The Postal Service's first-class mail retreat


Farewell, first-class mail.

The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t say it quite that bluntly, of course, but that’s the theme of a regulatory filing released this afternoon. By itself, the filing isn’t all that significant–simply a request for the Postal Regulatory Commission to render a legally required advisory opinion. It stands out, though, as a distillation of what USPS leaders have been saying for much of this year: Its most profitable line of business is melting away with no visible hope of return.

“Unfortunately, the Postal Service does not expect first-class mail volume to reverse its decline in the foreseeable future,” USPS lawyers wrote.  “While an economic recovery could slow its rate of decline, the growing use of the Internet and other forms of electronic communication will likely ensure that the class continues to lose volume each year.” Newly released numbers show that the Postal Service expects first-class mail flows to slip to 39 billion pieces by 2020, little more than one-third of the 98 billion pieces processed in 2006.

Down the road, this may be remembered as a historic moment. Rather than strive to improve first-class delivery, the Postal Service now wants to weaken it on the premise that fewer and fewer people will be using the mail to pay utility bills and send holiday cards.  That plan is tied to one of the agency’s single biggest downsizing initiatives ever: Closing up to 252 processing plants with a loss of 28,000 jobs. It’s not all over yet–there are at least two bills in Congress aimed at putting additional studies in the way–but this is one area where the Postal Service already has plenty of management latitude.

Or, to quote from one elegaic passage in today’s PRC filing: The law “does not require that long-standing products, service features, and operational practices be maintained primarily for the purpose of preserving a tangible link to an iconic past, or to perpetuate a nostalgic image of the agency or its employees.”





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  1. Customer in Colorado on

    I need documents delivered reliably overnight in the Denver metropolitan area. My local post office is two miles from my home and my documents go 40 – 60 miles. No, two day delivery is not acceptable. If there is a lower amount of First-Class Mail it should be easier to move quicker not slower. Parts of the proposed postal reorganization are designed to make the service less desirable and in the long run, destroy a once great institution. Yes, there is a hidden agenda here. I believe Pat Donahoe is a hand-puppet fronting for a Board of Governors intent on eventually forcing the Postal Service out of business.

  2. It signals that the powers that be at USPS are no longer interested in the retail side, preferring to concentrate on corporate mailers’ needs. Unfortunately, the postal service was set up to be a “service” for the American people, not a marketing tool for big business.

  3. Notice how they blame the internet and the economy, and not their inept and self indulgent leadership. The district leadership on up should be in prison for treason and economic terrorism for what they have done to the Postal Service.

  4. I believe Pat Donahoe is a hand-puppet fronting for a Board of Governors intent on eventually forcing the Postal Service out of business.

    I agree

    Why would you annouce this before your busiest time of the year. Why not wait till it’s over then bring it out.
    You know how many people are now saying they are going to pay there bills on the internet and not sending Christmas cards because they think it’s going to happen right away.

    Not a smart move.

  5. First of all the notion of transforming an existing SERVICE into a Business seems inappropriate. If in fact the future is so bleak, why would that approach be taken???

    Then to announce just prior to the busiest mailing season a degradation of business seems counter productive also.

    The money grab by congress in 2006 coupled with a deep recession would have decimated act of real businesses. The job of delivering to every address every day has been part of America since its inception. Apparently the powers that be have decided now is the time to dismantle that approach.

  6. When liberties are eroded just add the lose of the sanctity of the mail. The communication through letter writing and the growth of the US go hand in hand. We as a people have given into the Big Business idea and Big Money running the United States. Common workers have more to lose if we subscribe to these actions by the few. Next we will lose our Freedom of the Press, Gun Rights and other Rights afforded us through the Constitution. Wake up America or lose everything!

  7. In addition, what the PMG Donahoe does not tell you is, himself and upper level managers just received HUGE (hundreds of thousands $ each) performance bonuses…. So, they all got bonuses for their “stellar” performance??? Give me a break. Donahoe should be fired

  8. if the postal service says that first class letter mail has volume has been declining since 2006 then why did they continue to installing expensive automation machines ? this is perplexing to me..

  9. And lo and behold – ourCongressional idiots want to hand over retiree pensions and health care plans to these clowns who cannot manage the movement of mail! What a pathetic joke. Most of the L’Enfant executives are way overpaid and do not work – period! These USPS executives should be run out of town on a rail!!! In fact, the entire L’Enfant Plaza should be cleaned out with a fire hose!!! They are nothing but lazy losers!!!!!

  10. First class mail in the USA is a bargain. I would be willing to spend $1 per letter to have it delivered in a few days anywhere in the USA with near 100% reliability. What other country has such service. What other business has that degree of reliability? Get real, what is the service worth to you and how much are you willing to pay for it.

  11. 1 reason 1st class mail is down is that since the stamp machines & most street mailboxes r gone no one can send letters anymore. Play up the parcel deliveries & prices that r lower than the competition’s, & that’s even if the Usps ups the 1st class stamp prices. Postal mgmt., wants a non-profit usps to be a cash cow, instead of the service to people it was.

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