Life

Postal Service Ponders 5-Day Workweek

The Postal Service, citing continued economic shortfalls, is considering a plan to end mail delivery on Saturdays.

Postmaster General John Potter told USA Today that cutting service was unavoidable if the organization is ever to move back into the black:

“We know we’re going to have less mail in 2020 than we have today. We can’t freeze wages. We can’t freeze fuel costs.”

Well, wait a second. Something doesn’t quite add up here.

The Postal Service has been raising stamp prices annually despite having less mail to deliver. They blame free services like email and electronic online payments for cutting a good deal of their business.

It stands to reason that if there’s less mail to deliver, there should be a need for fewer employees, taking care of the wage problem, and a need for less fuel, taking care of the fuel cost problem.

After all, if they don’t have as much mail to deliver, and the mail they have costs consumers more to send, it seems like they’d be better off than they are now.

In the past ten years, they’ve cut more than 150,000 jobs already, and have even eliminated some carrier routes as mail volume has continued to decline. So where’s all the savings?

Then there’s another big question to consider about Saturdays: what about people who work during the week and miss the chance to pick up parcels or letters requiring a signature at the time of delivery?

Sure, if I missed receiving a letter during the week, I could drive to the post office on Saturday, assuming the postal center itself would remain open on Saturdays, even though carriers aren’t actively delivering on that day.

But if you don’t own a car and rely on public transportation to get to and from work, you then have to wonder how you’d manage to get to the postal center to pick up something that couldn’t be delivered while you weren’t home on weekdays.

Congress would have to approve any plan to trim service from six days to five days a week, since their current six-day service schedule is mandated by law. If Congress allows the Postal Service to cut the number of days it actively delivers, I certainly hope they add a provision to the law banning any stamp price increases for a while.

Cutting the amount of service and continuing to raise the price for what’s left is highway robbery.

6 Comments

  1. We should all try to help each other in these hard times. If we at the post office have our pay cut or lose our job then we cant go eat at the place that maybe your wife works at or buy from your store. Its all really a chain reaction. Start mailing a letter its only 44 cents and remember it could be helping your family. Wouldn’t you like to know that your job is safe and we are a government agency but we get no tax money its all from what we take in. Help us and it will come back to you

    1. Jenkl,

      I would respectfully point out that it’s not like it’s only the postal service employees who are facing a potential loss of job: many people in virtually every industry are in the same boat. If everyone else were fully secure in their jobs with plenty of disposable income, it’d be one thing.

      The problem is, many families that have no professional affiliation to the postal service are seeing their industry suffering hard times. There’s no end of things we could put our money on to help out families fearing job loss…we just don’t have the money to do so.

  2. I am a city carrier in California and i think that people are a little misguided in the reason why the post office is in trouble and i’d like to clear up the facts that i know. I don’t know all the workings of the post office outside of what i see on a day to day basis but what i do know upsets me.

    Now listen close because not to many people understand this or know this, the Post Office is a business. We are governed and sanctioned but the government but we do not get paid from taxes. The price of stamps does not go up every year like people say. In fact the price of stamps over the last 35 years has only gone up 34 cents. That is less than one cent a year, and on more than one occasion there wasn’t even an increase for 4 years. How many other businesses can say that? It is still the cheapest way to mail and ship.

    Also until recently we were not able to adjust our prices in shipping parcels because the government wouldn’t let us. We recently got approved so we could compete with other companies with our parcel shipping.

    Another thing is that i agree getting rid of Saturday delivery is the worst thing that could happen to the post office. They have already eliminated in the last 10 years their carrier and clerk and other lower level workforce by 24% but have increased their headquarters and inspectors by over 33%. The top paid people have been increased and the actual workers helping customers is trying to be eliminated. I am embarrassed to say that customer service has gone down in the past 20 years. This has some to do with management rushing carriers to get done faster so there is no overtime. I know that management rushes us to get our job done fast and safe but that doesn’t mean service has to go out the window.

    If the Post Office stops delivering on Saturdays but UPS still delivers parcels who are people going to ship with. Yes UPS charges fuel cost and the Post Office doesn’t that is how they keep cost down. Would you rather we kept our prices the same and started charging fuel cost? If we cut out a delivery day we will lose over 40,000 carriers nationwide. How many of those carriers will go on unemployment? All of them. The amount of money Potter got with his salary and 2 bonus’ last year alone equaled my salary for 26 years.

    So yes cuts need to be made but not the days of delivery or the customer service but lets start looking other places. So please understand get your voice out there about what we want. We want good customer service, we want accountability for parcels getting lost of stolen or misdelivered and yes UPS has had parcels stolen or misdelivered also. But who wants to be paying for these huge bonus’ that these upper people keep getting at the cost of customer service and cost.
    93304 carrier

    1. With respect, I think you assume a little too much about what other people believe: I certainly never suggested for a moment that the postal service is anything other than a business.

      We get that.

      The problem is that we’re being asked to settle for less service for higher costs. The 2009 rate increase, which brought the price of mailing a letter to 44¢, was the fourth increase in four years. I’d be shocked if there wasn’t another increase by the end of the year, even if this money-saving, 5-day plan goes through.

      And yet I look at the mail in my mailbox and the majority of it is unsolicited junk mail. The postal service seems to have no problem with discounts for bulk mailers, most of whom clutter the mail with unwanted junk that gets thrown away immediately.

      Why not lay off the consumers and go up on the bulk mailers: if they’re sending more mail, causing more costs, then they should carry more of the cost, not less.

      I’d have far less of a problem losing a day of delivery if I had a better expectation that what I was going to get on the remaining 5 days was worth the trip to the box.

  3. My take on the post office problems is that they have spent to much money cattering to the customers. They should provide postage stamps that all look alike….one kind of stamp, elemanateing ther caost of haveing so many different kinds of stamps. They should also stop offering so many different, senseless products such as selling post card, selling boxes, the post office is to mail letters and packages not shop to see what you can buy. They would not need as many people in the windows if they would provide only the services that are needed, not the ones that people just want.
    Did you know that the suppervisors at the post office spends more time dealling with customer complaints than they do actually working. And most of the complaints are people calling in to see why the mail man drove by their house more than once, or my favorite is that the mail man didn’t stop at my box maybe he didn’t know where it was….REALLY! Or the one about the mail man didn’t get out and bring the mail to my door. There are so many calls a day that it is crazy, people should not be allowed to call the post office, they woudl cut a lot of cost because they would not nee so many phone line and the people that answer the phone calls would have time to do other things. THere are soooo many way they could cut the cost of things with out interfearing with the delievery process.

  4. I apologize in advance for the shortness of my response; I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.

    While there’s less mail to deliver, it probably still doesn’t do enough in terms of cutting the fuel costs; even if the mail truck isn’t packed to the brim with mail, it still has to deliver what few envelopes there are. I think that for a while now the USPS, or at least some post offices, have “skipped” deliveries in rural areas on various days, opting to hold back small volumes of mail a day or two so there’s more to deliver at once. I know that for my part I’ve noticed that on some days I get absolutely nothing, which is very unusual for me, and then the next day I get a whole bunch of mail. I have heard of others in other parts of the country experiencing the same.

    Still, I do not disagree with your point. In fact I was wondering about this very same thing this morning. Postage goes up every year, and they even eliminated the Economy option when shipping internationally. Whenever I go to the post office, there are always long lines in there – it’s not like they’re not doing business.

    Email is a convenient scapegoat, of course. But why do you suppose services like PayPal have become so popular? Could it be because the service is inexpensive, extremely flexible, and always available? I’ve personally found that attaching a PayPal debit card to my bank account is simply a lot easier than dealing with an actual bank card; if there ever is a problem, 24/7 assistance is available. All account management can be done online. With a bank, it’s always “you need to visit your local branch” – which of course is only open about four hours a day on weekdays, and maybe half that on Saturdays.

    It’s essentially about quality of service. I have never lost a package that I’ve shipped or one that has been shipped to me using UPS or FedEx. I’ve lost numerous parcels shipped via USPS. And true to the nature of any governmental agency, there’s no accountability and no recourse. Whenever something has been lost, the answer is always the same: “there is nothing we can do.” Even with tracking, packages still just mysteriously disappear.

    If your email provider fails to deliver your email, how long will it be until you switch to a different provider? In my case, I’d make that decision extremely quickly. One of the reasons I have used my own domains for a decade now instead of free webmail services like Hotmail, is that when it comes to correspondence, I want to be as sure as I can reasonably be that my emails are going where they’re supposed to, and that I am receiving what’s being sent to me. And I am willing to pay for that.

    A visit to the post office is like going to gamble in Vegas, except a lot less fun; you fork out cash and leave hoping to find out later if you got what you came for.

    Yeah, email is stealing all the business. Because, obviously, people don’t ship tangible objects anymore. If I could email Christmas presents to my family in Europe, I’d love to do that. Where are we on teleportation technology?

    I can remember stamp prices going up annually as far back as I can remember being aware that stamps existed. This was way before email.

    In my native country, the government-operated post office anticipated the increasing popularity of email; this was over a decade ago. The Finnish Post established an “official” email service which citizens, companies, organizations, banks etc could sign up for. Fees are not collected from private individuals. Banks in particular embraced the system, because they could save money by using the post office’s own secure email system to correspond with customers. The communication is cheaper and still instantaneous, and recipients and senders are all verified; each citizen can only have one email address with this service, and their identity is verified during registration.

    Operating in this manner, the post office now manages an established, secure, and certified service which banks and companies are eager to pay for and use; it is often cheaper for them to use a pre-existing infrastructure for purposes like this, rather than developing their own. Private individuals can also send “paper mail” through the service by paying a decreased postage; the post office prints and delivers the mail. The Finnish Post continues to make a modest profit of 50 million Euros or so each year.

    My point is that the way for a company like the USPS to survive is not through cutting services, but through creating ones that people need. I thought Stamps.com was a fantastic idea, until I actually tried it. I was expecting that by buying stamps and postage online through a subscription-based service, I could get great savings. Not so; not only did I get charged for ten bucks a month, but the stamps cost roughly the same. The only “convenience” was that I could print the stamps out myself on sticker sheets which had to be mail ordered from USPS. For paper and glue, these sheets were so outrageously overpriced that any modest savings I got from lower postage prices were eaten up by the paper cost and the subscription fees. Not to mention that trying to quit Stamps.com was one of the worst experiences I’ve had in terms of closing an account. It’s amazing how you can sign up for something online, but closing an account takes a 30-minute phone call, arguing with representatives who just don’t seem to understand what you want.

    I don’t know what the USPS is pissing all that money away on, but it sure isn’t on providing innovative, high-quality services. Just like with any company, if you cannot keep up with the demands of your customers, you go the way of the Dodo.

    /rant

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.