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Reducing mail service would save billions

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Do we really need postal deliveries six days a week?

By Ben Sheroan

Remember when it was exciting to get mail with your name on it. As a child, it was like Christmas morning in the mailbox. But the thrill of seeing your name on an envelope loses its excitement with maturity and the arrival of bills.

In this period of economic hardship, news of corporate restructuring, downsizing and a general woe-is-us attitude, the U.S. Postal Service has lined up behind the banks and carmakers in approaching Congress for support.

The agency wants relief from a federal regulation that requires it to deliver six days a week to every address in America. That’s been a mandate since 1983 and a general practice for generations.

The postmaster general told a Senate subcommittee recently that its volume is down by 9 million pieces or 4.5 percent over the past year. The Postal Service operated at a $2.8 billion loss last year and reportedly is headed for a $6 billion deficit this year.

How bad would it be if the mail only ran five days a week?

For me, not so much. In fact, I can think of nothing that comes by mail that can’t wait another day – except, of course, the newspaper you are holding right now.

The sales promotions come days in advance. The bills aren’t due immediately upon receipt. Surely, I can wait another day for the bank statements and credit card notices that describe how much money I don’t have.

In fact, getting the mail every other day would be just fine with me.

Consider this: If half the town had mail delivery on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the other half received service on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, that would cut the need for mail carriers in half, reduce the mileage driven and wear and tear on vehicles by half.

Reducing mail service from six to five days would save between $1.9 billion to $3.5 billion annually, depending on what study you believe. Imagine the savings from a three-day service.

And reducing service could increase revenue in a couple areas at local post offices.

For mail-sensitive businesses that need the steady arrival of payments to support their cash flow, the Postal Service could add a little up charge to maintain more frequent deliveries.

Another source of increased revenue would be post office boxes. By continuing to place mail daily in the boxes, the demand for that convenience would greatly increase demand for the rentals in a three-day delivery environment.

Don’t expect things to change any time soon. Congress, which recesses and takes vacations for weeks and months at a time, expressed concern about a five-day postal schedule. A three-day rotating schedule, even if it did make sense, isn’t likely to win wide support.

Just the same, maybe I’ll mail a letter to my Congressmen sharing the idea.

Where did I put those stamps?

Ben Sheroan is general manager of The LaRue County Herald News.