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U.S. Mail Delivery on Saturday -- Important, or Irrelevant?

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mail-delivery.jpgWould your business be affected if the U.S. Postal Service ceased delivering mail on Saturdays? Congress heard testimony about this proposal last week, and business owners were split on whether the end of weekend delivery would pose a problem. executives testified that dropping Saturday delivery would be a problem for its rural customers, who might have no other alternative for weekend delivery. On the other hand, Netflix managers weighed in with the opposite view -- they didn't think it would have a big impact on their business.

Since I'm sort of a rural customer myself -- I live on an island off Seattle -- I'd have to say I don't know if dropping Saturday delivery would matter much to me. FedEx and UPS seem to deliver here on Saturdays. 

If there's an area of the country where they're not doing it now, the private shippers would likely add Saturday service if USPS dropped Saturday delivery. There'd be a business opportunity there, and they'd certainly exploit it. So I'm not sure we can really know whether such a change would be a hindrance to shipping based on current information -- we'd have to see it in action (by which time, of course, it'll be too late if it turns out to be a problem). 

Less-government advocates would no doubt be happy to see more of this shipping business sent to private-sector businesses, which seem to be able to move goods around profitably, unlike USPS, which loses a bundle. But one issue I see is if you're a small manufacturer that needs deliveries for a weekend shift...might take some better planning to make sure what you need is there, and it's still affordable to ship.

One other factor to consider is if USPS bags Saturday delivery, might prices for weekend delivery rise? Without the cheap USPS price in the mix, Saturday fees might be higher. Good for the big shippers, but possibly a hit to small businesses that need to get or send out weekend deliveries.

I'm going to risk seriously dating myself here, but I recall when I was a little girl, mail came twice a day...and now it doesn't. And life goes on. 

Over the past 40 years or so, there's been a steady, gradual shift away from USPS being the main way letters and small packages got around the country, and toward private carriers and less-frequent service. This seems to be just one more step along that road. Not sure we can stop the tide here, as USPS has to try to balance its budget.

What do you think -- does America need USPS Saturday service, or could taxpayers save a few billion here without much pain to small business owners? Leave a comment and let us know.

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