Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…and not even the USPS’s own leadership can stop Saturday delivery of mail. The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday it had reversed a decision to end Saturday deliveries following pressure from Congress. The stoppage of all mail except packages — the USPS’s most lucrative component — would have ceased on Saturday had Congress not blocked USPS board efforts.
The news has been consistently bad for national post offices, forced to confront a world of declining snail mail activity and competition from more efficient shipping services like FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and UPS (NYSE:UPS). The proposed elimination of Saturday deliveries (excluding packages) would have potentially saved the company billions. Standing in the way, however, was a ban on five-day mail deliveries the USPS hoped Congress would lift. That didn’t happen.
The reasoning behind the refusal to stop Saturday deliveries is not entirely clear. The Senate passed a bill forcing the postal service to restructure and come up with ways to save other than cutting deliveries. The House didn’t vote and didn’t respond with any bill. While its future hung in the balance, USPS leadership came up with the gamble of trying to stop Saturday deliveries on its own. Though some representatives noted the dependence of seniors on Saturday deliveries, the continuation of package shipments would seem to have averted that crisis…
The bad news for post office consumers is that the number of employees will likely shrink, while prices on all USPS services are expected to rise. In exchange for the disruption of letter and flyer deliveries on weekends, those changes seem more difficult to swallow. Nonetheless, the USPS board will have to try another plan to stop its billion-dollar annual losses.
Other cuts could include the elimination of post offices — a painful price to pay for consumers who have become exasperated with the inefficiency of local operations. From outsourcing customer support and cutting the number of clerks on duty in local post offices, the USPS has made one unpopular decision after another. Unfortunately, for a government agency that requires congressional approval without receiving taxpayer funding, the USPS’s hands will be tied for the near future.