Q: Ask Guy,
I wanna know why we have Saturday mail when most of the time it’s ads? Doesn’t it make sense to have mail five days a week and help not raising the cost of stamps? Just wanna hear your comeback on this issue that could be resolved. Thanks for listening.
A: The full name is actually Ask US Guy, although the reader’s shorthand version — Ask Guy — is probably an OK alternative as long as people don’t forget to emphasize the “K” sound.
Anyway, eliminating regular mail delivery on Saturdays was a big news story 11 years ago when the U.S. Postal Service announced plans to scale back to a five-day delivery schedule to trim costs in the midst of huge budget challenges. The plan was to cut Saturday delivery starting in August of 2013.
Although the idea would have saved money for an organization that had lost a record $15 billion the previous year, opposition quickly mounted from postal worker unions, business customers who were sending the “ads” referenced by the reader, newspapers that relied on mail service to get papers to rural subscribers, and others.
Barely two months later, Postal Service leaders backed away from the plan, citing the decision by members of Congress to extend a longstanding mandate that mail be delivered on Saturdays.
Since then, postage rates have risen and Congress passed the Postal Reform Act, which eased some of the financial strain. But the agency is still losing money — $6.5 billion last year — and remains on the General Accounting Office’s “High Risk List” due to its ongoing financial woes.
The Postal Service has adopted a 10-year strategic plan aimed at eliminating the red ink by 2031. The planned changes span the organization’s operations and include modernizing its aging fleet of delivery vehicles to reduce operational and maintenance costs and boosting postage rates as often as twice a year.
Those semiannual increases began last year when stamps rose 3 cents to 63 cents in January of 2023 before rising to 66 cents in July and 68 cents just last week.
But there’s nothing in the strategic plan related to eliminating Saturday delivery, even though it was estimated back in 2013 that the move would save about $2 billion a year.
It’s possible the idea might arise again. After all, it seems like the Postal Service’s workforce is struggling to get all of its work done in a way that satisfies customers and federal elected officials.
Although Ask Us Guy’s carrier continues to deliver good service and a positive attitude, many customers appear to be unhappy — including many in northwestern Minnesota and in the Twin Cities suburbs, where Rep. Angie Craig has been hearing a lot of complaints.
“For over a year, I’ve been sounding the alarm on unacceptable service from USPS. And for over a year, USPS leadership has given my office the runaround, saying there’s nothing wrong, in spite of the thousands of messages I’ve received from Minnesotans who aren’t getting their mail,” Craig said last week after the Postal Service’s Inspector General released results of audits of Eagan and Apple Valley mail facilities.
The audits found nearly 140,000 pieces of delayed mail, mail security issues and instances of management not providing adequate resources for postal workers, and the Office of the Inspector General announced that it would launch an expanded audit of the entire North Dakota-Minnesota USPS district.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also castigated the quality of service and the treatment of Postal Service employees in a November letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Klobuchar’s letter emphasized the importance of timely delivery of paychecks, medication and other critical mail; cited allegations that deliveries paid for by Amazon were prioritized over other mail; and detailed a severe shortage of postal workers in some locations.
“My constituents are concerned that postal workers are being assigned mandatory overtime, working 6 days per week, and frequently coming into work on Sundays and holidays to deliver additional packages,” Klobuchar wrote.
So, what about the reader’s idea that eliminating Saturday service would provide some relief to an understaffed, overworked and financially floundering organization without greatly impacting the level of service?
While the reader wondered about Ask Guy’s comeback on the suggestion, Ask Us Guy figured the Postal Service’s thoughts might have more relevance.
“Basically, I’m just hoping for a response on why Saturday delivery is important to some customers, whether the Postal Service is considering dropping to five-day service, the pros and cons of the idea, etc.,” he wrote to the USPS corporate communications person for the North Dakota-Minnesota District.
Ask Us Guy received a response, although it was minimally helpful.
“Good morning, Thank you for your inquiry,” the Postal Service spokesman replied. “As outlined in the United States Postal Service’s Delivering for America plan, more than 95 percent of the American population lives within five miles of a Post Office. We will continue to provide the same delivery service to businesses and residents within the community in Mankato. This includes 6 and 7 days of mail and package delivery.”
Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, 418 S. Second St., Mankato, MN 56001. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org; put Ask Us in the subject line.
Q: Ask Guy,