U.S. Postal Service gives in to Internet; moves to kill Saturday mail delivery

Starting this summer your bills, random letters, and Netflix envelopes may not arrive on Saturdays.

The United States Postal Service recently said it can shave $2 billion off its annual expenses by dumping Saturday letter delivery, a reduction in service that the USPS hopes to begin this August. Note that the Postal Service’s call for five-day delivery has been rejected many times by the U.S. Congress.

The USPS continues to struggle with its place in the world as e-mail, online banking, IM, BlackBerry Messenger, Whatsapp, and Facebook replace so-called “snail mail” for sending photos to grandma, paying bills, and checking up on friends across the country and around the globe.

So, the cost reduction could be good news for the national mail service, which lost $15.9 billion during fiscal 2012 (which was mostly due to several retiree benefit payouts) and $5.1 billion in fiscal 2011.

The USPS has been dwindling in its importance to everyday life for years, while the Internet keeps getting more important. Just take a look at this USPS chart showing the decline in total mail volume since 2002:

The decline in total USPS mail volume since 2002.USPS
The decline in total mail volume since 2002.

From 202.8 billion total mail pieces in 2002 to 168 billion mail pieces in 2011: that’s a more than 17 percent decline over 10 years. Interestingly, advertising mail volume (also known as junk mail) has hovered in the 80-to-100 billion piece range during that time.

E-mail, meanwhile, is hugely popular. The most recent report from the Radicati Group (PDF), a market research firm specializing in electronic communication, says about 144.8 email messages are sent everyday worldwide. Admittedly, e-mail also has a big junk mail problem, just like its physical counterpart.

Courtesy of Mashable

Add to that high volume of e-mail, Radicati’s estimate of more than 2.7 billion worldwide instant messaging and social networking accounts, respectively, and it’s not hard to see why nobody sends letters anymore.

But the decline of Saturday mail delivery, if it happens, is not all bad news. Post offices will remain open on the weekend. And package deliveries will still happen on Saturdays, so you won’t have to worry about missing out on any important Amazon shipments.

“As consumers increasingly use and rely on delivery services—especially due to the rise of e-commerce—we can play an increasingly vital role as a delivery provider of choice,” USPS Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said in a written statement.

Netflix envelopes, however, wouldn't arrive in the mail on Saturdays starting in August. In fact, a recent story from the Associated Press reported the loss of Saturday delivery could give the DVD-by-mail service a slight bump in profitability.

Fewer mail delivery days means subscribers will see fewer DVDs in a month. This translates into smaller annual postal expenses for Netflix. The AP quotes one analyst estimate that Netflix could save $100 million off its postal costs over the next year.

But does it really matter? When you don’t have any fresh Netflix DVDs for the weekend, you can always find something to watch on Netflix instant streaming, Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus, or iTunes.

Subscribe to the Best of TechHive Newsletter

Comments