Rural mail customers decry potential loss of Saturday mail delivery

2010-06-23T19:30:00Z 2010-06-23T22:40:04Z Rural mail customers decry potential loss of Saturday mail deliveryEmilie Rusch Journal staff Rapid City Journal
June 23, 2010 7:30 pm  • 

Fifty percent of South Dakota and North Dakota addresses are served by rural mail routes, and those households could stand to lose if the U.S. Postal Service eliminates Saturday mail delivery, rural mail carriers argued Wednesday.

"There are rural routes in South Dakota that are 150 to 170 miles long," said Gary Evenson, a rural mail carrier in Rapid City. "Without Saturday delivery, some customers would have to drive 30, 40 or 50 miles or more roundtrip to go to the post office."

The Postal Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency that regulates the postal service, heard more than two hours of testimony Wednesday in Rapid City on the proposed change to five-day mail delivery. It was the sixth of seven public hearings being conducted nationwide, with previous stops in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Dallas, Memphis and Chicago.

The postal service has proposed the elimination of Saturday delivery in light of historic drops in the amount of mail being sent. Mail volume peaked in 2006 at 213 billion pieces; in 2009, it was 177 billion pieces. The postal service ended the 2009 fiscal year with a $3.8 billion loss.

Marie Therese Dominguez, vice president of government relations and public policy for the postal service, said eliminating Saturday mail delivery would save $3 billion annually. The proposal is one part of the larger Action Plan for the Future, Dominguez said, with other suggestions including a rate increase, internal cost-cutting and restructuring the postal service's pension system.

"We've known for a long time that our business model was broken," Dominguez said. "If we do absolutely nothing, if we make no efforts to cut costs, we're going to face a $238 billion deficit by 2020."

But local postal service employees and union representatives questioned why cutting service was the first choice, rather than the last resort.

Under the postal service's plan, which still requires congressional approval, post offices would not deliver mail to street addresses or collect mail dropped off in blue boxes on Saturdays. Post offices would still be open Saturday and mail addressed to post office boxes would be available, but all mail accepted at the retail counter would be processed Monday.

Robert Tolman, the South Dakota legislative chair for the National Association of Postal Supervisors, said the loss of Saturday mail would slow delivery speed and lead to less use, not more.

"We need a vibrant, service-oriented organization that serves our citizens, not one that is retracting service and removing itself from everyday American life," Tolman said.

Rural carriers also expressed concern about the job losses that would follow the elimination of Saturday mail delivery. Nationwide, 43,000 rural carrier associates deliver mail on rural routes on Saturdays, said Brad Duffy, president of the South Dakota Rural Letter Carriers Association and a rural mail carrier in Winner.

Farming and ranching is a seven-day-a-week job, Duffy said, and waiting on a part for a piece of equipment can mean lost money.

"If they order a part and it doesn't get there Friday, they have to wait till Monday," Duffy said.

Scott Engel, publisher of Tri-State Livestock News, said that publication and its customers rely on a Saturday publish and mail date.

"We offer the most timely sale data in the marketplace, and many of our readers rely on our paper to make their buy/sell decisions, oftentimes right on the heels of receiving the newspaper," Engel said.

Clem Felchle, manager of the Dakotas District for the U.S. Postal Service, said many rural mail carriers act as "post offices on wheels," selling stamps and accepting mail and packages for mailing.

And while that service would no longer be available on Saturdays under the postal service's proposal, rural mail customers would adjust if necessary, he said.

"When I lived in rural America, did I expect the same exact services I got living in a big city?" Felchle said. "You make those choices. The more remote you are, the fewer services you have."

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or


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(9) Comments

  1. postalperson
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    postalperson - June 24, 2010 9:58 am
    What can be so important that it can't wait a couple of days might be checks or prescription medications that customers are waiting for. Not everyone has internet service, and in remote areas there may not be available access to the internet.
    To amass a $238 billion deficit by 2020, the postal service would have to lose $23.8 billion each year for a decade, even thought they have never lost even half that much, even in its worst year. The postal service estimates that by eliminating Saturday delivery, it can cut operating expenses by $3.4 billion, but a study by the Postal Regulatory Commission found that savings could be as low as $1.9 billion.
    Postal management has intensified its financial problems by offering excessive worksharing discounts to major mailers and by subcontracting work at exorbitant costs. Worksharing discounts are given to mailers that pre-sort and pre-barcode their mail, but the discounts exceed the costs the postal service avoids when work is performed by mailers.
    A service industry will never succeed by cutting service.
  2. bubbles
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    bubbles - June 24, 2010 7:13 am
    Loss Saturday delivery and let us employed with the USPS have a life. Loss another day and all business will go with others. Yes, the mail has dropped in the past 10 years. But I still pay my bills by mail. Or go to 4-10 hour days and keep the subs. But don't know what I would do for 10 hours a day at work. I like my job but give us a weekend with our families.
  3. Poplicola
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    Poplicola - June 24, 2010 4:08 am
    It seems like people are having an extremely difficult time thinking about consequences. What happens if you drop Saturday? Revenues fall further, businesses look elsewhere, customers leave. Then we're looking at losing another day. Now you've got a completely part-time workforce, who leaves in droves, and so do the rest of your customers. In a place like South Dakota--which benefits from a low, uniform Postal rate system--prices for mail spike. In remote areas that are completely unprofitable, mail delivery becomes a thing of the past. Businesses either lose an advertising source and go under, or raise prices to consumers. 700,000 people in America with good jobs with benefits--including hundreds of thousands of veterans--are now looking for work, which causes wages to go down and taxes to go up for everyone. And all because a few doomsday howlers in Washington are looking at--shock of all shocks--a business entity losing money in this economy.
    The answer is to give the Postal Service some flexibility in the recession, not destroy it.
  4. pookie
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    pookie - June 23, 2010 10:36 pm
    Oh horrible day. Another day without all the garbage mail. If you can't wait for Monday delivery, then drive to the post office and pick up your mail. If it is too far to drive, then wait until Mon. What can be so important that it can't wait a couple of days?
  5. sludge
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    sludge - June 23, 2010 10:26 pm
    Don't believe the $238 billion lie. The most the USPS has ever lost in a single year is $7 Billion. No way that the USPS will lose $23.8 billion per year for the next 10 years. PMG Potter himself has stated that the number is unrealistic.
    What we need is to repeal the part of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires the USPS to pre-fund the CSRS Retirees Health Benefits. The USPS is the only government entity required to do so. Further, there has been an overpayment to the OPM of $75 Billion into this fund. Congress needs to vote to allow the overpayment to be considered a credit to the fund, and the USPS will be back in the black.
    It also wouldn't hurt to cut jobs at HQ, instead of increasing them over 30%, while cutting over 20% of the jobs held by those who do the work. Decrease the workforce, but increase the management to "manage" them??
    I say throw the bums out who run the show, they wouldn't make it with a real business.
  6. Rickaroo
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    Rickaroo - June 23, 2010 10:25 pm
    I agree with JD Anoniem, we don't need mail everyday, especially with the internet.....cut out 3 days!!!! Most of my mail is junk, sales, or advertising anyways!!!!!
  7. bman123
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    bman123 - June 23, 2010 9:49 pm
    Drop Saturday and also one other day (Wednesday). Most of my bills are paid on-line. I haven't sent a letter all this year, with the the exception of a Father's Day card. I get about 3 pieces a mail a day consisting of 2 credit card offers and a furniture ad. Mail service is kind of like writing a check, remember the last time you had to write an actual paper check???
  8. JD Anoniem
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    JD Anoniem - June 23, 2010 9:46 pm
    Cut it to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday --- perhaps we could have one government entity that operates in the black then!
  9. think1
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    think1 - June 23, 2010 7:58 pm
    If they are going to drop a day it should be Monday. There are already lots Monday holidays and with Saturday gone there would be lots of three day weekends without mail.
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