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Your Take: Is Five Days of Mail Delivery OK?

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USPS Mail TrucksDid you know that that the United States Postal Service is slated to lose $6 billion or more this year? It lost $2.8 billion last year.

With all the outrage over lending billions to financial institutions, you’d think more people would be fired up about running an operation that lost $2.8 billion last year and could lose $6 billion this year. No one is sending packages on credit for people without jobs. There aren’t multi-million dollar bonuses for anyone at the post office. It’s just a business that is spending more than it earns because mail volume is dropping.

In reading more about it, some people argue that delivery days is a red herring and that the USPS can save money in other areas. While I can appreciate that to a degree, sometimes it comes down to an argument of “less filling” or “great taste.” The reality is that the post office is losing money and we’re paying for it, with taxes and with higher postage stamp prices, and they need to stop arguing and start fixing.

I am perfectly fine with getting mail five days a week.

What do you think?

(Photo by icanchangethisright)

{ 172 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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172 Responses to “Your Take: Is Five Days of Mail Delivery OK?”

  1. cscoot03 says:

    If this will cut down on all the junk mail, I think it would be great.

    • jane says:

      I think five day delivery would be fine. They need to cut back one day! Saturday delivery would be a good day to cut out.

  2. archie says:

    Same here. They could go to 3 days a week for me and I’d barely notice the change.

  3. Stacie says:

    I’d like to see one day a week to residential addresses and four days a week to businesses.

    As far as junk mail, stop giving them bulk rates! Make them pay the same as everyone else. That should raise some revenue as well as cut down on the amount of junk that is sent.

  4. Russ says:

    I think the best solution is to let the free market fix the USPS.

    Given the fact that the USPS is a monopoly and can’t achieve, let alone maintain, profitability is ridiculous.

    I say let UPS, FedEx and others have a shot at first class mail delivery and let the winner(s) emerge victorious. If the USPS can get their act together to compete with private entities, then I’m all for it.

    While 5 or even 3 day/week mail delivery would be fine with me, I think that would be equivalent to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    • Chuck says:

      I think the USPS is a sensible natural monopoly. Having 3 different services trying to hit every home in the US every day is going to cost 3 times as much. The USPS is well-run, and until recently was the only government agency that booked a profit.

      They do need help, because electronic correspondence (email, online statements, bill pay) are cutting their volume. I would be fine if they doubled their rates. Sending a letter by FedEx from NY to Cali would cost 20 bucks (“Express Saver” service), but 44 cents with USPS.

      • Rob says:

        There are so many flaws in this post I’m having trouble knowing where to begin. I guess line by line with have to do.

        “I think the USPS is a sensible natural monopoly.”

        I think you are mistaken on the definition of a “natural monopoly.” The USPS is a government-granted monopoly. It’s impossible to know if 1st class postal service would result in a natural monopoly because competition is outlawed.

        “Having 3 different services trying to hit every home in the US every day is going to cost 3 times as much.”

        Unless a natural monopoly does exist, experiencing increasing prices in a competitive environment seems to fly in the face of real world experience. If 3 different services can successfully compete, there was never a natural to begin with. And if a natural monopoly exists, who’s to say that the USPS wouldn’t be the one to disappear?

        “The USPS is well-run, and until recently was the only government agency that booked a profit.”

        In the midst of the worst economic downturn we’ve seen in over half a century, the USPS has done absolutely nothing to adjust, resulting in huge losses. I wouldn’t consider that well run. Additionally, I have always believed that the government is funneling money to the USPS to give it the perception of profitability.

        “They do need help, because electronic correspondence…are cutting their volume.”

        Only the government would assume that increasing prices and keeping service supply unchanged would be the logical response to decreased demand.

        “I would be fine if they doubled their rates.”

        I find it ironic that earlier, you were worried about rates tripling with added competition; but here, you are very open to rates being doubled. Keep in mind that the 1st class postage has increased 33% in the past 8 years and maintained an annual increase of 4.8% for the past half century, far outpacing inflation.

        “Sending a letter by FedEx from NY to Cali would cost 20 bucks…but 44 cents with USPS.”

        There’s no possible way to know this considering that it’s illegal for FedEx to deliver 1st class mail. But let’s assume you are correct. Doesn’t this seem odd? FedEx’s costs would really be 45x that of the USPS?

        If true, why does it cost a similar amount to send packages via USPS vs other carriers? Considering postal carriers are already going to these locations, it should cost USPS only a fraction of the amount.

        • Chuck says:

          A natural monopoly is one where economies of scale make a single provider the most efficient. Many things are impossible to know, but we theorize anyway. Irony is not the same as contradiction. I quoted a the price to send a letter at fedex.com. The three services don’t successfully compete, as you point out later. You believe the government is funneling money to the USPS, but you have no evidence. The services do compete directly in package delivery, that is why their prices are similar. Your post fails.

          • Rob says:

            That is correct. “A natural monopoly is one where economies of scale make a single provider the most efficient.” It seems like a stretch to assume that a natural monopoly exists in 1st class mail service given that the closest comparisons we have, packages and expedited delivery, fail this test. But even should a natural monopoly be most efficient, there is no evidence to suggest that USPS should be the provider.

            Your comparison of a letter sent via USPS vs. FedEx compares apples and oranges. Private carriers are severely inhibited from exploiting economies of scale in 1st class mail delivery due to the legal barriers set up by the government. These barriers result in artificially high costs.

            You actually had me doubting myself about the government’s use of tax dollars for USPS, and then I looked at USPS’s annual reports going back to 2000. “Capital contributions of the U.S. government” have been $3.034 billion annually since 2000 (as far back as I researched). Despite this fact, the annual report states that USPS has run a deficit of $4.7 billion since its 1971 reorganization. This might not sound like much given the money being thrown around in the current economic crisis, but things are only getting worse.

            From the Government Accounting Office:

            “USPS is facing a deteriorating financial situation in which it does not expect to cover its expenses and financial obligations in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. This year, USPS expects to increase its year-end debt to $10.2 billion and incur a cash shortfall of about $1 billion…”

            Keep in mind that this $1 billion assumed unspecified “savings” of $5.9 billion that have not been (and may never be) realized. In other words, the government will have given USPS more than $30 billion during this decade alone and will likely give it another $11-17 billion to fund its deficit for 2009. And this doesn’t even address 2010 and beyond. The other option is USPS follows California’s example and sells bonds, in affect just pushing the debt off to the future and tacking on interest in the meantime.

            This is (and has been) a bailout of monumental proportions and is on par with some of the larger bank bailouts. Perhaps those $0.44 stamps are costing us taxpayers more than we think.

      • Concetta says:

        “Sending a letter by FedEx from NY to Cali would cost 20 bucks (”Express Saver” service), but 44 cents with USPS.”

        Yeah, but it would get there in 2 days with FedEx. With USPS, I’d be rolling the dice to see if it might potentially make it there in a week, or at all.

        And the USPS isn’t universally well-run. Chicago’s run horrendously. I worked as an administrative assistant and we sent out invitations to a party in 2002. I was still getting people who were calling me who *just* got their invitation in 2007, and still getting returned invites. I’d be lucky if things that I mailed my mother in Minneapolis got through in two weeks.

        They did a big “clean-up” a couple years back and its better, but I still don’t mail anything I’m certain needs to be at a spot at a certain time with the USPS. I’d rather pay more and go for FedEx/UPS.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you’re ok with so many loosing their jobs???
      Going to 5 days will leave many without work and we have enough unemployment already!! Keep 6 days or some other delivery service will take that day and USPS will be in bigger trouble.

      • dilbert69 says:

        The USPS is not a jobs program. Employing lots of people to do something stupid and inefficient is not a good idea.

      • Rob says:

        Welcome to the real world. People lose their jobs every day when their company can’t turn a profit. Why should USPS be a any different? Here are some interesting unemployment statistics:

        * At the end of June there were about 2.5 million job openings nationwide;
        * During June there were 3.8 million new hires;
        * 1.8 million people quit their jobs (seasonally adjusted);
        * There were 2.5 million involuntary separations.

        In other words, approximately 2.5 million people were laid off in June (not including those that had their hours cut back). Where were your calls for a bailout for these companies?

        Yes, net jobs are still being lost, but the great thing about the real world is that new jobs are being created every day to replace unproductive ones. I can only imagine how awful our economy/society would look if we relied on the government to bailout every unproductive job.

    • John R. says:

      …USPS is a monopoly and can’t achieve, let alone maintain, profitability is ridiculous. SO TRUE! As much as I hate Microsoft products (I’m an Apple guy), compare their monopoly (oligopoly) profits to the USPS’.
      hahahahahah!

  5. Walt says:

    I’d be fine with zero…just email everything and leave the packages to UPS/FedEx. I’m sure that wouldn’t work for my grandparents, but it would for me.

    • NickFadz says:

      I agree with Walt that zero mail delivery days would be the best although I would say change everyone over to a post-office box and eliminate the delivery cost. You could still send someone a letter, they’d just have to go to the post-office to pick it up. You could even set up your post-office box such that you got an email/text message/twitter/facebook/whatever telling you that you had something waiting for you.

  6. Robert says:

    My concern is will the post office still be open on Saturday. For someone that works M-F, Saturday is the only day I have available when I do need to ship something using USPS.

  7. Roy in Virginia says:

    No Bills on Saturday!

    Five is Fine. Just think – no bills on Saturday, what a great concept that would permit enjoying the weekend just a little bit more.

    I also like the idea of making the bulk mailers pay the first class rate.

  8. I’m sure I’m the only one … but I think the cost of first class postage is a steal. You can send something across the country for less than the cost of a candy bar.

    I’d be fine with 5 days of delivery I like the idea of dropping Wedneday and retaining Saturday better, but dropping Saturday would be fine, too.

    • StephaniePTY says:

      Hear hear! It seems like it would be more inconvenient to have two consecutive days of no mail delivery (or, more importantly, no mail pickup than if we dropped Wednesday. Then we would have two days of processing, a day off, three days on…

      Probably not as convenient for the mail workers. But I think a day off in the middle of the week is actually sort of nice – you can actually go to the DMV and other places that have inconvenient days/hours!

  9. Darin says:

    Keep the Post Offices open on Saturdays, but stop mail delivery. I could do with delivery once a week (much like trash pickup, where most of my mail goes anyways).

    • Jim says:

      That’s a pretty novel idea, it shuts down the argument that people who work the 9-to-5 can’t get to the post office in time while saving on some expenses. Though I am starting to agree with Russ, are we simply maintaining a dying enterprise?

    • Better yet, have the garbage man deliver your mail – he could leave it in the garbage can.

      After all, the garbage truck starts the day empty – what a waste of space!

      (I’m JOKING, postal employees)

  10. Walt says:

    On a somewhat related note (inspired by this post)…

    Why do we bother hiring census workers? If postal workers are federal employees who are already going to the homes of pretty much everyone in the country on a daily basis, let’s make it a part of their job every 10 years to do the census along their route.

    • Jim says:

      I bet you union rules or something along those lines would prevent this, it would also be tricky to find the time to train them on what to do… but not a bad thought.

    • freeby50 says:

      Mail carriers make $5-10 more per hour than census workers. Paying them to do the census would cost more.

      • Angela says:

        Not if they’re ALREADY GOING DOOR TO DOOR EVERY DAY. It makes perfect sense. Rign doorbell. Hand over mail. Ask a few questions. Move on to next house. Done.

  11. reinkefj says:

    Let’s just shut it down. Only the gooferment could have a monopoly and NOT make a profit.

  12. Michael Zastudil says:

    I thought they did this already….come on government…make a move already.

  13. Amy says:

    5 days a week sounds good to me.

  14. PeteW says:

    Hopefully, folks will take into account when their mailed checks to businesses / credit card companies will arrive, or they might get dinged.

  15. nickel says:

    Robert: From what I’ve heard, they’ve been talking about dropping Tuesday service, not Saturday.

  16. Caitlin says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is, really.
    We get mail 5 days a week here in Canada, and our society has not imploded yet. ;)

    Many post offices remain open on Saturdays (some standalone ones don’t, but any that are inside store do. Here in Ontario at least, many Shopper’s Drugmart or small convenience stores have a Post Office booth inside the store), but mail delivery only happens Monday to Friday.

  17. Daniel says:

    People! We need at least 5 days a week. I don’t want to have to wait for Netflix!

  18. I’d be fine with 5 days a week. Aside from junk mail, magazines, the occasional card, and the rare package one less day of mail will not make much of a difference. As long as I can get to the post office on Saturdays, that satisfies all my needs.

  19. PlanetG says:

    A five day delivery schedule is fine for John Q Public but I think it is more about business users of USPS. They will object because many companies are open 6 or 7 days a week and they want(or need) their mail delivered promptly. I am also sure that mailings are down because of communications technology( interactive Internet, e-mail, texting, twittering etc.) Maybe if it doesn’t already exist there should be a consumer postal rate and a commercial rate. Based on volume I would think that we as consumers are paying proportionately more for the higher commercial volume of mail. The counter point is that our postal rates would be even higher if it wasn’t for the volume of commerial mailings. I think we could chase our tail on that argument all day long. As in any business if you buy in bulk or volume you usually get a discount and I beleive the bulk discount rate that USPS uses needs to be addressed. For example, I sometimes get 2 or 3 unsolicited mail order catalogs a day. I am subsidizing the bulk rate for all of the junk mail received. These companies get the economic benefit and we get the bill via higher 1st class postage rates. I say that these large retail and mail order businesses are spending $ billions on advertising each year which we as consumers pay for when we buy their product so why don’t we level out the playing field and let them spend $6 billion more to mail their solicitations. Again it’s another tail chasing exercise and I think in the end this will all be swept under the carpet by the pressure of Big Business and Washington Lobbyist. I think until we change how Washington works we will all die of exhaustion just chasing our tail. There are 2 things that we say are certain in our lives, death and taxes. Maybe before we all die we should take every business tax return and add a block that says that X% of your taxes will be used to support the annual USPS deficit. From a consumer’s perspective the better fix would be to have the IRS disallow bulk rate discount advertising expenses as a deductionsince the government is already gving them the discount) or better yet lets add a tax surcharge. Ooooooh… the tail just gets longer and longer. I am out of breath. Thank you for listening.

    • Caitlin says:

      I hadn’t thought about businesses that remain open 6 or 7 days a week. That’s a good point. Businesses in Canada that are open 6 or 7 days a week do just fine with getting mail for only 5 of those days, but I agree that taking away a service is hard to adapt to than never offering it in the first place.

    • Rob says:

      I suspect that few businesses use USPS for anything other than 1st class mail. In my experience, if a business needs something delivered promptly, they would rather use FedEx, UPS, or some other private carrier.

      The counter argument to to your point on commercial mailings is that USPS is going door-to-door in either case, so commercial mailings are actually keeping the price of regular 1st class mail lower. It’s hard to say which is the case. I guess it depends on sorting costs. But the marginal cost of actually delivering another piece of mail is almost zero.

  20. peggy says:

    Honestly, I’d be fine with four days a week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. (And for me, personally, Saturday’s optional. I know that for a lot of people, Saturday is the best day to go to the P.O., though.)

    Even though no one person’s experience is statistically significant, at least 80% of the mail I get (and I don’t get a lot, thanks to having registered with the Mail Preference Service) is stuff that I don’t want and don’t look at, other than to confirm that there’s no personal information on it that shouldn’t be.

    I appreciate the postal service for what it is and what it was, but technology and times are changing, and USPS needs to change with it.

  21. Stacie says:

    Keep the business delivery at the 5-6 day level, but move the residential delivery to 1 day a week.

    • This might not be cost effective because since many mail carriers carry mail to both residential and business buildings, they’d still be wasting gas driving every day, moreso since the trucks are gonna be moving half-full.

      The goal is to consolidate it so that we have as few trucks and drivers out there, and that they’re hitting as many targets as possible when they’re out.

  22. dilbert69 says:

    I’d be fine with mail delivery once or twice a week, or mail delivery to a central box in my neighborhood, no more than 2-3 blocks away, where I could pick it up. Some rural areas and gated communities already have things like this.

  23. Viv says:

    I can go to 3 or 4 times a week mail delivery. Like most people stated, most of the mail received is junk. Most people bank and pay bills online. The USPS needs to change with the times.

  24. qixx says:

    I think the biggest cost of the USPS is gas. Driving every street every day of the week costs a lot. I don’t like the idea of them closing shop one day a week. If they do shut doors one day a week it should be Saturday and just be open on the business week.

    My suggestion is to limit delivery to 3 days a week. Driven delivery on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only. Keep the USPS locations open Monday – Saturday. This would allow businesses to get the mail form their PO Box (most have them) every day. People that care to get mail daily can also get a PO Box.

  25. lostAnnfound says:

    Five days would be fine. One less day of junk mail to put in the recycle bucket.

    Also, I agree with Kosmo, for 44 cents I can send a letter/card 2000 miles away to the CA. And for twice that much I can send a letter/card overseas to my cousin in England. It’s a bargain compared to many other countries.


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