You Don’t Have Mail

Howard Rohleder

MY NEW ROUTINE is walking directly from the mailbox to our recycling container to deposit most, if not all, of that day’s mail. For years, I’ve been steadily reducing the amount of mail I send and receive. After reading Jonathan Clements’s experience with check washing, I’m looking to take this even further.

I remember when mail was important. My wife talks of growing up in Cleveland where, during the Christmas season, mail actually arrived twice a day. Now, our street randomly fails to get its daily mail delivery, presumably due to staffing shortages.

Every day in our neighborhood, UPS, FedEx and Amazon are making deliveries, sometimes more than once. I’m also diligent in watching my email because that’s where I get my utility and credit card bills, personal correspondence, ads from stores or restaurants I patronize, and notifications that new content has been added to sites such as Barron’s or HumbleDollar. Meanwhile, very little of importance comes in the U.S. mail. Remember handwritten letters? I suspect the Smithsonian is working up a display.

We’ve heard for years that the post office runs annual deficits in the billions of dollars. It raises rates occasionally. Still, compared to inflation, the increase over the past few decades in the price of a first-class stamp seems like a bargain—unless you compare it to free instant delivery of email anywhere in the world.

A way to address the operating deficit would be to change residential mail delivery to three days per week. Half the homes get mail Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the other half get it Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Would anyone notice?

This wouldn’t cut expenses in half because presumably commercial businesses would still need to get their mail six days a week. Or would they be okay with five? Are there any businesses dependent on Saturday delivery?

This plan might be a disadvantage for the M-W-F group because so many holidays fall on a Monday. What if you run a home-based business? Maybe daily mail delivery is important—but I suspect your business already has problems if it’s dependent on the post office. I thought about people who get their medications delivered by mail, but they already manage without Sunday and holiday delivery. Does anyone squawk when new federal holidays are added and mail no longer turns up on that day?

A business that cuts services to survive is in a bad spot, because further service reductions push even more customers away. But with the post office, it seems that ship has sailed. Customers and businesses have found alternatives. All day long, I watch UPS, FedEx and Amazon drive up and down my street. And then I check my email.

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