What did you get in the mail today? Not much, I'll bet.
In the wake of an announcement by the U.S. Postal Service that it was considering eliminating Saturday mail service, I did an informal survey of U.S. mail recipients I know. Here are my results:
Single, middle-aged woman living in an apartment in Maryland near Washington, D.C: Two magazines, Two offers for cruises and one bill. "Who cares?" she asks.
Lots fewer than there used to be. The volume of mail declined by 9.5 billion pieces in 2008 and is expected to have fallen another 28 billion when the 2009 audit is final.
100-year-old woman living in a condo in Minneapolis: "All junk mail and bills." Her daughter, who manages her affairs, says, "As long as companies provide a reasonable amount of time before late fees start coming in, it doesn't matter when the mail arrives. "
Of those who responded to a survey in the online Wall Street Journal about mail delivery, about 67% agreed with this "who gives a hoot" analysis.
Administrator for a home health agency in Detroit provides the dissenting vote: "I get more payments on Saturday than I do any other day of the week. If we didn't get mail on Saturday, it would change the cash flow. Plus, any time you take a day out of the system for delivery you really push back getting things to doctors. We have to have original signatures. There's no way around it. Eliminating Saturday mail would slow down the whole process and make it more difficult."
But wouldn't you think those enormous health insurance bills that we pay would be enough to take care of this problem?
Single 26-year-old man living in an apartment in New Orleans: "I haven't gotten my mail in a couple of days. Do you want me to get it and see what's there?"
As recently as a couple of years ago, I would have been unhappy if the postal service had announced that the mail would no longer be delivered on Saturday because most of my freelance customers paid me by check. These days, I and my freelancing compatriots are copacetic. Those all-important payments arrive by direct deposit.
Even the people who could lose their jobs don't seem to be too worried. When I asked the post person who delivers the mail to my mailbox at the end of the driveway what he thought about the end of Saturday delivery, he shrugged. "In two more years, I'll have 35 years in and then I'm going to retire. In the meantime – we're not supposed to say this – but almost everything I deliver is junk."
My postal carrier is in the majority. Out of more than 700,000 postal employees, almost 300,000 will be eligible to retire in the next four years, according to Government Executive magazine. Will anybody care when they go? Not the way it looks now.
So maybe we're not going far enough. If eliminating Saturday delivery doesn't matter, how about creating some real savings – throwing the postal workers an early retirement party and going to three-day-a-week delivery augmented by guaranteed-delivery e-mail.
What we need is a new motto: "Neither rain nor sleet nor server breakdown."
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