U.S. Postal Service wants to deliver mail 5 days a week, not 6

It probably has to be done, but it feels so wrong: on Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service asked Congress for permission to deliver the mail five days a week instead of six.

Naturally, this all comes down to money. Americans don't have a lot these days, and making matters worse, we're using the postal service less with the advent of email and online bill paying. And then there's the little matter of a postal service study conducted last year, which indicates that by skipping a day, the U.S. Postal Service might save $3.5 billion a year.

Losing a Day of Mail

    Postmaster General John E. Potter asked Congress on January 28th for permission to cut one day of delivery service.

    Jessica Hill, AP

    Massive deficits could force the United States post office to reduce mail delivery from six to five days a week.

    Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

    The Post Office is running at a huge deficit, losing $2.8 billion in 2008.

    Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

    The Post Office suggested cutting mail delivery service on Saturday or Tuesday, which is a light day for mail.

    Stan Honda, AFP / Getty Images

Now, you might think that Saturday would get the axe, but not necessarily. Some studies have shown that Tuesdays are the day when a mail carrier's bag is the least heavy, and so that might be the day to cut, if Congress grants permission.

I know some people who barely notice that the U.S. Postal Service exists probably won't care much, but for me, this hits home right where it hurts: my wallet.

As a freelance journalist and the sole breadwinner of my family, my money comes courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. They bring me my checks. (The one exception happens to be AOL, which does direct deposit. Thank you, AOL.)

It's not easy receiving your paycheck from your local postal carrier instead of getting it through direct deposit or having your boss hand it to you personally.

Once, the postal service took 10 days to deliver a paycheck of mine from California instead of the typical two or three. It rattled me so much that for a full year, I had the magazine send me my checks via Fed-Ex.

And a couple years ago some guy came over to my house when I was mowing the lawn. He told me, "I have this check here, that I've had at my house for a few weeks. Sorry I didn't bring it over here. It looks kind of important."

(I'm still fantasizing about duct-taping that moron to a ceiling fan, and turning the switch on full speed).

Still, overall, the postal service has been very good about delivering my paychecks, which come mostly from writing magazine articles and the occasional book or corporate writing project. But now I'm being told that either Saturday or Tuesdays, there's going to be no mail.

Granted, as the studies show, Tuesdays are light on mail. If an employer is going to mail something important like a check, and it goes out on a Friday, chances are, I'll get it on a Monday. But there have certainly been Tuesdays when I've been broke and waiting for a check, and suddenly it arrives, fixing the rip in my space-time continuum.

If I get a check on a Saturday, while I can put it the bank over the weekend, it probably won't kill me to wait until Monday. On the other hand, how would you all like to get your paycheck after the weekend instead of before?

But, still, enough about me--and the countless number of other freelance and contract workers out there. I worry about grandparents who receive Medicare checks and folks who receive prescription medicine through the mail, and I wonder how they'll fare losing out on an extra day.

Of course, everyone in the public sphere will adjust -- they'll have to -- but what about the people who are going to lose their jobs, if we get rid of a day? I imagine there are a lot of part-time employees and maybe even full-time flex workers who are going miss a day of mail delivery.

And it's just not a problem of receiving mail. We'll lose a day to send mail.

We may not receive much mail on Tuesdays, but what about all the employers, government agencies and pharmacies that send out items on a Tuesday. (Please, please, let's not get rid of mail service on Tuesday).They'll have to wait until Wednesday morning, further delaying when people get paid or receive important items.

Everyone from advertisers to competitors to the public will come to know and understand that every Tuesday, they're going to conduct their business without the postal service. If you think that mail service is increasingly becoming irrelevant, not being able to use it on a work day is going to make it even more so to the public.

I am sympathetic to the postal service. Email, texting, IM-ing -- it's all making the postal service a little more overlooked, and I'm starting to feel a twinge of guilt for all the times I've referred to postal service as "snail mail." In the fiscal year of 2008, 9 billion fewer pieces of mail were sent out, a loss of 4.5%, and with that, $2.8 billion disappeared. They're predicting losses this year of $6 billion. Obviously, something has to change, but it seems like taking away a day of mail delivery -- a day when they could be earning revenue -- is a deathblow.

There is no mailman's official creed -- that's a myth. But nevertheless, almost every American knows the postal carrier's unofficial saying, which is inscribed on some post office walls around the country: Neither snow or rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

And then I think about one of the books I read as a kid -- I don't remember the title, but it was a nonfiction account of the Pony Express and of the heroic accounts of young men braving the elements to get packages to people in remote outposts of the Old West. In the early days of air mail, numerous pilots lost their lives, trying to get mail to people a little faster.

There's a lot of heritage, history, myth and Americana wrapped up in the postal service. We may love to gripe about it, but I have a feeling that if it's no longer around--even if we're just talking Tuesdays or Saturdays--we're going to really, really miss it. I know I will.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale). He implores the Postmaster General to change his mind.
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