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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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macropundit
macropundit
2 months ago

My mail is 95% junk, and goes in the trash. The government is subsidizing the sending of this junk with our tax dollars. If they didn’t I’d have less of it. Absolutely the USPS needs to have its budget shrunk, and shrink itself as well.

GaryW
GaryW
2 months ago

A few months ago, a package was shipped to me via USPS from Minnesota. According to the USPS website, it arrived at a sorting facility a couple of miles from my home near Rochester NY soon after. The next day it made a trip to Buffalo and then back to Rochester the same day. A couple of days after that it was in Memphis. It spent a few days visiting several USPS facilities in Memphis (and maybe Graceland too, for all I know) before finally making it back to Rochester.

A replacement for an expiring credit card was mailed to me nearly 3 weeks ago. Yesterday I finally had the bank cancel it and send me a new one. No unauthorized charges were made.

Chazooo
Chazooo
2 months ago

There is no “good” answer to this problem, is there? I have experienced both ends of the service spectrum, but I know instinctively that “be careful what you ask for”. I use USPS Priority Mail for packages because they are (or were) quicker and less expensive, but now they advise us of service reductions to reduce expenses. Along those lines we all resent the removal of the drop boxes except at the fewer PO locations, plus in many urban areas, you need to be in a relaxed and proper mood to venture into the PO lobby to wait your turn for service.

Mark Schwartz
Mark Schwartz
2 months ago

Our USPS office is awful. Rude post office workers that work slow as molasses in Marchand dont have an ounce of what customer service is. I got kicked out of a postoffice lobby while waiting in line because there were too many customers in line inside their lobby. A real service would open more counters and take care if their customers.. Not the USPS… No wonder they loose billions each year. Another failed government jobs program.

Olin
Olin
2 months ago

Where I live the postal service is the pits, plus corruption in stealing. I continuously get my various neighbors mail. I even signed up for the Informed Delivery to let me know what is expected that day. What is in that notification might be delivered that day or some other day of their choosing. Plus I never know when my mail will come. It can vary from 11am to 7:30pm.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
2 months ago

Another happy USPS customer here. In our neighborhood the service is great. And along with all the junk, I still get a fair amount of important mail.

In addition, my hobby entails frequently receiving and mailing out small packages, and USPS rates for that can’t be beat.

wtfwjtd
wtfwjtd
2 months ago

There’s only one small little problem with cutting USPS delivery. Your so-called “alternatives” to the USPS are actually quite dependent on USPS to make many of their end-of-line deliveries, especially to rural areas. Chop up the USPS, and you mess with most every delivery company’s business model. This would translate into considerably higher delivery prices for us city folks, and far fewer delivery options (and even higher prices!) for rural ones. Is this what we really want? It doesn’t seem like it, at least for now.

I get it, delayed and missing mail is very frustrating. But like so many other things going on in our complicated society, there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

Last edited 2 months ago by wtfwjtd
B Carr
B Carr
2 months ago

I guess it depends upon where you live. USPS service here is near-perfect.

R Quinn
R Quinn
2 months ago

Making mail delivery more efficient is as hard as doing away with the penny.

Rarely do I receive any mail of value or necessity. On the other hand I have missed important stuff sent to me online- lost in my hundreds of e-mails each couple of days.

To cut wasted trips to mailbox – in my case down one flight of stairs – I’ve signed up for the USPS Informed delivery App. Each morning I get an e-mail containing pictures of all the mail that will be in the box that day along with a list of any packages on the way.

It’s not 100% accurate, but pretty good and for several days in a row I don’t bother getting the JUNK mail that’s the only thing in the box.

Edmund Marsh
Edmund Marsh
2 months ago

In the early 80’s, when I first heard talk of privatizing mail delivery to improve service, my USPS-employed friend explained to me why it was important to protect the mail delivery monopoly. Supposedly, private companies would cherry-pick the best business, and leave the rest of us underserved. Apparently, Congress thought it better for all to suffer poor service together, and still does.

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
2 months ago
Reply to  Edmund Marsh

Except we don’t “all” suffer poor service. I think they do a pretty good job overall, considering the financial restraints imposed by Congress. However DeJoy needs to go.

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