USPS To End Saturday Service?

Late Monday, the U.S. Postal Service reported that it lost $3.8 billion in the 2009 fiscal year. As you might guess, people just aren't using "snail mail" like they used to. The suggestion to shave some more off their costs? Cut Saturday service. That would save an estimated $3.5 billion per year. I think this is a pretty reasonable idea.

These days, few people sending letters or packages through USPS care too much about timely delivery. If they did, they could still use UPS or FedEx. Instead, postal service could just act as a cheaper alternative -- with no Saturday service. I think, personally, I could live with that. And I suspect businesses could too. After all, Saturday isn't a business day anyway.

The biggest problem I could see would be for those who pay their bills via USPS. An extra day for payments in-transit could translate to more late fees. Of course, this problem should take care of itself before too long -- once people realize that Saturday service has ended, and they need to mail their checks a day earlier. It's consumers' responsibility to understand how to get their bills in on-time, even if the mail service changes its policies. Besides, with each day that passes more and more Americans are choosing online or phone-based payment options, rather than rely on the mail.

A much smaller worry: I wonder, though, how Netflix or other such delivery services that utilize USPS would feel about this change. As a Netflix customer myself, I admit that I wouldn't be thrilled with having one less day per week to mail or receive movies. But given their new on-demand service that I can access through my Blu-ray player, I think I could supplement any lack of mailed movies through that option.

Bottom line: it seems that technology will increasingly take the place of postal service in the years to come. This time around, Saturday service may be eliminated. But give it a few more years, and we might see Monday-Wednesday-Friday service. One day, USPS may be eliminated entirely.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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