Americans Cling To The Idea Of The USPS’ Existence, But We Can’t Really Explain Why

When the United States Postal Service floated the idea of taking away Saturday mail delivery, Americans basically gasped and yowled, “Noo! You can’t!” We love getting mail every day but Sunday, downright adore it, but… why? That’s a lot harder to explain.

A lot like when someone asks you why your favorite chair is your favorite chair, a report from the USPS Office Inspector General says Americans can’t quite say what they’d miss about the mail if it disappeared. It’s not like shredding junk mail is fun for everyone (just kidding, who doesn’t love a good shredder?).

“People seemed to sense that the Postal Service disappearing would be a bad thing, but they had trouble articulating more specifically how this would affect them personally,” the report says, via CNNMoney.

The report was commissioned by the office to ask 101 people in 10 focus groups around the country about what they like and don’t like about their mail service. Those answers came together in a white paper called: “What America Wants and Needs from the Postal Service.”

It kind of sounds like we’re just holding onto the USPS because we’ve known it for so long, a nostalgic desire to see it keep going “because of its importance to the American people.”

There were only two naysayers who were like “shrug,” and said they wouldn’t be “negatively affected” if the USPS were to close down forever in five years. One of those was a 92-year-old woman who visits her local post office daily. She won’t be around, so, no big deal.

“I’ll be dead by then,” she said, according to the report.

While most people want the USPS to stay alive, the more they learned about how the agency works and the financial problems plaguing it, it seems like they became more open to cuts in either mail delivery days or post office hours, if it means the USPS won’t be put down.

And once participants realized that the USPS isn’t a taxpayer funded agency that instead has its own revenue to worry about, people lowered their “service level expectations.”

The USPS is still in the midst of figuring out how to pay the billions it owes in future retiree pension funds and deal with a changing mail landscape, from one of snail mail letters keeping loved ones in touch to simply a funnel for junk mail.

Americans crazy about mail, but can’t say why [CNNMoney]

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  1. mjd74 says:

    I’m neither for or against the USPS shutting down, but they wouldn’t be in such a financial bind if Congress hadn’t ordered the Postal Service to prefund retiree health benefits for 75 years into the future.

    • jdgr says:

      This is exactly the problem. The USPS is not a government entity, per se, so if “Operational authority [is] vested in a Board of Governors and Postal Service executive management, rather than in Congress” (via https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100/pub100_036.htm ) then perhaps Congress should refrain from making such silly requirements of the postal service. It seems like they’re saying, “Go ahead, run things yourself” on one hand, but are then saying, “We don’t like how you’re doing [X], so we’re going to start making up more rules for you.” It needs to be one way or the other…

  2. oneSqueakyWheel says:

    The convenience of being able to walk outside and place a card in the mailbox with just a cheap stamp on it is what I LOVE and would greatly miss- oh, and of course, receiving cards and letters in the mail, too- never having to use gas to do so- yes, it’s the convenience i think most people would miss.

  3. CommonC3nts says:

    WTF is wrong with you guys??? Why do you hate the USPS so much that you attack it every other week?????

    I buy things online all the time. USPS is my favorite of all the shippers as when you need a signature the local post office is close by vs having to drive an hour just to reach a fedex or ups terminal.
    Even fedex outsources lots of their home deliveries to the USPS as they cant beat them in costs.

    The USPS is more necessary than ever when people buy things online and need them mailed.
    The USPS has always been profitable and will continue to be as long as congress stops trying to artificially make it seem like they are broke.

  4. Thorzdad2 says:

    What is with Consumerist and its constant slagging of USPS? It’s almost pathological and seems blatantly at-odds with your otherwise pro-consumer, pro-citizen stance.

  5. GoldHillDave says:

    I think we need the Postal Service, in some form, but we absolutely DON’T need Saturday delivery.