USPS Warns of Delivery Cutbacks

Postmaster considers reducing mail service to 5 days a week.

by staff writer
- Jan 29, 2009

Under mounting pressure to cut operating costs, the U.S. Postal Service is considering a move to reduce mail delivery to five days a week, instead of six.

Postmaster General John E. Potter has asked Congress to lift the six-day requirement for mail service, in place since 1983, because maintaining the current schedule "may simply prove to be unaffordable."

In his Jan. 28 testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Potter notes that suspending delivery on days when mail tends to be light—such as Tuesdays—could help close the budget gap. "I do not make this request lightly, but I am forced to consider every option, given the severity of our challenge," he says.

The effects of a postal delivery cutback could be damaging to small and midsize merchants who rely on the service to keep their businesses humming.

According to e-commerce commentator Ken Price, such a move would be detrimental to eBay sellers—many of whom already struggle to maintain high Detailed Seller Ratings, a star-based grading system eBay uses to dole out fee discounts. A reduction in mail delivery days would hit sellers in the "Shipping Time" portion of the DSRs, says Price, a full-time online seller who pens the Philadelphia e-Commerce Examiner column.

"Packages could be delayed by one to four days if the post office adopts this new policy," he says. "Many buyers may not understand, be aware of or even care about this new policy. All they will know is that the package took longer to arrive than expected and some might leave a low mark on a seller's DSR because of it."

On the other hand, "It would be one less day a week for them to leave your mail in the wrong box," laughs Auctiva Product Analyst and eBay PowerSeller Rebecca Miller.

An increasing amount of business and personal communication is being conducted by e-mail rather than "snail mail." With first-class mail volume dropping by billions of pieces a year, the USPS was $2.8 billion in the red for 2008 and is projecting the deficit to reach more than $6 billion this year.

Potter estimates skipping delivery on the lightest volume days could result in savings between $2 billion and $3.5 billion.

In the meantime, the USPS is taking other steps to help reduce the shortfall, including "workhours" reductions, postal rate increases and expansion of services for commercial users. A recent pricing change included increases in Priority and Express Mail fees. And for the third consecutive year, first-class mail prices are scheduled to go up in May.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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