You remember mail, don’t you? It was the way that people communicated with each other for centuries when people actually sat down and wrote cards and letters to each other. Well, while those days are gone now, the postal service will soon cost you even more than ever to use it, for everything.
With inflation rearing its ugly head again as an excuse and mail delivery problems, starting October 1, 2021, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will implement new service standards for first-class mail and packages as well as raise prices while lengthening delivery time for about 30% of its volume.
What Will USPS Service Changes Mean for You?
The service changes will mean higher prices to mail your packages, costlier and more erratic mail delivery, and many other delays like getting late unemployment checks or child tax credit payments, or just about any mail you get.
21st Century Life Mail
You don’t send many letters, but whatever you do send in the mail feels like a game of chance. Will it get there in a week, or two, or maybe even never? Last year during the holidays, a crisis developed at the post office as mail was delayed and people were really angry about it. But it didn’t end there.
During the first quarter of this year, around 20% of first-class mail across the U.S. was delivered late. Last summer, letter carriers, who customarily make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of mail, were instructed not to make any extra trips and to just leave mail behind at distribution centers.
Now, beginning this October, “snail mail” is about to get even slower for the 160 million residences and businesses that rely on the USPS. Welcome to the 21st century!
Who Can We Thank for This Mail Hell?
Louis DeJoy, the 75th Postmaster General of the United States, began his tenure as Postmaster General in June 2020. Appointed during the Trump administration, DeJoy has developed a 10-year plan to save the post office. That occurred despite his total lack of experience with the postal system.
DeJoy has a plan called “Delivering for America” and he is about to overhaul the agency to try to tackle its $160 billion debt. You may not like what you are about to get.
In October, some letters, parcels, and magazine subscriptions traveling longer distances could take up to five days to arrive instead of the current two or three days. The plan would also reduce post office hours and raise prices for customers, and there’ll be even more postage hike surcharges during the coming peak holiday season.
Every hour, 17 million mail pieces are processed and delivered by the USPS, an increasing portion of which are packages from online retailers like Amazon. That has zoomed even more so because of the pandemic and the huge online shopping increases.
Because Americans rely more and more on electronic payments and communication, there has been a massive decline in the volume of first-class mail like letters, cards, and bills. At the same time, the rising demand of e-commerce has made the post office struggle to match the quick delivery of its competitors like UPS, FedEx, and even Amazon itself. That’s a big reason why the USPS is taking action now.
You Could See It Coming, Couldn’t You?
Since 1971, the Postal Service has not been a fully governmental agency, but is considered a subsidized agency with the ability to make a profit.
It can make a profit, but of course it hasn’t since 2006 and has been struggling to meet high performance standards. The amount lost is over $75 billion since 2006.
The COVID pandemic exacerbated the USPS’ sluggish service and cash crisis, as staffing shortages collided with both the surge of online buying for essentials and the influx of 2020 election ballots. That is only going to get more difficult for the post office to handle.
One way the USPS plans to reduce costs is by more trucks and less air service to move the mail. They can deliver a higher volume of mail for less money that way. Ground transportation is also more reliable than air in all seasons they say.
The Postal Service’s 10-year plan also includes a multibillion dollar contract to buy new trucks which will roll into use on carrier routes in 2023.
The plan also means new equipment and infrastructure to help transport the growing volume of packages more efficiently to compete with competition as well as upgrades to all postal facilities.
All of these changes will increase delivery reliability, consistency, and efficiency for customers at a huge cost. But will it make the USPS profitable…ever?
What Do the Critics Say?
Critics are asking what you and I are asking and that is why the agency would opt to slow down mail when it already struggles to deliver mail on time?
The Postal Regulatory Commission issued an advisory opinion on July 20 that found that the estimated annual cost savings for the USPS’ proposed service standard changes won’t lead to “much improvement” of the agency’s current deficit woes.
Experts even say the new changes will lead to the biggest slowdown of mail in more than a generation.
What Does This All Mean for You?
- Slower mail. About 40% of all first-class mail, the standard-size, single-piece letters and envelopes you use most will now be delivered in three to five days.
- Higher prices. There will be higher prices for all packages and about one third of all first-class package service (smaller, lightweight parcels) will now be delivered in four to five days, with the longest distances having the longest timetable (such as between California and New York).
- Slower periodicals. Journals, magazines, and newspapers will take longer to be delivered by a day or two.
What Causes Postal Service Delivery Delays?
There are many reasons why there might be a holdup with your Postal Service mail, and many times it’s not what you’d expect.
- Climate Change. Disruptions due to severe weather. Winter and summer storms, floods, natural disasters, or power outages all affect the mail. Believe it or not, climate changes have affected the USPS. Mail can’t get through in a hurricane or a flood, even more so now than ever before.
- The holidays. They cause delays because they are busiest time for the USPS. The huge spike grows complicated by insane buying during the pandemic causing delays when the agency wasn’t able to deal with the amount of rush purchases through retailers.
One way you can avoid this is to prepare early and avoid last-minute gift buying.
- Wrong address. A typo in the delivery address or a missing apartment number or unreadable street name is frequently a reason for delays.
- Missing notification slips. If the USPS wasn’t able to deliver your mail because no one was there to receive it or there wasn’t a safe place to leave it, you might get a notice telling you that your package is at the nearest post office. However, if that slip gets lost, you’ll have no way of ever tracking down the package and this happens way too often.
- The pandemic. With fewer postal employees, social distancing guidelines, quarantine restrictions, and safety protocols, interruptions in the processing and delivery of mail became very common. At the same time, there was a significant rise in parcel volume because of the lockdowns, and certain facilities were so overwhelmed that they simply stopped accepting mail.
The New Costs
You already got a price increase on August 29th when the Postal Service raised the price of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 cents. Forever stamps now cost three cents more. Because Forever stamps never expire, the ones you bought in 2020 or any prior year remain valid even though the postage rate has gone up.
The other first-class standard-size mail and large envelopes, including presort letters like bills and statements, and newspapers and magazines had a price increase, as did media mail such as books. The prices for special services like certified mail and money order went up as well. Nothing can be done about all that, but that is not the end of it.
The USPS has also announced a new temporary price increase on commercial and retail domestic package shipments for the 2021 peak fall and holiday season, in effect October 3rd through December 26th.
The price increases range from 25 cents to $5 per package on priority mail, priority mail express, and first-class package service and are detailed in this USPS statement.
According to the agency’s plan, there could be even more price increases over the next decade. Though adding a couple of cents to send a birthday card might not burn a hole in your pocket, even a small increase could be ruinous for businesses that send a ton of mail or companies that depend on mass mailings. That can and will affect you in unknown ways for sure, one of which will be a higher cost for everything!
Individuals and businesses will face longer delivery times and higher costs on both outgoing and incoming mail now.
Mail delays are a burden for those who risk fees or penalties for late rent checks or bills. They’re also worrisome for those waiting for payments or important documents or packages to arrive by post.
Delivery lags could even be a matter of life and death for some people who depend on a mail-order medication system. Already during the pandemic, many people opting to receive prescriptions at home faced problems receiving their life-saving medicine on time through the USPS.
How can you fight back?
Plan ahead for your holiday mail needs and don’t get caught up in the potential turmoil it is going to bring here. When it comes to cost, look for “free delivery” opportunities that many of the post office competition will offer to attract you. Not only can you save on that, but you will get better delivery times too, a win-win!
For bills, use free bill pay from your bank online or direct from your credit cards or from the companies directly. Free is always better than a stamp.
Use the internet to communicate from quick messages to loved ones and associates to creating “free” greeting cards which saves money and the postage costs too.
Does it concern you that the USPS is failing your needs so badly and do you have any faith that DeJoy can solve the problems?