Nearly everyone saw it coming — nevertheless, the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to end Saturday mail delivery is a bit disconcerting.
The postal service announced Wednesday that it will stop mail delivery in August, expecting to save about $2 billion annually by making the move. Post offices would remain open on Saturdays so that customers can drop off mail or packages, buy postage stamps, or access their post office boxes, officials said. But hours likely would be reduced at thousands of smaller locations, they said.
The postal service also plans to continue Saturday delivery of packages. That part of its business has been profitable and has the potential for more growth.
There has been a financial hemorrhaging at the postal service for years. Congress has not helped the situation, doing little to prompt fundamental changes. The postal service said it had a $15.9 billion net loss for fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. That amount is three times the loss recorded for the previous year.
The Washington Post reports that opposition to significant changes rests mostly with lawmakers from far-flung rural communities, who fear that a change in schedules could jeopardize low-cost delivery of medicines and medical supplies to elderly customers. The publishing industry also has complained that any changes would force quicker magazine publication deadlines and require some publishers to seek private delivery options instead, likely raising newsstand prices.
So what to do? While the elimination of Saturday mail delivery will be a big savings, it is only part of the remedy. The service has to find ways to be more competitive, offer service and products that customers will want, and improve efficiency.
That’s a tall order, and one that will play out over the next several years. Elimination of Saturday delivery is only the first step.