Postal cutbacks make sense

By Observer editorial February 18, 2013 09:43 am

We all tend to get cranky when some little thing comes along to upset our accepted routines. We gripe and go on griping until one day we wake up and realize that the change, whatever it happens to be, doesn’t make much difference in our lives after all.

So it is with the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to cut home delivery of first class mail starting in August. We’ve been checking our mailboxes on Saturdays all our lives. It’s a ritual that ranks right up there with having a bowl of a certain kind of cereal on Saturday, or shaving and showering, or skipping the shave and the shower if that’s been our habit. We’re humans and most of us are fond of routine, and some of us feel like the world will come to an end if the routine is disturbed. 

Then we find out it doesn’t. 

When you think about it, there just isn’t much consequence to this particular reduction in service. It might be a little bothersome if we happen to be waiting for money to arrive in the mail, but how many people, really, ever send us money? Almost always, the mail we do get is from someone trying to part us from our money.  A trial offer for life insurance, an invitation to apply for a credit card, or a request for a donation from this charity or that can always wait till Monday. Or forever, for that matter.

A couple of legitimate concerns were raised when the announcement about elimination of Saturday delivery was first made, and the postal service, predictably, was able to swat them away. Many thought first about the the health and welfare of senior citizens who get their medications delivered in the mail; USPS answered there’s no threat there because package delivery will continue as always. Another concern was the impact the move will have on employment; USPS said there will be reduction in its labor force over time, but most of it will be through attrition.

Some people do still pay their bills by mail, and those paying off credit cards always have to worry about the usurious late fees connected with them. But there again, it’s not much of a problem. If something absolutely has to be mailed on a Saturday, it can be taken to a post office that has Saturday pick-up.

First class mail has been the postal service’s most profitable sector, but in the age of the Internet, demand is steadily falling. According to figures provided by U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, it’s down 25 percent from 2001 and is expected to be down 50 percent by 2020. In 2002, the service delivered 102 billion pieces. The number fell to 74 billion in 2011.

Email and online bill paying and banking are part of this brave new world we live in. Heck, even love letters and letters from Mom and Pop come over the computer these days. So do newspapers, come to think of it. 

With demand declining so precipitously, it makes financial sense to cut back. The move will save the always struggling postal service $2 billion a year, and cause little, if any, inconvenience. 

It’s an idea whose time has come.