03/25/10 — No mail on Saturdays no worry for most

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No mail on Saturdays no worry for most

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 25, 2010 1:46 PM

Rain, sleet, snow and gloom of night might not stop mail carriers from making their rounds, but a plan expected to be submitted next week to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission would stop them from making Saturday deliveries.

Overnight delivery and Postal Service box mail would not be affected. Estimates indicate it would save the government $3 billion a year.

For the most part, people with whom the News-Argus spoke were unaware of the proposal. Most who were asked said they like Saturday mail delivery, but don't see any major problems with it being eliminated.

Wendy Kohls, title clerk at Deacon Jones Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, said Saturday's mail is not usually crucial to the business's operation.

"I don't think it would really affect any car dealerships. She (the mail carrier) hardly delivers anything on Saturday or picks up anything."

Wayne Barbour, the dealership's sales manager, said he doesn't think the loss of Saturday mail delivery would be a problem. But not having overnight service would be, he noted. He said that some items, such as bank contracts, are sent and received regularly by overnight service.

Turner Wood, manager at Belk at Berkeley Mall, said he would prefer to continue to get mail on Saturday but also said it is not as important as it once was.

"Our inbound mail is not the volume it used to be years ago. We do not get as much time-sensitive, but I would prefer six days to five. A lot of our communication used to be mail, now it is via e-mail."

Jean Darden, who lives near Snow Hill, had just dropped off some items to be mailed at the main Postal Service office on William Street, when she said that she would like to continue to get Saturday delivery at her mailbox at home, but added that she realizes the government could save money by cutting it out.

"It is more convenient for me," she said. "But then those dollars could be spent in education or something else."

Other people said they don't see how the move would save a significant amount of money.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, mail volume is projected to fall from 177 billion last year to 150 billion in 2020, including a 37 percent decline in the amount of first-class mail. Revenue generated by first-class mail is expected to decrease from 51 percent today to about 35 percent in 2020.

The Postal Service is looking at eliminating the Saturday delivery -- and plans a rate increase -- in an effort to ward off a projected $7 billion loss this year. It could face a cumulative loss of $238 billion over 10 years if action isn't taken, postal officials said.

Since the postal reorganization of the 1970s, the post office has not received tax money and relies on revenues it generates for operations, said Carl Walton, communications coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service Greensboro District that includes Wayne County.

At that time the volume of mail was increasing. However, that has changed, largely because of e-mail and the Internet, he said.

"Overall, we are trying to talk to Congress to recalculate our business model," Walton said.

The changes would allow the postal service to be more responsive to customer needs and more competitive in the marketplace without the need for constant rate increases, he said.

Eliminating Saturday delivery would affect more than 30,000 post offices plus mail processing centers.

"Our efforts in moving forward go along with a poll that a number of people don't want to see Saturday dropped, but they do want to see the post office stay around," he said.

Saturday is the lightest delivery day of the week and would have the least effect on businesses, Walton noted.

While there would be no Saturday delivery, post offices would still remain open and mail would be placed in post office boxes.

"People who insist on mail on Saturday may consider a post office box," he said.

Also, express mail, for those willing to pay, will remain available.

Walton said the Postal Service is prepared to implement the change if it is approved and that it would take three to six months to complete.

Other factors played into the decision to ask for the change, he said.

"We are required by Congress to put in $5 billion a year to pre-fund a retirement account. That has really hampered our ability to operate. We are asking that we be able to pay as we go. Without that requirement we would be breaking even."

The request also seeks a more flexible work force to better respond to changing demands, he said. Walton said the postal service wants the ability to hire permanent part-time people who would work only so many hours a week and who would not have to be made full-time.

Also being sought is the ability to look at and introduce new products that customers may need and to compete more effectively in the marketplace.