Thursday, Feb. 07 2013 5:30PM
Nor rain, nor snow, nor Saturday
U.S. Postal Service plans to end Saturday letter delivery
By Russ Pulley
This summer Saturday delivery of letters and similar mail may end, although package delivery is to continue.
In Lee’s Summit that means delivery of about 100,000 pieces of mail each week will wait until Monday.
Lee’s Summit’s Postmaster Albert Esquivel said Wednesday his office was just getting information about the end of Saturday delivery announced by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, to begin in August, along with the rest of the nation.
Esquivel suggested patrons could use www.USPS.com to look for more details that would be available as the postal service goes forward implementing the changes.
He said that his office is still looking at the logistics, but that Saturday retail operations and post office boxes will still be open on Saturdays under the plan and package deliveries also will continue.
He said the Lee’s Summit post office delivers about 100,000 pieces of mail, aside from packages, on Saturdays.
Critics of the U.S. Postal Service decision have said it’s a bad idea to stop Saturday delivery because of security. Sensitive papers such as checks or credit card bills might be left in mailboxes longer, if it arrives when residents aren’t home.
In Lee’s Summit, however, a high percentage of households have lock boxes for receiving mail, Esquivel said.
“A lot of our customers only pick up their mail two or three times a week,” Esquivel said.
The schedule adjustment is estimated to save the USPS $2 billion annually when fully implemented, postal officials said, and postal service market research and other polling indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery to reduce costs.
By continuing package delivery on Saturday the postal service blunts concerns about people being able to receive necessities such as medicines.
“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” Donahoe said in a written statement. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”
Some groups oppose the move, such as the National Association of Letter Carriers (the postal employees union) and the National Newspaper Association which has small publication members who aim their product at Saturday delivery. Some opponents say ending Saturday delivery could lead to closing more rural post offices and oppose it for that reason.
Jim Devine, president of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, said that as long as the cutback is national and leaves a level playing field it wouldn’t put the city at a competitive disadvantage.
Devine said he’s one of the people who personally will see “zero” effect. He receives and pays his bills electronically.
But he remarked that dropping Saturday delivery of letters is still a little unsettling for everyone because it is another erosion of a long-standing institution. It’s evidence of a reordering of the work force and economy forced by changes in technology and a need for cost containment, he said.
People feel a loss, if temporary, because it is reflecting the times, even if they aren’t dependent on the service, Devine said.
“The post office is like mom, baseball and apple pie,” Devine said. “We all know neither rain, snow or sleet will stop the mail. It’s like taking a piece of our culture.”
Exactly what will unfold in the intervening months is uncertain. There will be attempts by some U.S. Congressman to block the move and the postal services ability to make the change without congressional approval is uncertain.
Rick Jensen, of Direct Response Services, a Lee’s Summit mailing company which mails exclusively to businesses and other organizations, said he doesn’t anticipate any change or negative impact on that company’s operations.
He said the postal service could have an Saturday competitive advantage for delivering packages because it doesn’t use an upcharge for Saturdays as does UPS and FedEx.
“As a postal customer,” Jensen said in an email, “I feel that this cost saving change may have the least impact on our daily lives and is preferable to continued rate increases. People will simply need to adjust their schedules to allow for delivery of important mail on one of the other five days mail is delivered.”