Snail mail crawls slowly to a halt in US

It is passing strange that a nation which has led the world in corporate rationalisations should stumble over a comparatively minor reform of a public service.  Yet this is just what has happened with the US Postal Service and moves to axe Saturday mail deliveries.

For places like Australia, Canada and Sweden, weekend deliveries are merely faded memories of yesteryear. Aussies have lived without such a ‘luxury’ for many years and it makes absolutely no difference to our lives.

Yet, US lawmakers are getting all hot and sweaty over the issue with some suggesting the initiative could not proceed without Congressional approval.

Perhaps they should listen to their constituents who are funding US Postal Service’s losses which were a massive $16 billion last year. That’s a helluva subsidy families are being asked to fund.

Not all of that is attributable to Saturday deliveries but they represent a saving of some $2 billion.

The Postal Service is fighting an uphill battle to remain both relevant and viable in a world where social media have made snail mail almost completely irrelevant for younger generations.

Face it, most Gen X and Yers would not know how to find an address let alone how to correctly endorse an envelope and probably are not even sure what a postage stamp actually is. That’s not so much putting them down as simply acknowledging the frenetic pace of change in this day and age.

The volume of mail moved by USPS has declined by around a quarter over the past dozen years and shows no sign of halting its slide. Rationalisation has certainly impacted its workforce with numbers of staff declining by nearly a third in the same timeframe.

The lawmakers fear a negative response by postal unions if they permit the axeing of Saturday mail deliveries and they also reckon that voters get touched by the service nearly every day and would be angry if denied it.

Yet the experience in Australia was that protests were limited and the reform was quickly assimilated without any substantive voter backlash.

Most Aussies felt that, since almost all mail seems to be bills these days, it was better not to have these ticking time bombs land on the kitchen bench during the weekend anyway. It is difficult to imagine Americans would be any different.


Acknowledgement: Ron Dixon, The New York Times