severely affected by the base shutdown in South Texas as Flint, Michigan was by the GM layoffs, I started asking why one such incident got so much attention and the other did not. Was not the loyalty of the U.S. government to the people who worked on that base every bit as important as G.M.’s loyalty to its employees? Didn’t their actions deserve as much as criticism as G.M.’s? Or should we hold the U.S. government up to a lower standard than we’d expect from an American corporation?

    I suppose you could argue that it was rather foolish for my friend’s hometown to become dependent on a military base but then you could say the same thing about Flint becoming dependent on G.M. And anyway, such hindsight does’t really help matters.

    Anyway, as noted above, most of the people most likely to be affected by this generally don’t own computers. But that does not mean they’re not still important.

    And there seems to be a pattern wherein the most necessary service is to society, the more pressure there is to pay as little for it as possible.

    To pick one example that would be dear to at least one other regular poster here, my city–and many others–have talked about saving money on the budget by cutting back on hours that the local libraries are open. I think this is a bad idea. But it will probably go through because librarians don’t have the same political clout as construction contractors and real estate developers. And I’m sure we’ll get fed a load of baloney about how such cutbacks won’t necessarily affect anyone because they still have Barnes & Noble and the Internet.

    And so it goes…

  • MC

    Yeah, I live in a country that doesn’t have Saturday mail service (Canada). You will live without it just fine.

  • AJP

    Just a side detail: U.S. Post Office workers are not actually Federal employees, and the U.S. Post Office is not actually part of the Federal government.

  • postal spouse

    Why not ask some people who actually carry the mail? I would love my spouse to stay at home on Saturdays and not deliver mail. He rarely gets a weekend. People comment on how they are government workers as if the government is paying them….well, it doesn’t. They are paid by the income generated by mail delivery. Could businesses afford to have the mail stopped on Saturday? Would the carriers end up in “over time” on Mondays and Tuesday trying to make up for no Saturday delivery? I can see where there would be a great savings when it comes to the gas used in the postal delivery process, but would paying the carriers the extra overtime just take away from that savings? I say “get rid of the useless carriers” who sit on their butts all day in the post office (claiming to be hurt… still collecting pay) while everyone else has to do their job! Most every office has one or two. If you can’t do the job, find other work!! If you are too old, retire!! Hire all new workers at 2/3 of the salary now paid. Stop giving big bonuses to the bosses!!! Why should they get anything more than a “set” pay?

  • biggest mistake for the postal system was establishing it as a non-government agency. it was the first government service ever established — even before the Declaration of Independence was written — and up until the 1980s it was, as stated in the film, Miracle on 34th Street “second to none… efficient, prosperous…”

    i still think the USPS does a great job of delivering the mail quickly, and efficiently and cheaply. try sending mail from any other country — canada, the UK, ireland, to name just a few that i’ve sent mail from and to — and you’d see that the jokes, and snarky remarks about the USPS are not justified.

    make it a government service again, i say.

  • Just a side detail: U.S. Post Office workers are not actually Federal employees, and the U.S. Post Office is not actually part of the Federal government.

    Point taken.

    I actually have one cousin and one female friend who have worked for the U.S. Postal Service but for some reason, that aspect didn’t come up too often in my conversations with them.

    Plus, as Bronxbee hinted, there’s the influence of Miracle on 34th Street

  • Mimi

    @ Dokeo

    The cost savings are going to come from paying mail carriers to work 5 days a week instead of 6 (which is what the mailman I know does now – of course, how he’s going to manage to make his mortgage and raise 2 kids on his reduced pay is a question no one seems to be asking).

    Because that’s now how it would work. They wouldn’t pay 100% of their current carriers 5/6 of their previous wages. They would cut back on staff altogether — through attrition or layoffs. They would also save on overhead, because mail sorting facilities would not be open on Saturdays, delivery vehicles would get less wear and tear and use less gas, etc.

  • Mimi

    Oh, and I’d miss Saturday delivery, but I’d live.

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