Last week, the Postal Service announced that it would end Saturday letter delivery as part of an initiative to cut costs.
The post office said a five-day mail delivery schedule would begin in August and save about $2 billion a year from its losses, which were $15.9 billion last year. The Postal Service would continue to deliver packages six days a week, and post offices would still be open on Saturdays.
The move raised immediate questions from lawmakers in Washington, some of who said that the Postal Service could not make such changes without Congressional approval.
But in this day and age, how much do we really need the post office?
The Postal Service was created to give people a secure, low cost option to send and receive mail. During the American Revolution, it allowed for information about the revolution to spread across the country.
In today’s world, when information is needed immediately, the post office is too slow to spread news. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook updates allow information from modern revolutions like the Arab Spring to be disseminated much more rapidly.
If the Postal Service can’t be used to spread news, perhaps its other function of allowing people to send and receive messages to each other would be enough to sustain it.
Yet handwritten letters—or even typed ones—are much more rare nowadays. If you need to talk to someone, you wouldn’t bother sending a letter—you’d send an email. It’s fast, free, and easy.
The rise in email has also contributed to the decline of the post office. The Postal Service admits that first class mail volume has dropped by 37% since 2007.
The decline in mail, along with a 2006 government mandate that requires the post office pay billions of dollars a year to pay for health benefits for future retirees, have put the agency in billions of dollars in debt.
Given the circumstances, the decision to cut Saturday delivery is a necessary one for the Postal Service to get back in the black. And if you’re a young millennial who doesn’t even get mail, the decision won’t even affect you that much.
When you can pay your bills online, talk to all your friends online, and receive all your information online, the post office becomes relevant only when you’re receiving packages from your online shopping (the post office recognizes this and thus kept Saturday package delivery). Sending letters and mailing checks isn’t appealing when you can do all that quickly and easily online.
And reducing Saturday delivery isn’t even that drastic when compared internationally– mail services in other industrialized countries like Australia, Canada and Sweden already deliver five days a week.
While it’s unfortunate that Postal Service has to cut services, it has to do what’s necessary to stay profitable in a changing world.