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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, July 25, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

No more Saturday mail. (PHOTO: Alexander Marks | Wikicommons)

No more Saturday mail?


I imagine there are lots of people who aren't that bothered by the idea of no more Saturday mail delivery.

I mean, who needs another bill, right?

But that doesn't mean the elimination of Saturday mail delivery won't make an impact on millions of Americans who have always taken it for granted. For most of those people, it will be just another sign of the changing times.

When Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced a plan to cut back to five day a week home mail deliveries and eliminate Saturdays beginning in August, it shouldn't have been that surprising for anyone who's been paying attention to the changing dynamics of how we communicate, pay bills, get paid or conduct business these days.

Some people refer to the U.S. Postal Service as "snail mail" in an Internet age that allow consumers to do pretty much everything instantaneously online instead of waiting for days by the mailbox. It's likely and even probable that a generation of Americans exist who have never mailed a letter in their lives.

Donahoe blamed financial conditions for the decision to end Saturday mail delivery, citing a $15.9 billion loss last budget year, He said the postal service expected to save $2 billion annually by going to five days. Due to what Donahoe described as an "urgent" financial situation at the Postal Service, the end to Saturday home mail seems like a done deal even if Congress decides to weigh in on behalf of certain groups that might be hurt by no Saturday mail.

That would include everybody from farmers and seniors in rural areas, the letter carriers' union and local politicians who hear from constituents dissatisfied with the new schedule.

But for some residents, no more Saturday mail might not be as much of a hassle as for others. Particularly the ones who use post office box addresses to receive and send mail. According to the U.S. Postal Service announcement, even with no Saturday home mail delivery, under the proposed plan many postal stations will remain open so that residents with mailboxes can pick up their mail. And, packages will continue to be delivered to homes on Saturday. In fact, many experts say that even with the decrease in paper mail, post office revenues from home delivery of products purchased online have increased 14% since 2010.

I had never realized how much some residents in troubled areas of the city depend on mail service until visiting the U.S. Postal Service station at 2650 N. King Dr. a few years ago for a story about a possible closing. That's when I learned many people who lived in the area used post office boxes instead of having mail delivered to their homes due to fear of theft.

For years, the King Drive post office was on a suspected 'hit list' for postal station closures in the city due to continuing financial problems that include having to pay billions of dollars into accounts for future retiree health benefits. At the time, prominent politicians like U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Mayor Tom Barrett asked the Postal Service to spare the King Drive station so low-income residents didn't have to travel far to the next location.

A reprieve was granted but as this week's announcement showed, things are still not well with the U.S. Postal Service. Things may not have gone the way of the Pony Express just yet but it's clear the writing is on the wall.

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