Daily postal deliveries: An expensive and unsustainable service

Posted on by Mike Evans

The US Postal Service is going through hard times and Ben Brooks is sorry that such a wonderful nationwide facility is not profitable. As little as 44 cents buys a stamp that will see a letter delivered to any address in the country. He believes that charging more could stave off disaster.

I’m not so sure. Most western countries are struggling to maintain daily deliveries to all addresses, however remote and however high the cost of a stamp. There is still a next-day service in the United Kingdom, although a first-class stamp here costs 46 pence, equivalent to 74 cents. In this country, though, the post deliverer tramps to every front door and can be seen hiking from floor to floor in many blocks of apartments. And the concept of post boxes at the end of rural roads doesn’t exist here—the mail goes right to the door.

The simple fact is that the demand for door-to-door mail delivery is shrinking as email and courier companies cream off the bulk of the traffic. Prices rise and the only effect is further to depress demand. Why spend 44 cents or 46 pence when an email is free?

In my lifetime mail deliveries have shrunk from two to one a day and the old assurance of mail on your doormat before breakfast is long gone. A hundred years ago, cities such as London would have six or eight deliveries a day, making it possible to send letters and receive a reply within a few hours. As the telephone took over the job of providing intra-day communication, mail deliveries became less and less frequent. Now email, Skype and text messaging are finishing the job.

I agree with Ben that it’s sad to see a service we’ve all taken for granted withering on the vine. But I believe it is inevitable that daily deliveries to all addresses will not survive the next few years.

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