Saturday Delivery No Longer Makes Sense

The recently announced end (coming in August 2013) of Saturday letter delivery by the United States Postal Service came as no surprise to those following the USPS's fiscal crisis.  Yet, it is not without its repercussions.  Those who rely on the mail for the timely delivery of checks (Social Security for example) will need to be especially careful when a long weekend or other break coincides with an expected check.  Businesses that rely on the mail may need to alter their working hours or turn to alternative delivery mechanisms.

There is also the psychological effect of the end of Saturday delivery with regards to the public's confidence in the long term viability of the postal service.  The USPS has been suffering for years in a two front war against the internet and FedEx/UPS.  And it's been losing.  Many wonder whether the end of Saturday delivery is just another step on the road towards a "mail-less" society.  If layoffs, site closures, and this move aren't enough, then what will be?

Mail still plays an essential role in society.  As far as we have come technologically, the best of our virtual world has not completely replaced the physical.  Who has not had to send a business, government, or personal document by mail in the last year?  And who has not waited patiently for an internet purchase to arrive, or a package from Mom?

All of this service could be provided by a private corporation, but it is the postal service that has a mandate to serve every American, regardless of how uneconomical his address may be.  It is the USPS that has to keep rates affordable for the most disadvantaged individual.  So, it is the postal service that America must trim, make more efficient, and prepared for the 21st century.

In an era of USPS deficits, we must face the fact that Saturday delivery has not made sense for years.  Many businesses and most government organizations do not operate on Saturday.  They're keeping Saturday package delivery, so that keeps the USPS competitive with UPS/FedEx.  And the timeliness of mail no longer has the importance that it once did - we get our time sensitive announcements by email these days.

In fact maybe the end of Saturday delivery is a boon for us culturally.  With digital communication, work schedules have increasingly run into home schedules.  Maybe this is the physical world's way of saying to the digital: "enough is enough."  Let there be peace on weekends.

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I teach Computer Science to college students, develop software, podcast, and write books about programming including the Classic Computer Science Problems series. I'm the publisher of the hyper local newsletter BTV Daily.

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Based on tdSimple originally by Lasantha Bandara and released under the CC By 3.0.