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Slower mail: A guide to the Postal Service's cutbacks
Birthday cards, Netflix discs, and L.L. Bean catalogs will begin arriving a day later than usual, as the Post Office rolls back its delivery services
 
The struggling Post Office is slowing its first-class mail delivery, which could help the flailing agency save billions of dollars.
The struggling Post Office is slowing its first-class mail delivery, which could help the flailing agency save billions of dollars.
Walter Hodges/CORBIS

Snail mail is about to get even slower. In attempt to trim costs, the U.S. Postal Service announced Monday that, for the first time in 40 years, it will instate cutbacks that will slow the delivery of first-class mail in the continental United States. Here's what you should know:

How slow will mail be?
Currently, first-class mail is delivered to homes and businesses in the continental U.S. in one to three days, and 42 percent of mail arrives at its final destination the day after it was sent. Now, mail will now take either two or three days to be delivered. "Only commercial, bulk mailers might be able to get their first-class mail delivered the next day," says Mark Memmott at NPR. That is, "if they get it, properly bundled, to the Post Office early in the morning."

Why is the Post Office cutting back?
The struggling Post Office, which lost $5.1 billion last year and expects to have a $14 billion deficit this year, needs to cut $20 billion in operating costs by 2015 to turn a profit. By slowing mail delivery, the USPS estimates that it will save $2.1 billion a year. First-class mail volume dropped 20 percent in the last decade. By 2020, another 47 percent drop is expected. The USPS doesn't receive tax money, and relies largely on postage costs and product sales to fund its operation. So with revenue plummeting, it has to cut costs.

Is there more than just slower mail?
Yes. The Postal Service will close 252 of the 461 mail processing centers across the country. That will account for the loss of 28,000 jobs by the end of 2012. The plan is to rebrand the Post Office, reduce costs, and help keep the agency alive as mail delivery becomes less and less popular. Over the long haul, roughly 3,700 local post offices are expected to close, which could result in 120,000 lost jobs.

How does this affect me?
For starters, you're going to have to remember to mail mom her birthday card more than a day in advance. But beyond that, "the reduction in turnaround time could slow everything from check payments to Netflix's DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities," says Fox News.

Will this help or hurt the Postal Service?
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says that theses changes "could well accelerate [the Postal Service's] death spiral." As consumers begin to notice the effects of slower delivery, "it will only increase the shift away from mail to alternatives," analyst Jim Corridore tells Fox News. "There's almost nothing you can't do online that you can do by mail." But Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe tells the Associated Press that his agency has no other choice. "We have a business model that is failing. You can't continue to run red ink and not make changes."

Sources: AP, Fox News, NPR, Wash. Post

 

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