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Communications United States News

Door-To-Door Mail Delivery To End Under New Plan 867

First time accepted submitter Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that under a cost-saving plan by the US Postal Service, millions of Americans accustomed to getting their mail delivered to their doors will have to trek to the curb and residents of new homes will use neighborhood mailbox clusters. 'Converting delivery away from door delivery to either curb line or centralized delivery would enable the Postal Service to provide service to more customers in less time,' says Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan. More than 30 million American homes get door-to-door delivery and another 50 million get their mail dropped at their curbside mailboxes. But the Post Service, which is buckling under massive financial losses, sees savings in centralized mail delivery. Door-to-door delivery costs the Postal Service about $353 per address each year while curbside delivery costs $224, and cluster boxes cost $160 per address. But unions say it's a bad idea to end delivery to doorsteps and will be disruptive for the elderly and disabled. 'It's madness,' says Jim Sauber, chief of staff for the National Association of Letter Carriers. 'The idea that somebody is going to walk down to their mailbox in Buffalo, New York, in the winter snow to get their mail is just crazy.'"
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Door-To-Door Mail Delivery To End Under New Plan

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  • Already happening (Score:5, Informative)

    by JackieBrown ( 987087 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:41PM (#44375637)

    We have been doing this for new homes in San Antonio for the past 5-10 years. My house was built in 1993 and it's like this.

    • by pollarda ( 632730 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:51PM (#44375727)
      Face it, we don't get any mail anymore that can't wait a day. Bills and junk mail are the norm. It makes a huge amount of sense to deliver non-priority packages every other day. It would cut the manpower needed for delivery almost in half. Combine that with community / street mailboxes and then that makes some real savings.
      • Without this "almost free" mail, another segment of the economy collapses. Print shops would disappear, for one.

        Look at it this way: Advertisers hire people to create copy and design layout, which goes to print shops that buy ink and paper, then bulk send the result via a postal service to my home - where I retrieve the contents and promptly deposit them in the recycling bin.

        But it doesn't end there! Then the waste management company comes to collect those, deliver them to paper mills that supply the print shops... Cue Elton John! It's the "Circle of Life"!

        Somebody is gainfully employed at every stage of this pipeline, and it is no more or less absurd than any other form of socially connected human endeavour. Everything is social policy, like it or not. Wait on the mail? Only at an overall social cost which, like the beat of a butterfly wing, may be of inestimable consequence.

      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:23PM (#44376087)

        Face it, we don't get any mail anymore that can't wait a day.

        I do. One of my credit card companies is trying to force me to go paperless, so they're delaying the processing on the outgoing statement, putting a ridiculously short due date on it, and then applying late fees when my check doesn't show up in time. A couple of other companies, including my city water department, are pulling the same stunt.

        This is the kind of company I'll feel just peachy about letting have unfettered access to my bank account? Right.

        Oh, I should add, to keep from getting socked with a late fee two months ago when I realized my statement hadn't come, I called these slime on the phone and paid that way. They screwed up the account number, the payment was refused, and instead of notifying me of the problem in a timely manner they simply added a late fee to the next bill. And since the previous bill wasn't paid, they sent the matter to their collections department, so I started getting calls once an hour at 8AM in the morning. The third one actually had a customer service person (predictive dialers should be outlawed), who asked me for account number and other identifying information before she could tell me why she was calling. Right. Sure.

        When I spoke to a supervisor about the problem, she claimed that they did try calling me to tell me about the failed payment. It was "in the computer". I promptly picked up my caller ID box and scrolled back through the last month's worth of calls and found nothing from them and told her so. Her response? "Let's move forward...". And I pointed out that the reason I was calling them was because THIS months statement hadn't arrived yet, either.

        So, yes, a day can make a difference.

        • by Lucidus ( 681639 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:47PM (#44376343)

          To discourage such shenanigans, many states require that creditors allow a certain minimum amount of time - typically 14 days - between actual receipt of your bill and the payment due date. You might want to look into this.

        • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @09:01PM (#44376435) Homepage

          This is the kind of company I'll feel just peachy about letting have unfettered access to my bank account? Right.

          I pay all my bills electronically. Wells Fargo has a "Bill Pay" service where you can instruct the bank, online, to either transfer the payment electronically (if the service company registered for that) or to mail a check (if they haven't done so.) Both payments are one-way and one-time (unless you want them to be recurring.) The receiving company does not have an "unfettered access to my bank account." Some companies offer automatic withdrawals, but I decline such offers for the same reason as you do.

          Another good aspect of this service is that all payments are registered at the bank. If some service company mixes up the paperwork, I have the proof that is pretty heavyweight - records of a major bank that document everything that happened to every sum of money that moved around. This service is free (to me, at least - don't know if they tie it to some other conditions.) I would be better off even if it costs 45 cents per transaction - because that's what a stamp costs, and an envelope, and my time to fill it all out and then worry if the check gets lost. Many services signed up for e-bills; this means that no paper is involved, and no humans either.

        • This is the kind of company I'll feel just peachy about letting have unfettered access to my bank account? Right.

          I use paperless all the time but the companies I pay do not have unfettered access to my accounts. I get a bill by email and I go to my online bank account and time a payment for a couple of days before the due date. No money comes out of my account without my initiating it. Paperless does not mean pre-authorized payments.

          PS I also find it funny that you don't quote dates. For some people two weeks between getting a letter and the due date is "ridiculously short". For many that would be plenty of time. To m

        • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @09:12PM (#44376553)

          One of my credit card companies is trying to force me to go paperless, so they're delaying the processing on the outgoing statement, putting a ridiculously short due date on it, and then applying late fees when my check doesn't show up in time.

          Have you considered just putting that credit card in a drawer and never using it? They might take the hint after a while.

      • by alfredo ( 18243 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:50PM (#44376371)
        They are not trying to save the Post Office, they want to kill it. If you remember, it was the Republicans in 2006 that passed a "reform" bill that forces the Post Office to put $5 billion a year into a pension fund to pay for pensions 75 years into the future. They want the fund filled within a 10 year period. The Post Office already has a pension fund and other worker funded retirement plans. The Republicans created the problem, and now they are using the shortfall as reason for attacking the Post Office. Post Office jobs are good paying middle class jobs. If the Republicans succeed in killing the post office, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, including businesses that depend on the Post Office and the buying power of postal workers. It would also hurt UPS and FedEX. They use the Post Office for the last mile in regions they find unprofitable.
        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @11:52PM (#44377615) Journal
          The claim of setting aside funds for pensions 75 years out isn't true. It's a rumor started for political purposes, by conflating two separate things.

          USPS is required start investing money to be used to pay pensions for current employees. The main reason for that is that 25 years from now their revenue might be half of what it is today. So this year, they need to start investing to pay the pensions of people who are delivering mail this year. That's one mandate.

          Here's the other. Suppose they have a current employee who is 20 years old. That employee will be colllecting a pension 60 years from now based on the work he does today. USPS is required to ESTIMATE, NOT PAY, how much they expect to owe todays's workers, for today's work, that they won't actually pay for up to 75 years. That's just common sense. If I make a promise today saying "when you're retired I'll pay your bills", I should estimate how much that promise is likely to cost me.
    • by IANAAC ( 692242 )

      We have been doing this for new homes in San Antonio for the past 5-10 years. My house was built in 1993 and it's like this.

      And it's been happening in rural America forever.

      My mailbox is a quarter of a mile away from my house. I have no problem taking a walk to get it. As it is, I don't go every day, because all my bills are paid online. Every single bill. So the only time I need to go to the mailbox is when I know I'll be receiving something. All the junk mail gets tossed. Any large packages go through UPS or FedEx.

      In the winter I'll sometimes slap on some skis and trek to the mailbox, if I haven't gotten the chance to get

  • Common in Canada (Score:4, Informative)

    by danbob999 ( 2490674 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:43PM (#44375653)

    My mailbox is something like 400m away.

  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:47PM (#44375685) Homepage Journal

    I think most Americans would rather give up Saturday delivery than have to walk farther to get their mail. I would be happy with just MWF delivery, but I would not want to have to walk to the end of our block to a cluster box.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are the pinnacle of a lazy ass! I'd much rather walk a few yards but be able to get a package any day than MWF delivery. day vs. 5 min. walk.

    • I've thought they should split routes into two segments for a long time: MWF, and TRS. They could effectively cut their delivery costs by 40+%.

      I hope that if they push through a neighborhood - centralized solution they have enough sense to do that as well.
    • Getting and sending mail becomes less convenient. I'm a big USPS fan (clearly... [washington.edu]), and the draws are convenience and personal contact, not speed.

      Getting mail twice a week would suffice for me, but getting rid of the mailperson -- the one who hand delivers a letter door-to-door anywhere in the States, for under a dollar! -- robs the USPS of its charm.

  • How about .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:48PM (#44375691)

    How about un-funding the massive health fund payments that they were forced to make?

  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @07:55PM (#44375783) Homepage

    under massive financial losses. It is buckling under the massive stupidity of Congress.

    This would also mean that you have to go to the Post Office every time you have a letter/package to sign for, as they are probably not going to come to your front door for that anymore, either. Even though I live less than a half mile from a Post Office, due to the insanity of current cost cutting, I have to drive 8 miles away to get to the Post Office that serves my house.

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      It is buckling under the massive stupidity of Congress.

      Indeed -- aren't they prevented from raising prices more?

      Also, aren't they subcontracted by UPS/FedEx on "unprofitable" routes because USPS has to serve every location at roughly the same price?

      It is this ridiculous idea that you can run something like a public utility service and business at the same time, i.e. keep prices low, guarantee universal service and be self-sustaining or profitable. Something's gotta give.

    • by tftp ( 111690 )

      The nearest Post Office here is in about 15 minutes of driving. However parking there is pretty bad, the office is tiny, and the lines are huge. If you come at rush hour you cannot easily leave because of traffic issues. You need to allocate at least 30 minutes if you only want to buy one stamp at the counter. I cannot imagine myself ever going there; the few times I had to do that to retrieve a package were a sad waste of time.

      What USPS needs to do is this. They scan the front of all incoming first clas

  • Great for parcels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:02PM (#44375849) Homepage

    I've lived in places with the mailbox-cluster idea in Canada. Personally, I love it. It's especially great for parcels that would otherwise be left on a doorstep or taken back to a depot.

    What happens here is that the mailbox-clusters have a a small number of large mailboxes. If you have a parcel, it goes in one of the large mailboxes. Then the key to that mailbox is put in your personal mailbox. You open it, take your parcel, and lock the key inside. Awesome.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:02PM (#44375857)

    Non-American here.

    What is happening to the largest economy in the world? You guys have the largest military, largest economy, dominant currency and you need to cut back on the mail service? I am even more flabbergasted at this than the lack of universal healthcare and the furor surrounding Obamacare.

    Mail delivery for me is as basic as clean water and electricity; a basic staple of civilization that is part of every modern society.

    Please don't take this as a veiled anti-American rant because it is not. I honestly wonder if I am witnessing the decline of a once might country. The other possibility is that the political stalemate in govt. is responsible for these basic things not getting fixed. If so this is almost scary: institutions in a superpower are crumbling because the politicians cannot work together.

    Any American that cares to enlightens this foreigner?

    • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @10:35PM (#44377205) Journal

      They're doing just fine. What the congress did is to make them fully fund the defined benefit retirement plan for all workers over a very, very short period of time (I'm actually not up on the details, but that's the broad version). The result is that they've got billions of dollars a year in costs which magically appeared over night, and the congress - who sets the postal rates - will not increase the rates to cover the shortfall. The USPS isn't funded by the government, but is a stand-alone, semi-private organization with governmental oversight.

      Understand that Postal Workers in the US have a very good union, and kick ass benefits for a position which doesn't require a college degree. I worked in the government for a while and the postal service health and retirement plans were far better than the mainstream civil servant (which, btw, are pretty good). By squeezing the USPS, the Republican controlled House of Representatives is intentionally setting the service up for failure so that they can point to how the federal government is incompetent at what they do.

  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:17PM (#44376025) Homepage

    Really, the Post Office is the one thing we shouldn't care about losing money on since it's a necessary and constitutionally required function of government. When's the last time we complained about the military losing money?

    What is a much bigger problem is the absurd amount of money losing ventures the government embarks on that it's not even supposed to be involved in.

  • by panthroman ( 1415081 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:18PM (#44376033) Homepage

    Before the Civil War, you had to go to the local post office to pick up your mail.

    In 1863, Postmaster Montgomery Blair petitioned congress to "promote the public convenience" by providing free home delivery in cities, and argued - correctly, it turns out - that the resultant increase in postal usage would offset the delivery cost and yield a profit. Free rural delivery followed around the turn of the century.

    Others at the time argued that whether home delivery yielded a profit was irrelevant, since government entities should be more concerned with civic duty than profit. It's a balance, for sure, but I wish the civic duty sentiment were more common today, or at least to acknowledge the trade-off.

  • by apenzott ( 821513 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:20PM (#44376051)

    In some small towns, there is no mail delivery.

    I would prefer that the USPS grant everyone a PO Box, with automatic translation of Street Address to assigned PO Box. This would reduce the amount of letter carriers needed for a given zip code immensely. With that savings, parcel lockers and extended front desk hours would be within reach.

  • Dear USPS, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:21PM (#44376061)

    Dear USPS,

    Please forward all photographs you've taken of my mail to my email address. This way, I can predetermine, for you, if I even want said articles of mail delivered to my address. I am sure precluding bulk mailings and advertisements from delivery to my address will save the USPS even more money.

    On second thought, could you just open my mail for me before you photograph it? I can just read my mail in the photos and save you the trouble of delivering anything.

    Bob the Recycling Dude

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:29PM (#44376143) Homepage

    Yeah, it's crazy that nobody will walk to get their mail. Except millions of Canadians do it every day, and have been for years. They don't get winter in Canada, do they?

    The main difference between the two postal systems is that Canada Post is strongly discouraged to lose money. So when they saw mail volumes declining, they started acting to reduce costs. Every new neighborhood gets a community mailbox, where every house has a locked box in that larger group of boxes (what's called a cluster box in the summary). The mail goes there. The end result is that far fewer staff are needed to deliver the mail, which makes it cheaper. You can drop off letters to be delivered, and small packages are also delivered there (or delivered to the door, depending on the service level). In my small city, there's one big post office and two smaller ones inside pharmacies scattered around the city for if you want to mail parcels or pick up items too big for the boxes.

    Because it's a Crown Corporation, management has some autonomy to enact changes like that, as the government can't step in as easily as Congress can (and has, in the case of blocking the end of Saturday delivery). The real problem here is less the USPS and more that the USPS isn't allowed to change anything without reactionaries in Congress interfering.

  • by g1powermac ( 812562 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @10:27PM (#44377163)
    Ok, as a formal rural carrier, I didn't have to do door to door delivery. We only delivered to boxes at the curb and clusters. We also have 'hardship' boxes for disabled residents, which are basically on house boxes, but they're very few, one or two per route. However, there is one major issue with this plan that only a carrier would understand, and I bet a city carrier would more understand. And that's street parking. If you can't get to the box at the curb in your LLV or personal vehicle, that mail is not delivered. It is held back at the post office to be attempted to deliver the following day. At least that's how it went for rural carriers. Since I drove a LLV doing almost a city route (750+ box route), I seen this quite a bit. I can't imagine how problematic this will be on very busy streets with parking. I would have to guess they would need to rely on cluster boxes heavily in these areas, but even then it won't be pretty. Unless maybe they can get the city gov't to do no parking zones around the clusters, but I doubt it.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"