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?