Good Question: What If The Postal Service Stops?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s not a good time to be the United States Postal Service. For USPS, revenue is down, expenses are high, and Congress requires the Postal Service to pre-pay future retirees’ health benefits.

With a $5.5 billion payment for those benefits due at the end of this month, the Postmaster says the USPS is in jeopardy of default. So, what happens if the Postal Service has to shut down?

“We would have to completely transform our business,” said Greg Herman, marketing director for MagnetStreet, a Blaine company that sells promotional magnets and other materials.

If the Postal Service shut down, it would be an incredible shock to the millions of Americans, and businesses –like Herman’s — who rely on the service of picking up mail and delivering it to every home in the United States.

Email can be to blame for part of the Postal Service’s troubles. This fiscal year, they’ll handle 167 billion pieces of mail, which is down 22 percent from five years ago.

Priority Mail, a huge moneymaker for USPS, is down 36 percent over the past five years.

The postal service “is very important. We’re actually in the middle of mailing almost 200,000 catalogs,” said Herman. “There’s a segment that doesn’t need it, but a segment like our customers that does still use it a lot. They get so saturated with email and social media or phone calls or whatever — that that just becomes noise.”

In the event of a shutdown, it’s hard to picture UPS picking up a letter in Minnesota and delivering it to Alaska for 44 cents. In the past, UPS and FedEx have expressed little interest in doing door-to-door First Class mail service. It’s a big business, but it’s labor-intensive.

Labor represents 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses. At UPS, its 53 percent, and at FedEx, it’s 32 percent.

A Postal Service shutdown would mean nearly 600,000 people out of work.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has suggested eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers. The suggestions are all things that would require Congressional approval, and some would require reopening union contracts.

Although the Postal Service may not make that $5.5 billion payment this month and may default, they expect to have enough money to continue operating until next fall or winter.

“We think by August, September timeframe next year — given no action — we will be out of cash to pay employees and pay contracts,” said Donahoe, testifying in front of Congress.

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  • Bill

    Looks like we’ll all be working for minimum wage with NO benefits!, At least the CEO’S and Politicians will be getting rich!

    • Matt

      So, get off your a$$ and start a company and become a CEO instead of living off the damn government. Stop playing victim and do something.

      • matt is stupid

        so everyone is to have a business??? interesting… matt, you’re so smart… thousands of company competing for the same limited customers… that’s going to work…

        idiots like you need to shut it…

        • Chris

          @Bill… no, Matt was just telling you that if you are criticizing CEO’s, etc, give it up and take charge of your own life! We can see how you must have missed the point… and the rest of it too!

  • Mike

    The U.S.Postal Service was never intended to make a profit. It is a Goverment agency, like any other. What other Government agency makes a profit? As with any Government agency, we as a people need to decide if we think it is worth funding. UPS or FEDEX would never deliver a letter for you across the country for you for 0.44. U.S.P.S employees are paid the same as UPS, and FEDEX employees. This is a fact, check it out.

    • lib

      Who needs the post office for a letter? Times they are a changing, use the internet for letters and open the rest to competition. I never send ANYthing through the mail if it is important, I want it to get to the other end and using the US post office no longer guarantrees that. My experience with postal employees does not encourage confidence.

      • cosmo

        “lib” – you have no idea what you are talking about. There is not an entity out there that is interested in door-to-door delivery for letters, catalogs, etc. It is too labor intensive (i.e., EXPENSIVE) and would not be protected under federal laws. Do you or anyone here realize what mail fraud is and how the post office enforces that activity? Do you know that you mail is protected? Maybe you don’t think it is, but it is. Lumping all postal workers into one category is unwarranted. Maybe whatever it is that you do you are the one in that same type of category for which you label all postal workers? My guess is yes, that’s you.

      • Gotta have mail!

        My rent checks have to go through the mail. You would think my complex would “get with the times” and go electronic, but…

        USPS is needed for lots of things…namely cheaper costs. I can send something priority for half the price that UPS would charge.

    • Doug T

      Thats because the USPS has a monopoly on first class mail. They either need to improve and get productive or go away. We have enough social services costing us money – we do not need another.

      Under current union agreements – no on can be fired – really?

      And I always give the workers a break – because the management of the USPS is really bad – and they deserve to be fired – from the top down.

  • Sammy

    @pat, I was thinking the same thing, why no comments on the muslim article, yet allow people to comment on other “controversial” articles. With regards to this artice however The postal service needs to make cuts. with the internet, people make payments online and get their bills on-line. Most of the mail I receive at home is junk mail anyway. The post office is too big, but like most goverment agencies they wont cut where its needed and everyone with a sob story gets to stay.

  • Ellen

    Rather than fire workers and close post offices, how about cutting wages and benefits? If a worker doesn’t like that, there are plenty more in the unemployment
    line that would be more than happy to step up. Like most “businesses”, there are
    probably plenty of upper management people with large incomes that could be fired

    Regarding using the internet, I use it plenty myself! But not everyone has the
    access or knowledge to do this. I keep in touch with relatives via e-mail has
    well as my cell phone and texts. Let’s face it, letters are going almost extinct!
    I get quick replies as opposed to waiting days for a letter in the mailbox.

    I agree with those that say all that comes in the mail box is junk these days.
    But we do get our bank statement & bills because we’d rather not do all
    that online. But we DO need the post office despite everything. I can’t
    imagine UPS or FEDEX delivering our mail each day!

    • cosmo

      We have the luxury of living in a metropolitan area and are used to taking care of things online or through other means. There is a HUGE portion of this country that is not in a metro-area and eliminating postal services to this group of citizens would be a horrendous mistake. The post office has a high number of management (middle-mgmt) that are the puppets for the bigger fish who sit in a cushy office (yes, really). If the post office wants to be more efficient they need to look within their management tiers and allow managers to manage without having to get approval from someone who doesn’t even sit in the same office or have a clue on the real workings of what carriers, clerks, and branch offices deal with on a daily basis. No management degree will teach you that.

      • Chris


        What are you talking about?! People have had electricity and phone ervice in rural areas now for 70 years, so everyone is online!

        They even make more use of it (internet) than “metro folks”! But you sound far removed from that…

        Think about it, mail service to rural areas is not as convenient as you imply…

    • Mag

      Postal carriers are not paid an hourly wage. They get paid by mail volume. My son-in-law just had a $6000.00 pay cut. The post office is self sustaining not getting our tax dollars. If all of those employees are laid off it will add to our tax dollars through unemployment!

      • Chuck

        I do not think it is that simple…
        There is a salary with some volume incentives…
        Looks like he should have been docked the $6K a long time ago.
        And don’t forget about the extremely good benefits and early retirement!

    • John Smith

      So pay Fedex and UPS the same but cut our wages? We do a lot more than simply deliver the mail. Half the day is sorting it and thats the 90% that machines cant sort!. Do you want to walk in the rain, snow or cold temps? We get paid to do work that is fairly labor intensive and time consuming. Not to mention a strain on the system (over time). There are problems but to say “there are plenty more in unemployment) do you really want some of those people to be delivering your mail? I do agree with your final point about FEDEX and UPS and cost. Not angry or anything…its juts not all of us should have a pay cut :)

  • Flanders

    I sure would miss all of that junk mail. That’s for sure. Take me off that list for 1 of those 200,000 catalogs to. It’s just going right in the recycling. Shut’em down. Within 2 months you wouldn’t know the difference. Who the hell runs at 80% labor?!?! Good lord.

    • cosmo

      I don’t even know where to start with your comments. You yourself can have your name/address removed from the mailing lists for catalogs you don’t want – go out there and do that yourself. Maybe the labor cost is so high because the rates are too low for packages, mailing services, postage, etc.

      • Flanders

        Thought you didn’t know where to start. I did the “remove me from junk mail” twice, did not work. Just what we need, to pay MORE for something. Good plan.

  • tough as nails "Billy"

    Ellen answered her own question. “I can’t imagine UPS or FEDEX delivering our mail each day!” There are probably plenty of upper management people with large incomes that could be fired.”

    Not in the private sector, they are the job creators that can not be taxed or fired. The feds are not top heavy…and work for service not profit but everyone gets a “living wage”

    • Charlie

      Now maybe you can translate that into a comprehensive point that we can understand…

  • msche

    FedEx and UPS don’t even deliver packages anymore. I ordered clothing on line and qualified for free shipping. FedEx delivered it to the Blaine post office and the mail carrier delivered it to my home. This has happened many times. They can do it cheaper, because they have the option of having one driver make one stop at local post offices and then having them deliver it out. Look for shipping rates on everything to skyrocket if FedEx and UPS actually have to deliver all of your packages to your homes

    • Rural Carrier

      As a Rural Carrier, I take great pride in doing my job well. We are constantly pushed to go faster and do more for less. Yes, there are some who bow to managements’ unrealistic demands, but I tell you, there are more mistakes being made, and more shortcuts which lead to this being an even more dangerous job to deliver mail.

      I use my own vehicle, pay for my own gas (for which I get reimbursed), replace brakes, repair transmissions, all to deliver your mail. I sit on the side of the road in danger of being rear-ended or sideswiped because many drivers ignore the flashing light on the top of my car, hazzard lights, and sign on the back of my car, AND, pass me on a double yellow line below a hill. The postal service ‘allows’ us 2 minutes to deliver a package to the door. This does not allow time to drive up, the sometimes,long driveway, move all the mail tubs and trays surrounding us in the front seat just so we can get out of our vehicle, , scanning the parcel, and watching out for dogs and other hazzards as we bring it to your door. Then we do it all in reverse to get back out of their yard without running over the kids’ toys they left in the driveway.

      I love my job, I take it seriously, and I don’t appreciate being lumped into your misguided, generalizing description of mail carriers!

      • Redneck Purist

        Boo-hoo. That’s quite the laundry list of grievances. Here’s a tissue. So you hate your job. Oh that’s right, you love it. Only you have this big list of gripes. Which is it? Your list of issues is the same as my Dominos driver’s. Only he doesn’t think of it as a career and he doesn’t whine about it.

    • Chris

      Well said Redneck… thanks for adding some common sense to the discussion!

    • Chris

      Wow, where did you hear that BS?!
      We get deliveries all the time and why would the mail carriers supplement FedEx? That makes no sense…

  • gdog

    Why doesn’t the USPS develop kiosks for people to get their mail instead of home mail delivery. Maybe have a kiosk set up in each neiborhood so people could go and pick up their mail at their convenience. The USPS needs to start coming up with ideas or be left behind as our country moves forward.

  • Susan

    Most old folks don’t own a computer – how do you expect bills to get paid? This makes no sense and needs to be resolved immediately! It is not just about sending a note or a birthday card, this is a fundamental part of society!

    Those of you that want to knock the carriers, what is your problem? I see those guy’s walking across your slippery sidewalk when it is 20 below, delivering your mail in pouring rain and avoiding your vicious dogs. Get real, they should be paid a decent wage.

    • Diane

      I have to agree with Susan about the Older folks. My 88 year old parents aren’t on line to get emails. They use an old comuter only to look at cd’s of grandkids pictures. That is the extent of their comuter knowledge. The Post Off ice has always been such a key part of our history. Has anyone seen the movie “The Postman”? I know it’s fiction but the mail is important to so many people. And that is emphasized in this movie. I would hate to see this institution close. And I for one, look forward to the catalogs!

      • Chuck

        @Diane… maybe you will have to go over and help your parents do this…
        that is part of the independence that is is required if we do not want the Gov to eat us alive… or do you prefer total dependence and the highest taxes? Get a clue and you cannot have everything, as that is what is broken in the US.

    • Charlie

      Sure… Let’s put the emphasis on “decent wage”…

      It is a job and a very good one too… the weather is part of it and many people work outdoors… why the sympathy when it is not necessary?

  • sid

    Renegociate union contract (lay some people off) raise stamp rates as high as they need to be (the market will dictate who uses at this rate) , stop saturday delivery and everything would be fine.

  • La

    I not sure whither I agree with everyone here or not. For sure when the post services stop. How am I going to deliver my gifts to friends and family oversea?

    @Susan I agree with you. I am proud of our mailman and mail-woman for deliver my mail even their are junks. I rather look and feel the real object in my hand. I sick of tired of looking and doing everything on the computer screen.

    Those people say that they don’t care what happen when it shut down. When it does they will be the one crying about their stuff in the mail? Is not like the computer going to exist forever.

    • Redneck Purist

      Are you literally insane? The computer is not going exist forever? Yeah, sure, we’ll be going back to ox carts and carrier pigeons any day now.

      • Chris

        Thanks again Redneck, as some of these folks are clueless… no wonder the USPS and the reest of the Gov agencies are upside down… too many of these people believe their explanations and poor logic!

  • Robert

    Privitize the USPS. Watch customer really improve. I never use the USP. If i ship something or order online I have UPS or Fed Ex, its the same price and I get it a lot quicker. The only thing I use US mail is to send in my rent check.

  • Yeps

    Probably could never happen since the USPS is part of the constitution which I am guessing means it will forever be bailed out.

    The two biggest things in my opinion would be to get rid of Monday delivery, which would have the effect of removing a lot of paid holidays, and get rid of the union so that the employees have similar pay and benefits as other delivery service people.

    Contrary to what people seem to think it is actually cheaper to ship with the USPS than with FedEx or UPS and you get free Saturday delivery which you pay an arm and leg for with the other guys. If they could get their employee costs under control they would be fine.

  • Bill

    I would be happy to see the post office go away only to rid myself of the annoying junk mail that I never look at.

  • idiocracy

    I see the death of mail like the death of payphones. USPS will raise prices to cover costs, but then people will stop using it because the price is going up, which will make USPS raise prices to cover the losses, until they are out of business.

    Federal government- Don’t just throw money at the problem. Fix the outside reasons that businesses are failing. (costs of everything)

    • Mark

      Death of payphones? That is nothing like mail. This is more like the death of the US Interstate system. This is one of the indicators of what is coming. I’ve been getting USPS mail on time and at affordable rates for as long as I can remember. The fact is that the existence of UPS and FedEx allows the private industry to focus only on the most profitable services leaving USPS only the scraps along with the burden providing a public good. That is an untenable position for a business.

      Imagine if private companies could buy the busiest sectors of the interstate system and turn them into toll roads and then the federal gov had to maintain the remaining portions on the tolls they could charge for the remaining sections. It makes no sense for what is basically a public good.

  • Andy

    The post office will not go away. But they need to make changes in the way they operate. Eliminate Saturday delivery and if need be deliver twice a week. Or expand routes and lay off people. Labor costs and retirements are ki lling the post office

    • Rural Carrier

      Dropping Saturday delivery would be fine with me! I’ll finally have a weekend like a lot of you

      I worked 10 hours yesterday and there were stacks of catalogs to put up when I got back in at 5 p.m. We must take out 1st class and periodicals, along with packages which are priority, express, and/or have delivery confirmation stickers on them, the day they come in. We have 3 days to deliver the ‘bulk’ mail unless it’s dated. The mail volume varies day to day: we never know how much we’ll have to deliver until we arrive in the morning. Cutting service back to 5 days is one thing, but cutting it back to 2 would be impossible! A lot of days, my car is packed to the point I can’t see out my rear window (I drive an SUV). Some days, not so much. Our delivery time is also dictated by how many accountables (certifieds, registered, express mail, insured) we have. It takes a lot longer to deliver those items along with large packages, which don’t fit into the mailbox, than it does to slip mail and smaller boxes into a mailbox. Most Rural Carriers drive their own cars. Very few have the LLV’s (bread trucks, as we refer to them), and prefer that, because they do not handle the backroads, lake roads, and especially, the winter driving conditions we face!

      I already drive 68 miles a day. Eliminating Saturday delivery would also pretty much eliminate our substiute mail carriers. As it is now, we have to take a whole day off for doctor appointments and such, as we can’t just get off early or come in late. I know that other workers in other lines of work are pushed to the limit, but I bet you don’t know that we are allowed 5 minutes a day (on the clock) for bathroom breaks. We are allowed 1/2 hour for lunch (off the clock) but I’d say the vast majority have to eat while we drive because we can’t miss the dispatch (the truck that brings the mail we collected from your mailboxes down to the cities).

      I feel I am paid well for what I do, but there are other costs to us that can’t or won’t be covered. The reimbursement for driving our own vehicles doesn’t come close to covering the cost of brakes, transmissions, broken tie rods,etc., let alone a back-up vehicle in case ours breaks down. Many carriers suffer from rotator cuff injuries, carpal tunnel, bad backs, ‘tennis elbow’, and arthritis, to name just a few. We stand in a small cubicle casing our mail anywhere from an hour to 5 hours, and then spend anywhere from an hour to 6 hours sitting on the ‘wrong’ side of the car. Management fights tooth and nail to get out of paying for injuries sustained on the job.

      Before the critics condemn the USPS, they should walk a mile in a carriers’ shoes! The cuts need to be made in management. We don’t need a babysitter. A clerk at the window is all a PO needs. The hours should be changed so that the PO is open when the people have time to access it, such as early mornings, a couple of hours during lunch time, and later in the afternoon/evening so commuters can get to their PO boxes or services handled at the window.

      Post Offices could be consolidated, which means that carriers will just have that much further to drive to begin their routes, and to return to their office with the collected mail. Managements’ requirements, such as writing down what time we come in off the route, on 2 different forms, is a ridiculous waste of time! Many carriers have been suggesting ways to improve efficiency over the years, and it’s about time that management begins to listen!

  • deedee

    They may have declined in .44 cent letters but what about the increase in Ebay, Craigslist, etc. Heck I pay $9 sometimes to ship a pair of jeans to Cali and I sell 200+ items a month. There are thousands of Ebay sellers out there, that sure as heck should more than make up for 22% decline in .44 cent stamps. Sounds like poor management to me….

    • Chris

      @DeeDee… really?! Isn’t that the point of this? They need to cleanup their efficiencies and get more creative… isn’t that the nature of private business too?

  • Guy

    Raise the rates for the JUNK MAIL … if some companies stop sending it … well .. nobody will miss it.

  • Yeps

    They also should stop giving bulk rates to advertising. Every piece of junk mail I receive should cost the same as a letter I send.

    • Charlie

      Now that is a good idea! Stop doing all of the lowcost work and charge what you need to cover or go home!

  • Pat

    Who’s idea was it to corporatize the U.S. Mail? Stupid. We need a national, non-profit mail system to tie this country together. Why does it have to make money?

    The end of the postal service will be the end of many, many smaller towns.

    • Chris

      @Pat… what the heck are you saying? Your first line is wrong and it gets worse from there… they are non-profit nut still need to cover their costs, as they are running at a deficet… and what does this have to do with smaller towns? Rural people really gain from using the internet… and the others deliver there for the same cost too… so maybe you can clarify your point?

  • Lee and Michele

    If we want to try and save the UPS we all need to go to our Goverment and start complaining and wrighting to the Fed Goverment or whom it may concern. Also come on Fed’s how would we pay our bills ,because we all do not own a computers in this world nor even if we did like me I do not feel comfortable putting personal stuff on their cuz of computer hackers and criminals. Nor will I make payments over the phone and give my card number to a stranger over the phone. Someone I know recently just gave their card number over the phone to order a pizza and right after that someone in a different state started to use their card. So they got the police involved cuz it was obvious who stole the information and gave it away. Anyway’s look at all those jobs it will effect. It will really hurt the economy and start to effect our jobs then as well cuz it will be like a domino effect. Plus their will be no Christmas cards deliverd or gifts. So again we all need to complain to whom it may concern that we can keep the UPS.

    • Joshua

      Get with the times. if your card is used fraudulently you don’t get the bill…. Yes we should be leaning heavily on our out of control government.

  • Lee and Michele

    OOPPS TYPO Government

    • Flanders

      You think that was your only typo?

      • Lee and Michele

        Flanders ~ You sound like a very rude person and you do not have nothing better to do then be a big bully! and complain about peoples comments. I do not really care what you think or say people like you are just bullies. I really feel sorry for you that you are a angery person and a bully.

        • Flanders

          It’s Angry* :-)

  • NotaPostalWorker

    The USPS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT AGENCY although they are under strict government control because of the monopoly nature of their business. Not one penny of your tax dollars go into the operations of the USPS. They are attempting to operate like any self-sustaing business would like to operate. They need to and shoul be making a profit to ensure their viability. They are no different then any other large profit making business operating right now. You can complain as much as you want about what they get paid or whether they are heavy with upper or middle management BUT you might want to complain likewise about Coke or Pepsi or General Mills. You are not entitled to the USPS . . . It is unfortunate that so many don’t know or realize they are not a government agency.

    • Kim

      Will my fault who cares if it is or is not Government . Then why are they closed on the Holiday’s if they are not run by the Federal Government office? I agree with Lee and Michele we need to try and save the UPS.

    • what!?!

      Finally.. a sign of intelligence!… But no need in trying to educate simple folks… THESE GUYS WILL NEVER GET IT. They are to drunk on the media cool aid and feel that anti government slogans apply to every thing in their lives.. Yet.. the minute they are in trouble they turn to the same government that they condemn

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