Post Office May End Saturday Delivery...
April 3, 2001 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Post Office May End Saturday Delivery... One day I'll be may be able to tell my children, "When I was your age mail was delivered six days a week." My children will respond in awe.
posted by MarkBakalor (44 comments total)
geez, i hope they don't start charging for priority mail boxes, my ebay profits would plummet!
posted by cheesebot at 11:40 AM on April 3, 2001

When our parents were our age, they delivered twice per day. Well, maybe a little younger.

I can't imagine Congress allowing this.
posted by aaron at 11:45 AM on April 3, 2001

Lovely. What do you want to bet that this will be followed by a 4 cent postage hike within the next 12 months, to make up for all the profit lost when people continue to take all but their most routine mail to FedEx, UPS, Airborne, etc.
posted by Dreama at 11:51 AM on April 3, 2001

Gee, another bad idea from the USPS. This move is allegedly to combat the use of bill paying and letterwriting over the net; instead, I think it'll increase it. After all, if you can't get it there Saturday, you can always use email.
posted by hijinx at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2001

Well, I love Saturday delivery too much to give it up. What I wouldn't mind is more postal rate increases. I'll gladly pay my bills online if it gets too expensive. I don't mind paying more, just keep up the service!
posted by daveadams at 12:00 PM on April 3, 2001

I think they still deliver twice per day to businesses.
posted by binkin at 12:10 PM on April 3, 2001

What's the big deal about Saturday delivery? I'm trying to think of something that comes in the mail that I couldn't wait three days for instead of two, and I can't. I just don't see the huge inconvenience, or why congress should care.

The vast majority of mail I get is direct mail advertising and bills. Neither the advertisers nor my creditors are going to switch to an alternative carrier. If information's extremely time sensitive, I hear about it via the phone or email already. Anyone who still writes letters is not going to stop because a letter might arrive Monday instead of Saturday.

I'd prefer that they use the money they spend on Saturday delivery for extended hours at my local post office one evening a week. Or to avoid rate increases.
posted by anapestic at 12:15 PM on April 3, 2001

The post office delivers on Saturday?
posted by radio_mookie at 12:18 PM on April 3, 2001

As long as you could still get special delivery services such as express mail, it wouldn't matter to me if ordinary delivery on Saturday was scrapped. The only mail I seem to get on Saturdays is junk mail.

However, I'd still want the post office to be open on Saturdays so that I can send mail, buy stamps, get packages, etc. at a time when I can actually GO to the post office.
posted by briank at 12:21 PM on April 3, 2001

I'm all for a hike... but it's hard for USPS to get those passed. If they can't get one, then nixing Saturday delivery is a good way to cut costs. On NPR a month or two ago, I heard a representative talking about how they could more than cover costs (and become profitable again) if they were given the chance to have a flexible fee structure. I don't recall the examples she used, but I do remember thinking how progressive the idea was... and how smart it seemed.

I wish I had a link, but NPR's search feature seems to be having problems.
posted by silusGROK at 12:26 PM on April 3, 2001

Our "real" mail carrier is on permanent disability, but because he still works (sorting the mail), the route hasn't been reassigned and we only get subs. I don't think we ever get Saturday mail, and I know we don't get mail when ever one teensy drop of precipitation shows itself. Yeah, we've complained. Until we're blue in the face. Know what? It makes the problem worse. It's going to take more than a rate hike to fix the post office, but if it helps, I'm all for it.
posted by mimi at 12:35 PM on April 3, 2001

A truly horrible idea -- faced with declining market share, the last thing you should do is essentially simultaneously increase prices and reduce services.

Right now, the only thing keeping first class mail afloat is the unwillingness of the companies that bill consumers to incentivize consumers to take their bills on email. If the electric company reduced your bill by $1 a month in which you agreed to accept an electricity bill by e-mail and then pay it by electronic funds transfer, you have to believe that a nice high percentage would take the deal, and (effectively) pass on half that $1 cost to the USPS in lost first-class-mail revenues.

Losing Saturday services will increase the amount of mail to be sorted Monday and increase the likelihood that mail which would have been delivered Saturday would instead arrive on Tuesday ... three days later, and mail that would have arrived on Monday arriving on Tuesday or Wednesday. Imagine if you're a company which has a significant amount of treasury activity based upon floating cash ... this one change could cost you 15% of your float income.
posted by MattD at 12:39 PM on April 3, 2001

Apparently there's a plan underway to begin a movement towards tipping the mailman too.

The reduced delivery schedule actually kinda shoots this one in the foot, since the plan is to tip your mailperson on a daily basis. I think that's what caused the consideration of a rate hike.

Yes, yes, I am joking.
posted by evad at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2001

MattD: I got a letter from AT&T last week offering to reduce my bill by some small amount if I switched to electronic billing. I haven't decided to do it, but apparently at least some companies are moving in the direction you propose. It makes me wonder how much money they spend on their mailroom. (Also: "incentivize" is marketroidspeak, not English.)

Personally, I don't really care what the USPS does. I mail exactly two letters per month - phone bill and insurance bill. As long as the first-class postage rate stays under five bucks or so, it's basically insignificant, and if it becomes too much hassle, I'll just switch to direct withdrawal or pay over the phone with a debit card (options both companies offer). The future is now.

Since I only get mail once or twice a week anyway, I don't think I'd even notice if they stopped delivering on Saturdays.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2001

I get a fair amount of mail; most of it, of course, is junk. Still, I'd be willing to give up Saturday delivery if it meant my postperson would put my mail in my mailbox and not in the mailbox of the house one street over with the same number. That and maybe if they could actually get the mail into the box, instead of dropping some of it on the front porch to be blown hither and thither on the wind....
posted by binkin at 1:36 PM on April 3, 2001

i only get real-live paper mail at my office...and most of that is free magazines from 7 years of signing up to win things at seybold.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:41 PM on April 3, 2001

I got a letter from AT&T last week offering to reduce my bill by some small amount if I switched to electronic billing

Ha, that's funny. Just last week I got a letter from AT&T telling me that now, they're billing separately from Southwestern Bell and isn't it great that I have to send in an extra envelope to pay the 41 cents in charges for a call my wife accidentally placed without using our el-cheapo calling card! (4.3 cents per minute, on AT&T's network--only at Sam's Club).

I keep meaning to cancel our LD service altogether.
posted by daveadams at 2:04 PM on April 3, 2001

If they can't get one, then nixing Saturday delivery is a good way to cut costs.

It's very simple, I say. Deliver every weekday to businesses (not Saturday). Deliver Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to residences except for Express Mail. Pieceacake. I only check my mail about once a week anyway, I don't see why anyone would be worried about only getting their mail every other day.
posted by kindall at 2:10 PM on April 3, 2001

Aaron: I recall getting mail twice a day and at work also. Made for something to look forward to when I discovered no one liked or wrote me in the morning. By afternoon, I could go to a bar and brood.
The trick is to address the letters you send to yourself and put the return address as the person you want to get the mail. Then do not use stamps and your letter will be "returned" and you have fought against the encroaching barbarian hordes.
posted by Postroad at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2001

One big difference between USPS and the Royal Mail (apart from the odd semantics: the Royal Mail delivers the post, while the US Postal Service delivers the mail): I get my letters before 10am, while my girlfriend gets hers in the mid-afternoon. I'm aware that there's a lot more country to deliver to, but in downtown Hartford?

That said, I've got a lot of praise for the USPS: it does all the shitty stuff, delivering the unprofitable stuff that UPS/FedEx won't touch, to people in the middle of nowhere. I really wouldn't know how to send something any other way. And in spite of the uptake of email, there's a vital social importance in the continuation of a regular, fixed-cost letter delivery service: the impact of the Penny Post on Britain in the mid-1800s is a case in point.

Is it true that the USPS basically survives as a business because of the money it gets from junk mailers?
posted by holgate at 2:14 PM on April 3, 2001

A week ago it might not have seemed important, but now... do they really expect me to wait all weekend for my netflix?
posted by moss at 2:23 PM on April 3, 2001

Postroad, I cannot tell you how cool that is! Are you from W.A.S.T.E.?
posted by mimi at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2001

The way the article read, it sounded like the USPS was in danger of going under completely sometime in the future. Sure, bills can be paid through other means, letters sent via e-mail, but what about magazine subscriptions and stuff?
posted by nukethewhales at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2001

Obviously, everyone here gets their magazine-style content off the web, and know that's the Best Way for everybody.
posted by harmful at 2:59 PM on April 3, 2001

Maybe overly simplistic idea here, but why not increase the rates of mass mailings for companies. We all get lots of junk mail for credit cards and advertisements - much or most of it unwanted.
posted by bakiwop at 3:14 PM on April 3, 2001

But, Fred, then the person you've sent the mail to will have to go into the post office, wait in line, wait for them to find the letter in the back, and in the end pay extra, probably something like double, for your priceless missive. Way to win friends & influence people!

Now, largely, first class rates have been kept low by the subsidy provided through presorted business-class mail. The nominal profit on those items is small, but the handling costs are low and the volume is high. But in the end, raising the rates hasn't affected mail volume all that much. The larger factors affecting use of the USPS have been service reliability and speed.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2001

Mimi: I don't know what the WASTE is that you refer to. My mother used to call me a waste product. Is that the same thing?
posted by Postroad at 4:21 PM on April 3, 2001

I can't bad-mouth USPS, for fear of punishment by my mother-in-law (long time USPS employee), so let that be my disclaimer:

Reducing the delivery schedule to 5 days a week obviously isn't going to make anyone happy. Some might be indifferent, but none happy. I say, 34 cents gets you quite a lot of service, so they could bump that up quite a bit more. Not a dollar, but more.

I already get depressed when no mail comes, and I'm even sad on Sundays. Please don't ruin my whole weekend! :)
posted by 7sharp11 at 4:31 PM on April 3, 2001

Well, I'm not sure everyone is spoken for, Harmful. I've been a subscriber to Rolling Stone and National Geographic for sometime and I'm just not sure the web experience is the same as actually sitting down in a comfy chair and reading an actual "hand held magazine device."

Sure, they're a ton of E-zines out there, but in the two cases above I feel their websites are more complimentary than primary.

7sharp, I get depressed too, it's really bad when sometimes that's the highlight of the weekend.
posted by nukethewhales at 4:50 PM on April 3, 2001

[holgate] I get my letters before 10am, while my girlfriend gets hers in the mid-afternoon. I'm aware that there's a lot more country to deliver to, but in downtown Hartford?

Well, they try to use the whole day here in the states. ;) No actually, it's just luck of the draw I suppose. Where I grew up, we'd get the mail roundabout 3pm every day. Later on Mondays, earlier on Saturdays. But where I live now, we always get the mail before noon and sometimes before 9am!

And I'm with 7sharp11, we need to expand service to Sundays, not take away our Saturdays!
posted by daveadams at 5:02 PM on April 3, 2001

I'm with you, bakiwop. If, as holgate says, the USPS basically survives on the money it gets from bulk-mailers, why not increase their rates significantly? Find the profit maximizing point (the highest rate they can charge without losing too much bulk business), and charge away. I'm all about that.
posted by crawl at 5:40 PM on April 3, 2001

Is everyone sure about the "declining market share" bit re the postal service? Some from e-mail over the past couple of years. But then why have so many post offices opened throughout the nation over the past few years? There are still new ones opening every day, in locales of varying sizes, the huge megalopolsis and dinky community and everything in between? And the postal service gets no subsidy.

Granted, I don't have a great bidness mind or I would be out there doing the entrepreneurial thing and maybe running a multi-million dollar Net company into the ground in, oh, three months flat. But I know enough to know that lots of others people aren't proving themselves that much better, or the stock market wouldn't be sinking like a stone every other day now. And I hate that too. Here's hoping we don't all have to use the postal service more, because we can't afford FedEx or UPS at all, ever, due to flagrant over-extension and waste of capital in the private sector.

Oh, and for bad service and not giving a crap about your customers, try the cable company or anyone else who thinks they have you, like the increasingly thoughtless American Express or the airlines. Maybe it's not just the P.O. but customer service culture in general.
posted by raysmj at 6:26 PM on April 3, 2001

actually, the post office has placed an indefinite freeze on new construction effective last month. they do not know when do construction will begin. projects already underway will be allowed to be completed (most likely because they have to pay the general contractor anyways).

personally, i rarely use the post office. i pay my bills either online, or over the telephone. even credit card companies offer telephone payments now in most cases. what things i do mail, usually are packages and i feel safer with fedex or ups, airborne, etc. and they are not too expensive when you consider the service you get.
posted by benjh at 7:45 PM on April 3, 2001

BUT my point is, how many other businesses, large and small, are just booming these days? You weren't paying attention. Interesting to know they're delaying construction -- my hometown in Miss. has largish one being built as I type and just started about a week ago. (Maybe it had already been signed off, but . . . ). In any case, it would fit. How many businesses and companies are delaying construction right now? How many shopping centers, subdivisions, etc., that were going to be built are no longer going to be built.

In any case, Fed Ex is most certainly not cheap to most people in America for any service, unless of course they're into running their plastic to the max. I never, ever use it. UPS, yes, but only when absolutely necessary; Fex Ex no. And whoop-de-doo regarding bill paying. This has been going on for eons, long before the Internet was a word was known to most Americans.
posted by raysmj at 8:06 PM on April 3, 2001

In re to UPS: They put out an earnings warning recently, so . . .
posted by raysmj at 8:37 PM on April 3, 2001

Here's the thing: why doesn't the USPS stop competing and advertising against private industry? Deliver the mail and shut up, geez...
posted by owillis at 10:59 PM on April 3, 2001

owillis: They have to compete and advertise against private industry? Gee, the law now requires them to. They have to be self-sustaining. They still, however, have to serve rural areas and poor neighborhoods where FedEx doesn't even have delivery boxes. You don't want the ads, vote for people who aren't economic libertarians. You could also vote against people who aren't in favor of unionization of government employees, but . . . I don't know, making them always have to be self-sustaining seemed a little irresponsible to me in any case. What happens in a downturn? Being more up-to-date and au courant about business ways, also customer-unfriendly in a down-market, they cut Saturdays and people bitch. Imagine if times get worse.
posted by raysmj at 11:39 PM on April 3, 2001

Well, I don't mind them being autonomous and accountable - a few more branches of the government would be well served to go down that road (I somewhat agree with our libertarian friends on that). Being just another tentacle of the government means they can provide crappy service and siphon our cash.

The thing is, for standard mail delivery they have no competition, and for a while they broke even. But then they got greedy, decided to make a profit and advertise vs UPS/Fedex. Look, they just need to deliver standard mail, make the stamps the right price to cover their costs and thats it.
posted by owillis at 11:52 PM on April 3, 2001

owillis: If you can't be subsidized, then don't you want to make money? Geez, they aren't paying a CEO $100 million, with a special golden-parachute-even-if-he-or-she-royally-screws-up deal here. (The executive's still called the postmaster general anyway.) Don't have a problem with allowing them to be self-sustaining in down times, but if times get tough, you're on your own and screw the citizenry?

Don't claim to have all the answers here by any means, but the standard libertarian line is a smidgen tiresome. Cato Inst. had a paper out a coupla years back claiming that, like all monopolies, the USPS screws its customers all the time and is wasteful, arrogant, etc. That this goes against what they stand for is . . . well, this was the post office. Oh, the line later become, during the Microsoft antitrust story, that some monopolies are OK. Sure.

How much some regular postal service employees are paid is entirely another matter, but when you're not paying taxes for it, you really can't complain except in maybe a concerned sort-of stockholder way. It is treated under the law as a corporation, the same as any other.
posted by raysmj at 12:12 AM on April 4, 2001

Oh, and for the record, the CATO Inst. belief is that a privatized postal service would still be a monopoly and thus . . . blah blah blah. Also, they were under pressure to act more like a business, have up to date equipment, etc. etc., good offices, etc. not just to deliver mail. And businesses advertise and make profits anyway. If you'll check, the advertising really started bigtime in the mid-1990s. Guess who took over Congress around then?
posted by raysmj at 12:16 AM on April 4, 2001

If you'll check, the advertising really started bigtime in the mid-1990s. Guess who took over Congress around then?

Libertarians! Whoops, sorry, wrong universe. I wanted the one next door...
posted by kindall at 1:49 AM on April 4, 2001

Holgate wrote: ": the impact of the Penny Post on Britain in the mid-1800s is a case in point."

Interesting! And what was your major in college? Have you ever read _Control and Communication_? It's an interesting look at the birth of filing. Serious.
posted by mecran01 at 6:55 AM on April 4, 2001

I don't think they are "just booming". They legally must service every new address that's built, not just when they have expansion capital, and increasing sprawl increases their costs much more than simply increased population would. You can serve more people, while being spread more thinly.

Owillis, it isn't like the USPS "got greedy". Congress insisted that they had to be more competitive, but has kept the rate commission around and forced them to come to it hat in hand. Developing new services like Priority Mail was a reasonable way to add value to their existing delivery network; the only problem was, alas, they couldn't deliver on delivery times, and Congress demanded that they adjust their pricing and advertising appropriately. That pulled the rug out from under their plans to sell services that people would actually pay good money for.
posted by dhartung at 8:49 AM on April 4, 2001

mecran, do you mean Control Through Communication, 1993, about the evolution of companies like the Illinois Central Railroad?
posted by dhartung at 8:57 AM on April 4, 2001

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