February 20, 2013


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The last time that I checked, the vast majority of America’s businesses were staying open longer hours and more days. The obvious reason for the decision to extend the work week and the work hours was twofold. One, they wanted to try to increase profits. And two, they wanted to be open at the times and on the days that their customers wanted them to be.
Meeting the needs of customers is the way that American businesses operate. The successful businesses recognize this and are rewarded for their efforts. Those businesses that keep cutting back on the hours  and days that they are open to their customers are simply in a slow death spiral as they will continue to lose more and more of their business to competitors.
Compete or perish.
Business owners understand these hard and fast axioms of business. But the same cannot be said of the people running the U.S. Postal Service. Over the last decade, the Postal Service has seen its volume of mail plummet and it has done little to stem the tide of lost business. As the volume of mail has dropped and its costs of operating have increased, the Postal Service is hemorrhaging red ink.
In the last fiscal year, the Postal Service reportedly lost nearly $16 billion, and in an attempt to get its financial house in order, it has embarked on a plan to close post offices, scale back on the number of mail processing centers, cut back on the number of hours that customers can use their local post offices, and laid off more employees.
And now Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe has announced the next approach to bringing economic salvation to the Postal System would be the elimination of six day a week delivery of the mail.
In a business that still deals with a massive volume of mail, one has to wonder how piling up all of the mail that could have been delivered on a Saturday is going to improve customer service? Or for that matter, how could such a plan actually save the Postal Service any money?
The answer is reducing mail service from six days a week to five days may be more harmful than beneficial to the Postal Service. According to a Government Accounting Office study, the move would result in even more loss in mail volume and further loss in revenue.
Contrary to what seems to be a common thought with the higher-ups in the Postal Service, many businesses and individuals rely heavily on using the services provided by their local post offices. Even with the technology that is available today to conduct a majority of your personal or business affairs online, there are hundreds of thousands of people who choose not to do their business electronically and instead want to do their business by mail. And to those individuals and businesses, the Postal Service is turning a deaf ear to their need for six-day-a-week service.
While American businesses are trying to find ways to be more responsive to their customer’s needs by offering to be open more days and with longer hours, it is too bad that the Postal Service is choosing to go in the opposite direction.
Mail delivery is an essential service in America. But having reliable mail service is an even more important service. If the Postal Service proceeds to move forward with its plans to cut delivery service to five days a week, the only question left to ask is when does the service level drop to four days or less a week. And then at what point does it make any sense at all to have a Postal Service?
Yes, the Postal Service has its issues, and its financial problems are obviously driving the current decision-making process.
But before the Postal Service completely writes off six-day-a-week service, it needs to make sure that its customers support the lessening of service. It would be a safe bet that most Postal Service customers want to see better, not less, service.