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Is End of Saturday Mail Such a Good Idea?

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The Expected Budget Deficit Of US Postal Service Grows To 7 Billion For '09
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Updated June 30, 2014

Ending Saturday mail delivery would save the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, which lost $8.5 billion in 2010, lots of money. But how much money, exactly? Enough to make a difference and stop the bleeding? The answer depends on who you ask.

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The Postal Service says stopping Saturday mail, an idea that has been floated several times, and moving to five-day delivery would save the agency $3.1 billion.

"The Postal Service does not take this change lightly and would not propose it if six-day service could be supported by current volumes," the agency wrote. "However, there is no longer enough mail to sustain six days of delivery. Ten years ago the average household received five pieces of mail every day. Today it receives four pieces, and by 2020 that number will fall to three.

"Reducing street delivery to five days will help rebalance postal operations with the needs of today's customers. It also will save about $3 billion a year, including reductions in energy use and carbon emissions."

But the Postal Regulatory Commission says ending Saturday mail would save far less than that, only about $1.7 billion a year. The Postal Regulatory Commission also projected that ending Saturday mail would result in larger mail-volume losses than the Postal Service predicts.

"In all cases, we chose the cautious, conservative path," Postal Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Ruth Y. Goldway said in March of 2011. "Our estimates, therefore, should be seen as the most likely, middle ground analysis of what could happen under a five-day scenario."

How End of Saturday Mail Would Work

Under five-day delivery, the Postal Service will no longer deliver mail to street addresses - residences or businesses - on Saturdays. Post Offices will remain open on Saturdays, though, to sell stamps and other postal products. Mail addressed to post office boxes will continue to be available Saturday.

The Government Accountability Office has raised questions about whether the Postal Service could realize $3.1 billion in savings by ending Saturday mail. The Postal Service is basing its projections on eliminating city- and rural-carrier work hours and costs through attrition and "involuntary separations."

"First, USPS's cost-savings estimate assumed that most of the Saturday workload transferred to weekdays would be absorbed through more efficient delivery operations," the GAO wrote. "If certain city-carrier workload would not be absorbed, USPS estimated that up to $500 million in annual savings would not be realized."

See also: End of Saturday Mail Moves Closer

The GAO also suggested that the Postal Service "may have understated the size of the potential mail volume loss."

And volume loss translates into revenue loss.

Impact of Ending Saturday Mail

Ending Saturday mail would have some positive and plenty of negative impacts, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission and GAO reports. Ending Saturday mail and implementing a five-day delivery schedule, the agencies said, would:

  • save the Postal Service an estimated $1.7 billion a year, nearly half as much as the $3.1 billion projected by the agency itself;
  • reduce mail volume and result in net revenue losses of $600 million a year, far more than the $200 million in lost revenue projected by the Postal Service;
  • cause a quarter of all First-Class and Priority mail to be delayed by two days;
  • negatively impact business mailers, local newspapers that rely on Saturday delivery, residential mailers who would be affected by longer mail transit times, and other population groups, such as rural residents, the homebound, or the elderly;
  • reduce the advantage that USPS has over competitors that do not offer Saturday delivery, particularly delivering postal parcels on Saturdays at no additional charge;
  • and diminish USPS's image, in part by reducing public contact with carriers.

Ending Saturday mail "would improve USPS's financial condition by reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and better aligning its delivery operations with reduced mail volumes," the GAO concluded. "However, it would also reduce service; put mail volumes and revenues at risk; eliminate jobs; and, by itself, be insufficient to solve USPS's financial challenges."

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