Postmaster Gen. proposes cutback to 5 days

January 28, 2009 11:34:31 PM PST
The tough economy is also impacting the U.S. Postal Service. The Postmaster General is pitching an idea to cut back delivery to just five days a week, which would save billions.

Years ago, carriers would make multiple deliveries a day. So it's not like customers haven't seen changes through the years and if approved would affect just about everybody.

There are simply fewer pieces of mail being processed at distribution centers across the country, so much so that the U.S. Postal Service predicts a net loss of at least $6 billion this fiscal year. Blame could be placed on the recession.

"When you're talking about the financial institutions, the real estate, the housing market, these are all large companies that have done business through the mail. They're doing less," said Gus Ruiz, a USPS spokesperson.

It's such a concern, the Postmaster General went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to get rid of a 1983 rule that mandates mail delivery six days a week. A Postal Service study estimates cutting one day of mail delivery could save $3.5 billion a year. It's just an idea at this point -- one in which most customers, though, seem to be taking all in stride.

"I don't think it has a large impact. It's just another habit being challenged," said William Farley, a San Francisco resident.

"One day to not get bills, I would be okay," said Lynelle Hanson, a San Francisco resident.

There's no word yet on what day of the week the Postal Service is thinking about cutting. Saturday may seem like the obvious choice, but a lot of business mail goes out that day. The Postal Service says the day with the lightest volume of mail is actually Tuesday.

"Over the weekend people will do their correspondence, do their bills, do their letter writing, invitation writing so Monday is a busy day and Tuesday generally is a little bit lighter. Then on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we start to see a bit of a buildup," said Jim Wigdel, a USPS spokesperson.

If mail delivery does go from six days to five, the U.S. Postal Service hopes to make such a change temporary. Still, even that prospect isn't sitting well with Bridget Murphy, who relies on snail mail to pay bills.

"With one less day of mail, it would make it much harder to get my mail out on time and back on time," said Murphy, a San Francisco resident.

So far, some key lawmakers are not keen on the idea of going from six days to five. The chairman of the committee that oversees mail service says service reduction should be a last resort.