Postal Service Ends Saturday Delivery, Still Has Big Problems

A faded USPS logoCredit: Kevin Dooley/Foter.comWith the announcement that the United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays after August 2013, Netflix subscribers and recipients of generous checks from Uncle Sam are understandably a little upset. It’s safe to say, however, that no one will mourn the death of the weekend credit card bill.

That the USPS is on its financial deathbed is no secret. Last year, the organization hemorrhaged $15.9 billion. By eliminating Saturday delivery, they project that they’ll save $2 billion per year through downsizing certain positions, reducing overtime, and otherwise cutting costs.

The union complains that a congressional mandate—which requires that 75 years worth of retiree health care benefits be fully funded before 2016—is overly-burdensome and the cause of most of the USPS’ stress. It has even been suggested that it’s all a GOP plot to ruin the proud and noble Postal Service. But this only represents a $5.4-5.8 billion annual expenditure, which means there’s still about $10 billion in losses that can’t be blamed on congressional meddling.

Or can they? Although the USPS operates mostly as a private company does, it is subject to far more legislative interference than your average American business. One example: Congress sets postage rates.

Largely as a response to the exorbitant cost of postage in the early 1800s, Congress standardized stamp prices in 1845 at 5 cents for a local letter and 10 cents for one addressed more than 300 miles away.

If we had allowed prices to increase with inflation, it would cost $1.19 to send a first-class letter; $2.38 if it were traveling more than 300 miles. Instead, it costs 46 cents flat.

Congress also mandates that the USPS service all areas of the country once per day—even the rural counties that are a perennially money-losing proposition. 

The federal government faces a choice: relinquish control of the USPS and allow it to function as other, less dysfunctional companies do, or just admit that this is a money-losing pet project and start shoveling taxpayer cash directly into the Post Office's coffers.

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  • Ryan60657||

    How many countries have privatized their national postal delivery organizations?

  • Paul.||

    The U.S.'s was originally, until the U.S. postal service was formed, and sued all the private carriers out of existence and became the sole monopoly.

    If I recall my history right, it was the private carriers that were the first to introduce door-to-door delivery, something the government's service didn't do.

  • Zeb||

    Quite a few, I think. Germany's became DHL. Which I think shows that USPS isn't necessarily doomed to fail if they are allowed to do what they want and charge what they want.

  • albo||

    relinquish control of the USPS and allow it to function as other, less dysfunctional companies do, or just admit that this is a money-losing pet project and start shoveling taxpayer cash directly into the Post Office's coffers

    I'm sure it will be the latter, but only after the administration picks a crony company to supply the cash shovels, which of course will cost $17,000 apiece and frequently break.

  • Trespassers W||

    If we had allowed prices to increase with inflation, it would cost $1.19 to send a first-class letter

    But surely the real cost of transporting a letter has come WAY down since the 1800s, so I would expect the cost of first-class postage to be substantially less than $1.19.

  • Almanian.||

    I don't know that this is true. Let's see an accounting.

  • Agammamon||

    Its estimated to be at least $.53 *right now*.

  • ||

    Most of the cost is probably in delivery to your doorstep. It's all those guys in trucks driving around routes every day. You can ship a ton of mail in bulk for cheap, but distributing it out ot individual houses is expensive.

  • PapayaSF||

    A lot of it has to do with the sorting. The USPS makes money on junk mail, in part because it all comes presorted, in standard sizes, machine-readable ZIP+4 codes, etc. An equivalent amount of First Class mail is a very mixed assortment, with things like hand-addressed birthday cards.

  • Zeb||

    Depends where you are sending it. You pay the same to send a letter next door or to the most remote, roadless village in Alaska.

  • Sandi||

    I took a Saturday shit in a post office once.

  • Almanian.||

    My kinda woman

  • Jordan||

    I take less pleasure in Saturday shits, since I'm not being paid to take them.

  • ||

    If we had allowed prices to increase with inflation, it would cost $1.19 to send a first-class letter; $2.38 if it were traveling more than 300 miles. Instead, it costs 46 cents flat.

    This is what I have been saying for the last few years. My girlfriend's (yes, we're still together... for now) dad is a manager at a post office, and he pretty flat out states that Congress is shoehorning the Post Offices into not making any money. He questions the veracity of keeping random 1-employee post offices open in BFE, Alaska or Montana, etc. and somewhat agrees that $0.46 postage in a day when most bills can be paid online are ridiculous.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Paul.||

    I see a blonde rolling around on a bed with a teddy bear...

  • Paul.||

    Oh, that was an ad...

    Too bad the technology doesn't really work, it makes everyone look kind of... well... yeah...

    If I recall correctly, this project came out of the government sponsored face-recognition technology. When that function proved... not-so-functional, one of the researchers decided to do this 'rethinking race' thing and do a kind of art project.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Really? The tech's origin is interesting.

  • ||

    And as soon as someone begins to talk about privatizing the post office you have liberals come out of the woodwork as strict Constitutionalists. Fuck you, cut spending.

  • Almanian.||

    No, fuck YOU, cut spending

  • mad libertarian guy||

    And as soon as someone begins to talk about privatizing the post office you have liberals come out of the woodwork as strict Constitutionalists.

    You noticed this too?

    Except that it doesn't mandate that Congress form a postal service, it merely allows them to do so.

    Article 1 Section 8 Clause 7: "The Congress shall have the power [. . .] To establish Post Offices and post Roads;"

    There is no requirement there that they do so, it merely grants them the authority to do so. So fuck liberals and their disingenuous reading of the Constitution. Like everything else, it's purposefully obfuscated to support their pre-drawn conclusion.

  • Agammamon||

    Look, everyone knows they can't help themselves - why do you think they get mad about advertising? Can't control their impulses so they must have someone else fo it for them.

    That's why everything the government is allowed to do, the government *must* do - these guys can't say no to more power.

  • ||

    Lysander Spooner would like a word with you.

  • Almanian.||

    if I'm gonna die for a word, my word is "poontang"

  • JEP||

    I always wondered if he was the big spoon or the little spoon...

  • Hugh Akston||

    There is no spoon.

  • Hyperion||

    If we had allowed prices to increase with inflation, it would cost $1.19 to send a first-class letter; $2.38 if it were traveling more than 300 miles. Instead, it costs 46 cents flat.

    It's also far cheaper to ship packages through the post office than FedEx. Not sure if they are losing money on that also, or not.

  • John Walters||

    Apparently they will continue to deliver packages on Saturdays because that is actually a profitable venture. I can't find the article that I read that in, though. But I believe it. It seems the main cause of their financial woes is that they are forced to service every address each day for far less than what it actually costs (in many cases).

  • kinnath||

    Current law requires delivery on Saturday. So the PO will delivery main to post office boxes and will delivery packages to homes. They comply with the law while reducing costs.

  • kinnath||

    . . . deliver mail to PO boxes and packages to houses.

  • Enough About Palin||

    ^^SPOILER ALERT!!!

  • Enough About Palin||

    Seriously, half the fun of HyR is puzzling through fellow posters' typing. It's like Sudoku.

  • Agammamon||

    Its, uh, *not* cheaper - you just don't see the full cost in the bill you get.

  • Zeb||

    Do you know that that is true, or are you just speculating? I'm honestly asking.

  • Paul.||

    So, they're finally going to stop Saturday mis-delivery.

  • tres||

    Not til August. What is so freakin' difficult about dumping Saturday delivery?

  • Marshall Gill||

    What a business model! We are losing money hand over fist so let's reduce service without a reduction in price!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Does this mean their first-class monopoly doesn't cover Saturdays and Sundays now? Or do they now have the right to prevent competition for the two days they do jack shit?

    But it's "private."

  • ||

    When will the DOJ start an anti-trust investigation?

  • Almanian.||

    Right after they conclude the "Fast And Furious" investigation.

  • ||

    They're investigating Vin Diesel?!?

  • Agammamon||

    Morality investigation - he plays D&D.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe a petition to the White House is in order? Monopolies suck ass bad enough when the company is actually providing its crappy service. But when I can't even get crappy service 2/7 of the time, well, I'm thinking it's time to end the monopoly.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I couldn't agree more. If there is one thing Obama should be focusing on, it's getting rid of Monopoly once and for all. That way we can all just play Settlers of Cataan.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They got rid of the iron for a fucking cat. It's like there's some discrimination going on because Monopoly had a dog but not a cat.

  • Zeb||

    Well, who irons anymore? They should have replaced it with a smartphone or video game controller or something.

  • Pro Libertate||

    People who don't wear wrinkled clothing? I'm not aware of any iron-replacing technology. I mean, I send my stuff out, but they still iron.

  • Brandon||

    You still need an iron to wax skis.

  • Agammamon||

    Well, he has worked hard to get the iron piece changed.

    'Course now iron makers are pissed that they don't *matter*.

  • Pro Libertate||

    He's responsible for that, too? Shit, maybe he really is the Antichrist.

  • Sevo||

    Don't know a private company dumb enough to sign a 'no layoff' contract with the workers.
    Prolly gonna take bankruptcy to void the union contracts before it's worth more than a dime on a dollar.

  • Almanian.||

    GM, Chrysler, Ford effectively did so with the "job bank" language in the 90's. Hence the recent "near death" experience for all three.

  • Sevo||

    I was a afraid the auto industry might have.
    So a dime on a dollar sounds good?

  • flye||

    I'm not sure what I'll ever do without a sixth day of home loan refi offers cleverly disguised as something else (tax documents, greeting cards, credit card bills) in order to fool me into opening them.

  • ChrisO||

    The substantial drop in the amount of first class mail over the last 20 years has a lot to do with it, too. People don't communicate by mail as much anymore, and even bills are increasingly received and paid online.

    Despite that, the USPS still has to send the driver around the entire route every day, just so all that wonderful junk mail can be delivered promptly.

    I lose some of my libertarian purity when it comes to the USPS. I can value in having an official mail carrier, but I think it has clearly failed as an independent operation. Congress won't leave it truly alone to operate as a business, so it should probably just be an agency.

  • Sevo||

    On your dime, fine.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Look into the eyes of the Dragon, and despair! I destroy you! I consign you to oblivion!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    *makes pathetic puppy dog eyes*

  • SIV||

    At one time wasn't the US Mail the only delivery service which required a warrant to examine the contents? I think the private delivery companies can open your stuff and share the contents with agents of the state just because they feel like it.

  • Agammamon||

    I think its more or less the other way around - the USPS has its own police force to examine mail.

  • Zeb||

    Yes, but they do need a warrant to open something, I am pretty sure. From what I have heard from people who work for the USPS, it is much harder for them to search a package than for a private carrier.

    Registered and certified mail are also very useful for certain things.

  • Invisible Finger||

    A smarter idea would be to keep running 6-days a week but reduce residential delivery/pickup to odd/even schedules. Continue 5-day-a-week delivery/pickup to commercial addresses.

    The bigger problem with the post office isn't the silly pension obligations, it's the fact that it's mostly a union shithole. Shitty employees can't be fired, much like the public school system, another bankrupt institution that won't go away. People would gladly pay 75 cents for first-class letters if they had any confidence in the work-ethic of the employees. Instead they put a hate-message in my mail box telling my they won't deliver mail if my steps aren't shoveled. Meanwhile, they insist on walking on snow-covered lawn even when the sidewalk is cleared. Icy, unstable, unshoveled lawn is A-OK to walk on but unshoveled sidewalk is a reason to skip out on work.

    Congress won't let these pieces of shit be fired, so instead they retaliate by setting the price of postage too low to cover costs.

  • Zeb||

    Well, to be fair, you are a lot less likely to fall and seriously hurt yourself on the lawn than the sidewalk.

  • Agammamon||

    Eh, take my situation. I live in a rural part of a rural county. My little town had one post office and no home delivery - we all ha PO boxes at the station to get our mail at.

    How often do you think I need to go to the post office? Once a month, simply to clear out the junk mail in my box and pick up my paper credit union statement/CU election junk.

    All of my actual bills are sent electronically (and paid the same way) and if I order something 9/10 times its coming via Fedex or UPS - both of which deliver to my door.

    If USPS were to dissapear right now, I wouldn't even notice.

  • Agammamon||

    Also, I'm retired military, by *check* comes in by direct deposit - If you're on SS you ought to be old enough to handle having a bank account.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They've been on my shit list ever since they tried to figure out a way to charge me for my e-mails.

  • ||

    What they should do is offer saturday delivery for an additional monthly fee. Then extend that to sunday delivery.
    Then extend that to every day of the week, and only offer free delivery on monday, wednesday, friday.
    That way Netflix subscribers can get 7 day a week delivery and everyone who doesn't get mail is reduced to 3 days per week delivery.

  • Agammamon||

    Who does Netflix delivery anyway - if its not "on demand" I'm going to rip it off a torrent.

  • ||

    True. I dropped the DVD service when they stopped offering a discount for getting both.

    Of course, Netflix's instant watching library sucks major balls whne it ocmes to movies. But I can get almost anything I want off a torrent for free.
    New releases are still hard to find in quality. You usually have to wait a few weeks to get a good DVD rip.

  • Agammamon||

    Heh, just went to the website - I just *love* how you can't search their library without being a member.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    You have to subscribe to find out what's in it.

  • pmains||

    Is Pelosi on the board of directors?

  • Jordan||

    Of course, Netflix's instant watching library sucks major balls whne it ocmes to movies. But I can get almost anything I want off a torrent for free.

    Yep. This is exhibit A of why studio execs are clueless idiots.

  • NihilistZerO||

    ^^THIS^^

    Technology is destroying the old models of biz, life, etc. Those who don't try and keep are doomed.

  • mustard||

    Some people have a problem with stealing.

  • Brandon||

    http://money.msn.com/how-to-bu.....b83ea5b0ef

    MSN is already all over how apocalyptically awful it will be to not have some letters delivered on Saturdays. They don't acknowledge the inconvenient "packages will still be delivered and offices will still be open" fact.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    MSN is already all over how apocalyptically awful it will be to not have some letters delivered on Saturdays.

    So is HuffPo and every other liberal leaning source out there. They act as if people can't get their welfare check on Saturdays, people will starve.

    Fuck these disingenuous statists with a rusty chainsaw.

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