Starting in August, if all goes as the U.S. Postal Service plans, there will be no more mail delivery on Saturday. So what does this mean for consumers? Are some people going to be doomed or at least severely inconvenienced, or is the fuss much ado about nothing?
The news that Saturday delivery will end--a move expected to save the Postal Service $2 billion a year--created quite a stir in the media and Congress and likely some confusion and irritation among some parts of the population. For those who depend on their Saturday mail, or at least thoroughly enjoy having it come then, here's our scorecard on what you can expect.
Winners: Medicine takers. Plenty of people receive maintenance prescription medicine through the mail, and that will still show up on a Saturday. Toni G. DeLancey, senior manager of public relations for the U.S. Postal Service, says pharmaceuticals are sent through priority mail, and that, along with packages, will still show up at people's homes on Saturdays.
Losers: Netflix subscribers, magazine subscribers, and solopreneurs. While DVD mailings don't fall into the category of letters or bills, they aren't considered packages, either. DeLancey confirms that Netflix won't show up in Saturday's mail.
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"You would no longer receive a movie on Saturday, watch it on Sunday, and drop it in the mail on Monday," says Michael Levin, assistant professor of marketing at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, who theorizes that one of the DVD rental service's biggest competitors could benefit. "Redbox could see a surge in business because people no longer get their red envelope on Saturday."
It remains to be seen if magazines that typically would have shown up on a Saturday will now arrive on a Friday or Monday, but clearly, there will be some change. Mary Berner, CEO of the Association of Magazine Media, released a statement about the end of Saturday mail, saying, "Like Congress, MPA was taken by surprise by today's announcement. While we have actively participated in conversations around postal reform, and in particular, five-day delivery, we did not expect the USPS would act unilaterally, without congressional approval, and we await Washington's reaction and more details."
And anyone who receives paychecks through the mail--freelance writers, for example, or contractors who aren't paid on site but later--may have to wait an extra two days for any checks that would have otherwise arrived on Saturday.
Situation generally unchanged: Anyone receiving steady income from the government. Most seniors who receive Social Security checks now get their money deposited directly into their bank accounts, and those who don't are required to switch to electronic payments by March 1 (see godirect.org). People who get welfare benefits also receive their money through the Electronic Benefit Transfer system, which is used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. There may be some exceptions, but for the most part, there's nothing to be concerned about.
Reason for some concern: Bill payers. Gail Cunningham, vice president of membership and public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, says consumers who don't do their banking online and instead mail their bills may be at a disadvantage.
After all, Cunningham points out, "the credit card issuers have to provide 21 days between when the bill leaves their office and the date the payment is due to them. The standard recommendation has been to allow seven to 10 days for USPS mail."
No Saturday mail, Cunningham says, will make the window of getting payments to creditors even tighter.
Levin concurs. "The bill payments could be problematic," he says. "Your payment would need to be there by Friday for a Monday posting to the account. Americans could incur additional late fees because their payment arrived on Monday instead of Saturday."
Possibly making matters more confusing is that post offices will be open and collecting mail on Saturday, and collecting mail from some of the iconic blue mailboxes. But the mail won't actually be stamped and sent off for delivery until Monday. Packages, however, will be mailed out on Saturdays.
As for any bill confusion, DeLancey says, "That's why we wanted to give six months' notice. We hope the mailers, like people mailing out checks, will make adjustments. We wanted to give everyone enough time to make any changes they need to."
On the plus side for many consumers, plenty of people don't want to see bills--or junk mail--on the weekends.
Some adjustments ahead. If you're already missing the idea of Saturday mail service, it may be that you're simply feeling wistful that another part of your life's routine is slipping away, perhaps in the way some people a half-century ago hated to see American culture and technology make virtually obsolete the concept of cold, fresh milk being delivered at the front doorstep.
"I think Americans care to the degree that it's the removal of something they've grown accustomed to, but on a larger scale, it's minor," says Lou Manza, professor and chair of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Penn. "People will be able to adjust, but I think any immediate pushback is more of an emotional response to the removal of something more than the result of a logical analysis of why it's being done."
And, indeed, DeLancey says the Postal Service hasn't been overrun with complaints. "People seem to be telling us that they're in support of this, that they understand why we have to do this. No matter what we do, people are moving to the Internet," says DeLancey, citing not only letters turning into email but checks being sent electronically. "We have to focus and adjust."
As will customers. DeLancey says the Postal Service hasn't worked out every detail, but more comprehensive details will be forthcoming in March. Meanwhile, for anyone who is truly upset about not receiving their Saturday mail, DeLancey offers an option. People can always rent a P.O. box at their local post office. Fees are as low as $14 for six months (but also considerably higher, like $60 for six months; it depends on the size and location).
"For those who don't mind going to the post office, that's a good fail-safe," says DeLancey. "We'll still put your Saturday mail in your P.O. box."