For as long as anyone alive can remember, the mail has come on Saturday. Since 1863 the mail service has offered delivery six days a week, through rain, snow, sleet or hail! Well, that last bit has softened, and we have already missed one day this winter since our local carrier couldn’t get into our neighborhood safely. But in the same way the post office itself is open on Saturday to get out letters or mail back those Netflix DVDs, delivery came on the weekend which gave you a chance to grab a movie from Netflix or a game from Goozex.
But like everything else, things change. Last year USPS lost $16 billion, and the Saturday delivery was only maintained through a mandate from congress. The estimate is that the USPS will save at least $2 billion a year by doing away with Saturday delivery … which sounds great until you realize that the USPS lost $16 billion last year alone! Those crippling numbers are partly due to a number of bizarre measures from Congress through the years, including one that requires the USPS to prepay 75 years worth of retirees health benefits, in effect paying on benefits for employees who haven’t been born yet!
The other problem is that the cost of mailing a letter is a tremendous bargain. That you can mail a letter anywhere for a nominal fee, or that I can send a complete XBOX360 game anywhere in the country with tracking for about $2 is just amazing – especially when you think about what has happened with fuel costs over the past 5 years or so. So in reality, the USPS has no possible way to break even unless they started charging $1.50 or so per letter!
Many other countries have long since dropped Saturday delivery, and there hasn’t been a problem. When you think about what comes through the mail these days, the justification seems even weaker. Even listening to reasons given by those opposed to dropping the service seems to amount to they are opposed to service stopping because ‘that’s the way it has always been’.
Even the big reasons I was a weekly post office visitor before – Netflix for DVDs and Goozex for games – has dried up. We use the Roku for Amazon, Netflix and Hulu streaming exclusively at this point. Game companies have more or less killed off second-hand game trading for the PC, and since my mobile gaming has moved to iOS and Android, I no longer get any DS or PSP games. Even for my kids there isn’t a ton of use – I probably got ~6 XBOX360 games for my older son last year, and my younger son has pretty much switched to iOS and PC for his occasional gaming.
What do you think? Should the USPS cut Saturday service? Or should those losses just get sucked up by the government (i.e. us)? Do you even care about the mail anymore?
You can read the official press release here.
And since I raised the subject with my title … here is some Gil Scott Heron …