The U.S. Postal Service's decision to cut service on Saturdays comes as no surprise.
Much has been written about the post office's financial problems. With public sentiment squarely against closing small post offices and even more against eliminating larger facilities like the mail sorting facility in Buffalo, cutting delivery days is one of the few remaining cost-saving measures for the postal service.
Starting in August, mail will be delivered Monday through Friday. Package delivery, one of the few post office services actually making money, will still be delivered on Saturdays. In all, the plan should save about $2 billion a year.
There was a time when there was so much mail, it had to be delivered to each house twice a day. People in the same area could write a letter in the morning and have a reply that afternoon. Of course, such late-day delivery is something for the history books now.
It's easy for postal service officials to blame outside circumstances for the agency's problems. They say it's too difficult to retool the postal service because Congressional approval is necessary for nearly any significant action. Its problems are always caused by another level of government or outside competition.
For a non-governmental organization, the postal service runs too much like government.
Like most governments, the U.S. Postal Service has been unable to adjust to economic conditions. Postal service officials signed employee agreements that are drowning it today. A byzantine maze of rules and regulations, coupled with regular rate increases, made it easier for the postal service to feed customers to competition like UPS and Federal Express. For years, customer service wasn't a priority for some postal service employees. After all, there were no alternatives, so it was no big deal if a customer was unhappy. There was, after all, only one way to get the mail.
It took decades for the postal service to dig itself the hole it is in. For all the debate and discussion, the postal service had to cut Saturday delivery hours because we, its customers, were dissatisfied with the product. So, we used it less. We texted and emailed. We used UPS and Federal Express to deliver packages. We voted with our pocketbooks.
Cutting Saturday delivery hours was a necessary step for the postal service to get its fiscal house in order. It has a long way to go to win back its old customers, however.