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There is a lot of coverage today of a proposal made yesterday by US Postmaster General John E. Potter to to adjust delivery schedules, raise prices and control labor costs - including the elimination of Saturday mail delivery in the US - in order to stem the tide of financial losses facing the system.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Without the restructuring, the agency potentially faces $238 billion in projected losses in the next 10 years ... The recession has worsened the Postal Service's financial condition, and mail volume continued to fall as more letters and documents are sent electronically. It saw a 13% drop in volume in the year ended Sept. 30, more than double any previous decline, and lost $3.8 billion. In the three months ended Dec. 31, 2009 - a period that is typically the strongest of the year because of holiday shipping - the Postal Service recorded a 9% drop in volume from a year earlier and a loss of $297 million.”

However, despite those numbers, there is significant resistance to the Post Office plan. Again, from the Journal: “Congress must approve the elimination of Saturday mail delivery and lawmakers haven't been receptive to the idea. Any changes to employee work schedules, which would result from eliminating Saturday delivery, need to be negotiated with postal workers' unions. Labor leaders Tuesday came out against the plan ... The loss of Saturday delivery would deal a blow to the biggest postal clients, companies that mail ads to consumers. The segment makes up as much as a third of annual postal revenue.”
KC's View:
There are a lot of people who will have a sentimental reaction to this proposal, but as I wrote when Potter first suggested this possibility more than a year ago, it seems to me that sentimentality has no business being part of this discussion. The Postal Service is running on an increasingly obsolete and irrelevant business model that hasn’t changed significantly - except for the vehicle - since the days of the Pony Express.

Cutting a day of mail delivery is putting a band-aid on the problem, and not addressing the real issue, which is that digital mail and information delivery is replacing the physical version. I have no idea what the fundamental business proposition ought to be...but I’m pretty sure that cutting out Saturdays ain’t it.

You could cut deliveries to three days, and people under 30 would be unlikely to care. Or notice.