Life

Why Postal Cuts Could Cost You A Lot of Money

For 40 years now, postal customers have been able to mail a first class letter to someone in a surrounding community and have a reasonable expectation that the recipient will have that letter the following day.

That’s about to go out the window.

The U.S. Postal Service is planning heavy cuts that would close about half of the 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as March.

The first-class mail standards, devised in 1971, calls for first-class mail to be delivered to homes and businesses within one to three days. That will lengthen, in most cases, to two to three days. Yet even now, one percent of first-class mail takes four to five days to reach its destination.

If your letter falls into that last one percent under the new arrangement, it could be six days before your letter arrives.

Here’s the problem: if that letter happens to be a payment to a credit card, you could be in serious trouble. You could face late fees as well as higher interest rates on your credit cards, which usually take at least six months to be lowered again. Depending on what kind of debt load you’re currently carrying on your credit card, a jump in interest rates from, say, 8.99% to a penalty fee like 29.99% could hit your finances hard.

And it’s not like credit card companies are generally willing to laugh off late payments.

The two groups likely to be hit the hardest by this problem are two groups who can least afford it: those low-income families without a computer and internet service, and the elderly who are less likely to embrace the idea of doing their personal business online.

Both groups have limited resources and are already trying to stretch every dollar as best they can. And it’s not hard to imagine the possibility that some people in those groups are literally living paycheck to paycheck, and are least able to mail payment checks far in advance.

For the rest of us, paying online is the best way to go to make sure your payment arrives when you specifically want it to, not when the postal service and human clerks at the credit card’s payment processing center get around to processing it.

But the fact that the mail will take even longer to get where it’s going — even if we’re only talking about a day’s difference — isn’t likely to go over that well in a society in which everyone wants everything right now.

The postal service estimates these cuts will save them about $3 billion. I hope they’ve taken into account in that figure that there are going to be people who are less likely to mail a letter because of the slower service.

By charging the same price for slower service they’re actively encouraging people to use alternative means to communicate.

How many letters do you mail a week? Have you backed away from mailing letters and bills in favor of emails, Facebook messages and online payments?

5 Comments

  1. I use the mail service, but I only use it for my relationships with pen friends around the world. There is something extremely gratifying about writing letters. But interestingly, the problems seem to be starting well in advance.

    On 9 November I walked across the street to the postal office there to send a small package to my friend in Brno, Czech Republic. I have been writing to Daniela since 1999, so it is not as though I don’t know how to fill out the paperwork for this. Well, it arrived in Brno on 3 December, which is just appalling. I found out why – it went to Czech Republic by way of Bolivia – that’s right. It went to the wrong continent (!), not just the wrong country! How does anyone get Bolivia out of the Czech Republic?! Yikes!

    All this before anything is closed or changed.

  2. I agree with you, this will impact the elderly and poor the most.

    I pay my bills by mail and I am thinking of changing to on-line banking, mainly because I am up at the cottage more. I missed a couple of payments because when I came home I had a stack of mail and sometimes I miss the bills buried in the junk mail.

  3. We pay most of our bills online. Just about the only thing I mail are personal letters and cards. (and I’m behind on my personal correspondence, I’m embarrassed to say…).

  4. Buy stock in UPS & FedEx. Their volume of next day letter services is going to skyrocket as a result.

    Honestly, the only things I ever mail anymore are “Thank You” notes to my customers (I’m embarrassed to say I’m a little slack in that dept) but those are not time sensitive.

    I think we pay 100% of our bills online, either on the website of the company, or via our bank’s bill-pay service. Although, I prefer using the company’s website for some reason.

    1. @james_holloway

      Most of my bills are payed at the company’s websites rather than through my bank…but there are some exceptions. The primary one is my BOA credit card. I had nothing but problems when I would try to pay online at their site. They seemed a little unsure of what their own policies were when it came to how long payments took to post. Oddly enough, I switched to paying them online through my bank, where MY bank keeps the records, and I have had a moment’s trouble with BOA since.

      Other than birthday or Christmas cards, I mail almost nothing the “old fashioned way.” That’s about it for me.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 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.