By Larry Teren
Come August 2013 no more Saturday delivery of first class mail and magazines from the U.S. Post Office. Or at least, so they say. After hearing this pronouncement the other day, I happened to catch a substitute letter carrier in front of my condominium. I asked him how this change in service affects his job. He said his regular work is to deliver small packages, a service that will continue on Saturdays. But, he did think that the stoppage of regular mail delivery will not pass union approval since many jobs will be lost.
Supposedly, the US Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in 2010. In the 2012 budget year, it suffered almost double the loss- $15.9 billion. Dropping mail delivery one extra day will save $2 billion a year. Others predict it will save even more- up to $3 billion including reduction in energy use.
Thanks to everyone using email and electronic payments, there is no longer enough mail to sustain six days of delivery. This past Friday, I elected to not check the mail figuring why ruin the beginning of a weekend if there is a bill in the box. The next day I finally got around to opening the mail box late in the day and it was empty. So, two days of nothing.
Purportedly, ten years ago the average delivery to a residence was five pieces. Today it is down to four and they forecast that by 2020, it will be down to three. Other than a handful of bills, repeated junk mail begging me to switch to AT&T Uverse Tv, and coupons from local businesses, there is little else I expect to receive. I guess losing one day service convenience of this will not matter. And I will still receive the occasional Amazon shipment on a Saturday if it should happen to fall out that day.
Interestingly, the Postal Regulatory Commission thinks that ending Saturday mail delivery will result in a backlash with people using the US Postal system less frequently creating even larger losses. Let’s clarify that they are referring to regular first class mail. Small package delivery, especially because of Ebay and Amazon, has increased by 14% in the past two years. I know I’ve done my job to help the cause. The question is how much pain will the public accept as the Postal Service keeps raising the rates on all their services. A first class stamp now costs 46 cents. In the early 1960’s, it was three cents, a fifteen fold jump in the past fifty years. Doesn’t sound like much inflation. But, a new low end car in 1962 probably cost about $2200. Raising that figure fifteen fold would mean that a cheap car today should cost $33,000. As you can see, the percentage increase in the cost of a stamp has far outstripped the cost of living.
There was a time until the early 1960’s that the mail was delivered twice-a-day, especially to business districts in Chicago. T the time, some businesses questioned how such a stupid move could be allowed as it would hurt business revenue streams. Back then, people didn’t think twice about putting cash in the mail. After all, who would be so evil to rob the US Mail?. Today, we have letter carrier tossing bags of undelivered mail into the garbage because they are either overwhelmed with work or too lazy to deliver it while spending an hour or two past the normal quitting time to fulfill their obligation.
The final irony on all of this is that the Post Office is in this predicament because Congress passed a law in 2006 that made them prepay pension and health benefits for future retirees. The previous year’s obligation to prepay expenses otherwise would have caused an operating loss of ONLY $2.4 billion. This tells us that cutting out Saturday delivery is only the beginning. Current and former workers want to know that they will have health insurance coverage. Guess what- so do many other Americans. When an enterprise makes promises that are impossible to keep without making their product or service relatively expensive, they usually end up going out of business. Get used to the idea that in a few short years all your payments and receipts of money will get handled electronically. As it is, the Social Security Administration just announced that by May they will stop mailing checks to anyone born after 1921. Either it will be direct deposited or a debit card will be issued to them.
In the not too far off future, you can bet that the US Postal Service will be another entity competing with UPS and Federal Express and will no longer be protected by the Federal Government. As for now, whether rain, sleet, snow or dry, your letter carrier rests on Saturday. Get used to it.