"Snail-mail" may get a little slower.
In a time when instant communication has become the norm with text messaging, e-mail and Twitter, it is hard to accept that the birthday card to grandma may take an extra day or two to arrive in her mailbox.
The U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to close more than 250 mail processing centers and eliminate 30,000 jobs in the process as a way to save $3 billion and avoid possible bankruptcy next year.
The postal service has used the motto that nothing stops the mail. Snow or rain won't stop it, but mounting retiree health benefits have forced the postal service to examine just how it will do business in an era that has seen first-class mail volume drop from 98 billion pieces in 2006 to less than 78 billion pieces today. It is further projected to drop in half by 2020.
Many people pay bills online and use e-mail, text messages of social media for instant communication, all factors in the decreasing volume of mail.
The backbone of the postal service hasn't changed. Mail is sent to processing centers nearby, allowing about half of the country to receive first-class mail the day after it is put in the mail. It has been that way for about 40 years.
When the proposed changes go into effect, expect to add a day or two to your bill-paying schedule. Also expect magazines, Netflix's DVDs-by-mail and even mail-order prescription drugs to be delayed with the closing of mail processing centers. The closings leave companies that rely on the mail, such as catalogs, with questions about how they do business.
The reduction in volume comes at a time when the postal service is being buffeted with increased payments for future pension costs. As an independent government agency that is subject to congressional control, the postal service also finds itself caught in the constant bickering that is national politics these days.
The postal service continues to play a vital role in the lives of all Americans, many of whom are willing to pay a little extra for their next stamp, to understand that a letter might take an extra day to arrive at its destination or to accept a reduction to five-day-a-week delivery. Those changes, for now, should help the system remain viable.