Misunderstandings abound regarding the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal to end Saturday delivery of all mail except parcels later this year. Here some of the most common myths:
1) Congress recently put a stop to the plan. That’s the story told by the news media, Congress, and the Government Accountability Office, but it’s not necessarily true. Congress did indeed put the requirement to continue six-day mail delivery into a recently approved appropriations bill. But the USPS’s Office of Inspector General says that if the Postal Service merely refuses the pittance in such appropriations (which are mostly for free mail for the blind), it would not be blocked from ending Saturday delivery. And it’s not even clear whether USPS’s plan – which would continue Saturday delivery of certain types of mail – would violate the legislation.
2) Ending Saturday delivery would save USPS $2 billion per year. Even the Postal Service talks about $2 billion in savings, but in reality its position is that its profitability (cost savings minus lost revenue) would grow by $2 billion. The calculations have been subject to debate and competing interpretations, partly because of different assumptions about how much business would be lost. Also, the $2 billion estimate was for full cessation of Saturday delivery, not for the latest plan to have mostly non-career employees delivering profitable parcels on Saturday.
3) The loss of customers would hurt the Postal Service. Actually, it could be a blessing. The customers who care most about Saturday delivery are daily newspapers and certain weekly publications; few other mailers care so much about getting delivery on a specific day of the week. Newspapers may be USPS’s most unprofitable product because they are often inefficiently prepared for mailing, can be difficult to sort, and sometimes get special treatment. Even highly presorted and dropshipped weekly magazines – though not as unprofitable as USPS alleges – are no big money maker. And most will survive without Saturday delivery.
4) Letter carriers oppose ending Saturday delivery. Yes, the main carrier’s union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, is vehemently opposed to the Postal Service’s plan. But many rank-and-file carriers would be happy to get Saturdays off. The NALC is “fighting a battle the majority of its members do not want,” writes Tom Wakefield, a city carrier and NALC member who runs PostalMag.com.“Five-day would be such a benefit to letter carriers. Today, because of shortages of letter carriers in many districts, many, many carriers are being mandated to work on their days off against their wishes, often with less than 24 hours notice,” adds Wakefield, mirroring frequent comments by rank-and-file carriers to Dead Tree Edition and other sites.
“Today, the ‘daily grind’ is stretched to six days, with a Sunday off and one day during the week for many carriers. Five-day would allow two days off in a row and the daily grind would only be five days.” Many carriers are also hoping that five-day delivery would cause USPS to thin its carrier ranks by offering retirement incentives.
5) Ending Saturday delivery is the key to saving the Postal Service. No one who has looked at USPS’s finances believes five-day delivery is a cure-all, regardless of their position on the Postal Service’s plan. Because of declining mail volumes, $2 billion alone is not enough turn around the Postal Service even if the accounting games with postal pensions and “pre-funded” retiree benefits are corrected. More cost cuts or, less likely, significant new revenue sources are needed to keep USPS afloat.