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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. MoneyNing says:

    The problem with the USPS is not whether it’s 5 days or 6 days. It’s the fact that it’s heavily government regulated.

    There are near useless buildings that can’t be shutdown, $100k mailman who’ve worked there for decades and do nothing more than sort mail. It’s these things that add up. Unless the government finally free up its control, USPS can only do so much with their hands tied behind their back.

    • Rob says:

      I used to live in an apartment complex that had a tennis court in the back. After living there a short time, I noticed that the mailwoman would sit in her truck for hours on end hidden behind the tennis court doing nothing most days. I’m hard pressed to believe that this doesn’t happen everywhere.

      • MoneyNing says:

        While every mail-person I’ve met have been courteous and “seemed hard working”, I can’t imagine that what you’ve experience happens EVERYWHERE when everyone knows that whatever they do, they make a good living.

        When it doesn’t matter, of course people will become lazy.

    • finco86 says:

      I agree, but I believe the USPS should compete in the marketplace just like every other business. I don’t think they would remain in business long if they had to rely on a profit rather than the government. The thought of loosing $6 Billion because it is government run is just maddening. But once government takes control of something, it costs more then it should and there is no hope for change. Watch out health care.

  2. Rob says:

    Coincidentally, my wife and I were having this discussion yesterday. I think that daily mail delivery is nothing more than a convenience that we’ve all become accustomed to. My wife thinks 5 days per week is reasonable. I like the idea of 3 days per week with the option to pay more to have something specially delivered on an off day. This would allow mail to build up on the off days and decrease the cost of actual delivery.

    Of course, I simply don’t like the idea of flat rates. 99% of the mail I send is sent to/from non-remote locations. Yet those people who live in remote locations, send mail for the same price. In other words, I subsidize their mail service.

  3. Neil says:

    While reducing delivery days isn’t unreasonable, I think the expectation that mail make money isn’t totally reasonable. Mail is public infrastructure, and so it is not entirely a business. Running it at a loss may be in the public interest.

    “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.”
    This is silly. Yes, you’re paying the postal system’s loss through your taxes. But you are not paying for it through higher stamp costs. Indeed, they’re losing money precisely because stamp costs are not high enough. Decide which way you prefer to pay for it. (I almost always like to pay for stuff like this through my taxes since that means a disproportional amount is paid by people with more money than me)

    There is no courier company which is cost competitive with a stamp, so they can substantially raise prices before demand gets syphoned off to their competitors. (Though, of course there will be some demand destruction as people and businesses transmit more documents electronically)

  4. freeby50 says:

    I’d be fine with 4-5 day delivery for residential addresses. Might be best to keep 6 day delivery for business.

    I don’t think theres a magic bullet to ‘fix’ the USPS. Its a $75B operation with nearly 700k employees. Mailmen make like $40-50k. Transportation is less than 10% of the USPS budget.

    One of the biggest expenses for the USPS is retiree costs. Their reitree health benefits are over $7B. If they could move that obligation into a private trust then that would help their balance sheet moving forward. Its just like the problem the US automakers had. Big US entity that has existed for a long time and has a large obligation to a large retiree population.

  5. Diane says:

    5 days a week would be fine with me. I access & pay all personal bills online except one (our water dept charges $2 for online payment so I mail a check). I can wait for everything else.

    As far as business, we now email all invoices, pay some bills online and receive most payments by credit card or wire transfer. For the few who insist on paying by check we provide a FedEx # to ship the check.

    Only problem would be making sure to mail business payments in time to meet due dates for things that we can’t pay online.

  6. Lazrlady says:

    I think 5 days a week is adequate service. I don’t like working weekends so I don’t have a problem with that at all. The only problem I have with my local post office is the uncaring attitude of the counter personnel. It seems there are always long lines and the people there will take their breaks even if the line is out the door. It’s so frustrating to be the next in line and to see a postal counter person look over the crowd and then walk away to take a break; and it obvious that is just what they are about to do. The problem stems from too few counter people for a large post office. You would think that there would be people cross trained to do more than one job. You can hear the laughter and talking of numerous workers behind that large screen that separates the front counter from the back of the post office. Other than that, I believe our USPS does a great job.

  7. Gerry says:

    The Post Office needs to restructure just like most companies have done in order to survive. Do they need as many workers now as before with business way down due to email and the recession? Why do we have so rural post offices? We have 2 in my town when one would be adequate.
    Why is it illegal for anyone else to offer 1st class mail service? Maybe the govt should just get out of the postal business. By the way its kind of scary that the same folks who are losing their shirt in the postal business may soon be charged with running our healthcare. According to the Prez it will be done at a savings to the taxpayers!

  8. jared says:

    I used to work for the post office so I can say with some degree of confidence that there are dozens of factors that make the business unprofitable. For one, their payroll is huge. Don’t get me wrong, I personally am pro-union, but the amount of money some positions get paid is out of control. The carriers deserve every penny because they really are out there in rain sleet and snow, and I cant tell you how many times I was chased by dogs, no joke. But then you have clerks who get paid 2.5 to 3 times the national average for similar positions. What is minimum wage for most places gets paid 15- 20 per hour at USPS.
    The routes themselves are perhaps the most inefficient of all. I had a route that was supposed to take 7 hours and I finished it in 4 every day as did many of my co-workers. Eliminating routes would reduce payroll and vehicle costs dramatically. One more note, in my opinion they have always undercharged for mail service and would do well to double the price for first class mail. What many people don’t realize is that are not a government agency at all but rather a privately run government SUBSIDIZED business. The money they receive from the federal government is considered a loan an d must be paid back. The difference is that the line of credit will not dry up if not paid.

    • a patriot says:

      well jared, you got your wish. This week the post office implemented the new routes, reorganizing them and doing away with many of them. It will work as long as the mail volume never goes up. Christmas will be interesting this year. However, all the TEs are still working 6 days per week. We have to take swings off the regular routes so that we can all get off the street by 6 or 7pm. I am unsure how this reorganization will save us in the long run. Looks good on paper, but in our offices (5 in this city) we still work overtime to get the mail out. We are way under staffed.

  9. LinearChaos says:

    Yeah, I think I could handle mail only 5 days a week. I hope that would cut down on the mass amount of junk mail that I receive.

    Leaving it up to the private sector could be a great solution…however the cost of mail would increase and the volume would decrease further.

    I wonder if this would put a strain on small businesses who may depend on USPS?

  10. Rae says:

    I’m pro-losing a day. I personally couldn’t care less which day delivery stops for residential-it’s all junk or bills anyhow, and I pay all bills online. Perhaps they could allow for 6 days to commercial buildings, or, deliver for 5 days but let the business choose if they lose Sat or a weekday with the additional option of paying a fee to have full 6-day delivery.

    That said, I think it is very important to either keep the PO open for hours on Saturday, or mandate that every PO has evening hours (think until 9 or 10 at night) twice a week. (because inevitably there would be many complaints about the one night not working for people)

    What really annoys me though is that the PO down the block from my office closes for lunch, which means if I do need to send something during the week, and I try to do so on my lunch break, I have to drive to the next town and scarf down fast food in my car while driving in order to get back to work on time.

    They generally have two people in the close office – I don’t understand why they can’t stagger lunch breaks.

    Or, couldn’t we spend some of this bailout money on electric fleets? I can’t imagine those trucks are very efficient.

  11. Carla says:

    Since I’m on disability and the EDD doesn’t do direct deposit, I need them to deliver at least five days a week to prevent lag time for my checks. Too bad those who count on something like that would suffer the most.

    • dilbert69 says:

      You should ask your state legislator to introduce legislation to fix this. Direct deposit is not only more convenient for the recipient, it’s cheaper for taxpayers.

      • Carla says:

        @Dilbert69 – Well good luck with that. Gov. Schwarzenegger should have implemented something like that before cutting government employee’s work hours. Now everything is twice as slow then it was before.

        • dilbert69 says:

          I said you should do it. I don’t really care enough. :-)

          Also, the governor probably can’t do something like that. I would suspect it would require legislation.

          Finally, I doubt that direct deposit of benefit checks would save nearly as much money as cutting state employees’ work hours, but I agree with you that it should have been done first.

          • Carla says:

            I meant, I doubt I have that much power to make that kind of change when I said “good luck with that” :)

    • qixx says:

      Companies and the government often put items in the mail to arrive on a certain date. When those dates fall on Sunday don’t they usually adjust to arrive a day earlier? You might not have a problem if they do the same here.

      • Carla says:

        They cut check on certain days of the week but there’s no telling when it will actually arrive if there are delays with the post office.

    • Allan says:

      Carla – I’m sure one day delay in getting your check won’t be the end of the world

  12. Dan says:

    The reason the post office is running a deficit is that recent legislation requires the P.O. to fully fund the pension plans. BUT WAIT, why do they have pension plans when the average American worker has to fund their own retirement plan(if they are lucky enough to have one)?

    I don’t understand why tax dollars are used to fund a better lifestyle than the average American has.

    • wizardprang says:

      Like many governmental and quasi-governmental organizations (teachers, firemen, police etc), they have extra perks to offset the lower-than-market salaries that are paid. Take that away and they won’t be able to hire people.

      • Andrew says:

        I don’t know where you live, but where I live, starting salaries for police officers are > $70K annually. Even without the excellent benefits, this would be a very, very high salary for a job that does not require experience or a college education.

  13. The fundamental problem with the post office is the same problem that all government agencies suffer from; the cost of labor. Nearly all post office jobs could be performed by morons. Pay and benefits should reflect that.

  14. Mike W says:

    Count me as one that would be fine with less than six days of service. I would be cool with three days a week. I can see where some people need Saturday service. You can always cut out Wednesday service. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday would suit me fine as well.

  15. Rick Morley says:

    For those complaining about the pension plans and the 100K/yr employees who don’t do much of anything, you have the unions to blame for this, not the government. This is why I don’t like unions anymore. They had their time, but these days, the unions basically extort money from the companies.

    • Rob says:

      This brings up an interesting point. Why are unions so pervasive and powerful in sectors of the economy where government is highly involved? Could it be a mutual beneficial relationship? Unions support politicians who will give preferential treatment to unions and increases union power. In return, these politicians get more “donations” from the unions and get re-elected.

  16. Kenny says:

    Lower the cost…..

    Act like a business…..

    Make USPS profitable…..

    Compete with the rest of the shippers…..

    Be accountable……

    Don’t act like a govt organization……

    TWA, Circuit City etc went extinct with such a management style and P&L…..Why does USPS survive?

    Go 4 days if you have to…..If mail is critical, send it via Express Delivery. Rest, get by email!

    KKP

  17. eric says:

    Nothing like a post office topic to create a comment storm :)

    And yes, I would be perfectly fine with five days.

  18. AngelSong says:

    I think five days mail delivery is a good idea. Technology has changed tremendously, and there are many more options for communications.

  19. Micehelle says:

    DUUUUUUUUH!

    Five days is fine, but do your homework before you post. USPS is not a government organization and is not funded by taxes. I’m no fan of the Post Office; however, I do believe that hack bloggers should be educated before they publish their opinions.

    • Daniel says:

      Micehelle,

      Your response isn’t entirely correct, either. The Postal Service is an “independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States.” The president appoints the Postmaster General. So, technically, it IS a government organization, albeit an independent one, with Executive oversight.

      • John R. says:

        In other words:
        Just like all GSE’s, Freddie/Fannie, etc.. they are “privately” run….AND the government is the Board of Directors.

    • Rob says:

      In an earlier post, I discussed my review of USPS’s annual reports going back to 2000. Listed in USPS’s financial statements are entries for “Capital contributions of the U.S. government,” which have been $3.034 billion annually for as far back as I researched (2000). That’s over $30 billion since the turn of the century. Not to mention that USPS has run a budget deficit of over $4 billion since its 1971 reorganization. I can only assume that the $30 billion and $4 billion budget shortfalls are made up with taxes?

      But even if USPS hadn’t receive tax dollars in the past, it’s looking like it will need a truckload in the future. The Government Accounting Office estimates that USPS will run a deficit of $10.2 billion in 2009, plus a $1 billion cash shortfall that assumed unspecified “savings” of $5.9 billion that have not been (and may never be) realized. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that USPS will need $11-17 billion this year alone.

  20. Chris says:

    Who cares if the Post Office is losing money? The USPS has done more to grow the US economy than UPS and FedEx will ever do. All these neo-cons whining about big government never stop to think that without the communication the USPS has provided our economy would still be in the dark ages. $6B to run it each year is a bargain. If the free market ran the Post Office you would be paying at least $5 to send a simple letter. Take down your mailbox if you don’t want to support the USPS. But I doubt any of these neo-cons have the guts to do it.

    • John R. says:

      HAHAHAHA!
      I’m going to make three assumptions:

      1) You work in the public sector.
      2) You never took a college level economics 101.
      (You should study nobel peace prize economist Milton Friedman)
      3) Your best friend is a bong.

      I own a business and I can honestly say that I could NOT survive without UPS/FED EX. Although I use the USPS for billing, I could easily set up direct deposit bill pay for my customers. The added cost of electronic bill pay would be negated by zero postage fees. BTW, You could argue the USPS actually HURT our economy. HAHAHAHAHA!

  21. Ryan says:

    We’re not only maintaining a dying enterprise, we’re accepting the fact that since demand for their service is down, it’s acceptable for them to jack their prices instead of a scaled downsize. The Fed has done nothing to scale their service back: adjust routes to make their service areas larger thereby cutting heads, eliminate junk mail to lessen the burden that these people have to carry, close old, dilapidated post offices. Instead we don’t do this and we just accept the fact that a stamp costs more every month, and that we’ll just stop getting mail on Saturday. We roll over and accept it. Just another example of how leadership in the federal government has fucked another social program! Then they always tell us, “We’ll get it right the next time, we promise, and it’s imminent that we pass it now!”

  22. Danille says:

    Five days is fine by me. We are all going to have to tighten our belts to get through this. It wont hurt our culture to slow down a bit anyway.

  23. txdakini says:

    5 days would be okay, even four. However, I agree that this is not really the problem. I’ll give you an example. I lived in the Montrose area of Houston, Texas. There were six post office branches within 10 miles of my home (that I was aware of!). That is crazy! I now live out in the country in east texas. The closest three are 8, 12 and 15 miles away. Again, that’s crazy. I don’t think it is unreasonable to have post offices farther apart. Most folks don’t go to a post office more than once a week or once a month. Heck some folks never go. I sell books so go more often, but if I had to drive farther, the cost would be built in to my expenses. These buildings must cost a lot along with security, parking lots, fencing, utilities, etc. You can bet that there wouldn’t be a McDonald’s on every corner if it weren’t profitable.

    Or you could take the opposite way (suggested above) to stop delivery altogether. Everyone gets a post office box (although the re-building costs would be enormous, I think).

    If their mail volume is down, are they doing layoffs and closing branches? Any other company would.

  24. nick says:

    5 days is fine for me…
    I’d like to note a few things about “junk” mail though.

    -The so called junk mail generates massive amount of revenue for USPS. you take that away and you might as well take entire usps out.
    -Personally, about 90% of my junk mail goes to recycling. But, I do go through most of it before routing it to recycling, and I do find a lot of local deals in there. There are a lot of coupons, offers, sales in there…all there to save ME money on my next purchase. What is wrong in that?
    - Lastly, and this is a more indirect relationship, mail marketing employs a ton of people…all the way from creative designers, statisticians, analysts, marketing folks, manufacturing, printing…all the way down to the mail man…the size of machinery behind all that “junk” exists for a reason…there is still profit to be made from marketing. a lot people depend on this…don’t be so short sighted to dismiss it as “junk”.

  25. I have every possible bill sent online, and make all of my payments online, so I could stand having it cut back. Most of the mail that we receive is junk, anyway.


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