As Tom Lisi reported in this week’s Sunday LNP | LancasterOnline, frustrated U.S. Postal Service customers “experienced significant delays last year after newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made severe cuts to service capacity in an effort to control costs months into the COVID-19 pandemic and ahead of busy election and holiday seasons.” Despite last year’s issues, the Postal Service “expects a banner holiday season as more people rely on e-commerce and shipping gifts than before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lisi noted. To improve delivery times, the Postal Service “is installing 112 machines capable of sorting 3,500 packages per hour at its distribution centers nationwide. One was recently installed at its distribution center in Manheim Township.” “This machine enables us to process packages 12 times faster than the manual sortation we had to rely on in the past,” Postal Service spokesperson Paul Smith told Lisi in an email.
DeJoy is misnamed. There hasn’t been much joy to be found in DeJoy’s tenure since he was appointed postmaster general in May 2020.
Holiday packages and letters were horribly delayed last year. And the Postal Service’s troubles extended far beyond the 2020 holiday season.
In a letter to the editor that we published Tuesday, Glenn Morrison of Quarryville wrote about getting an invoice from a local business that had been sent from Kirkwood, 4.5 miles away, via first-class mail. It took a week to be delivered. “Why aren’t our government officials taking the necessary steps to correct this national embarrassment?” Morrison asked.
In a September letter to the editor, Lancaster Township resident Gail Jenks wrote, “My husband’s pay stub is arriving as much as a month past the pay week. Packages are indicated as being on the truck to be delivered — and they aren’t. … Medications don’t come. Cards are mailed two weeks before the due date to help guarantee arrival on time. Items are lost or damaged. Bills are late.”
In July, West Lampeter Township resident Shirley Cressman wrote: “My mail-in ballot for the November election took five days to be delivered. A Christmas card from Richmond, Virginia, took 28 days to reach us. Our financial information for taxes took 71 days to reach our accountant, who is only 65 miles away.”
She continued: “One of our credit card payments, though sent in ample time, arrived seven days past the due date. … A note sent by U.S. mail from one part of our building to our apartment took six days. A note sent to a bereaved friend in Florida was returned to us two months later as being undeliverable, even though she has lived in the same house for over 30 years.”
It’s frustrating enough to be foiled by the Postal Service in the simple but important quest to pay a bill on time, or to send a card to a friend in need of solace or, most worryingly, to get a needed medication.
For small business owners, shipping delays can end up costing considerable amounts of money. So no wonder, as Lisi reported, some businesses are switching from the Postal Service to companies such as UPS and FedEx.
The slowing of the mail
We continue to believe that this was DeJoy’s aim all along — to hobble the Postal Service and move it toward privatization.
As we wrote in August 2020, “The U.S. Postal Service is a cherished American institution. Our Constitution gave Congress the power to create it. The law establishing it as part of the federal government was signed by President George Washington in 1792.”
At least, it was a cherished American institution.
Now, as Lisi reported, the Postal Service has implemented a new delivery-times policy as part of a larger plan to cut costs. “That means mail from Lancaster destined for most locales west of the Mississippi River will take four to six days to deliver, a Washington Post analysis found. Mail sent to the lower half of Florida will take four days.” Before that change, Lisi noted, the Postal Service “had an expected delivery time to Western states of three days from Lancaster.”
The Postal Service, according to media reports, is reducing its use of planes and using trucks instead to transport mail. As Paul Steidler, an expert on logistics and the Postal Service at the conservative Lexington Institute, told CBS earlier this year, this “means mail delivery will be slower than in the 1970s.”
The Lexington Institute is unabashedly in favor of the free market — its mission statement declares that it “believes in limiting the role of the federal government to those functions explicitly stated or implicitly defined by the Constitution.”
Nevertheless, Steidler spoke at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Postal Service’s board of governors and declared that the Lexington Institute “respectfully, strongly, and profoundly disagrees with the decision to slow 40 percent of first-class mail.”
As Steidler told CBS, people in rural areas, people with disabilities and the elderly will “be hurt hardest” by the slowing of the mail. “Everything in American society is getting faster, it seems, except for the mail delivery — which is now going to get slower,” he observed.
As Lisi reported Sunday, the Postal Service also has implemented temporary price increases until Dec. 25; they vary depending on shipping distance and the weight of the package. “For envelopes and flat-rate packages via Priority Mail and parcel ground shipping, rates increased 75 cents,” Lisi reported. “A package weighing between 21 and 70 pounds sent across the country costs $5 more than before.”
Multiply that $5 premium by, say, 300 orders and it may become prohibitive for a small business to use the Postal Service over the holiday season.
Other shippers will face holiday pressures, too. As Lisi reported, UPS will limit how much holiday package volume it handles, and both UPS and FedEx are adding surcharges for the peak season. But the U.S. Postal Service is supposed to be the affordable, reliable option — and traditionally, it’s been the one on which senior citizens, veterans (for their medications) and rural communities depended.
In our August 2020 editorial, we cited economics and business writer Jeff Spross, who pointed out on TheWeek.com that the Postal Service is “required to provide mail service to every corner of the country,” while its “private rivals — FedEx, UPS, Amazon, etc. — are under no such obligation.”
Spross maintained that the U.S. Postal Service has a “fundamental patriotic commitment to knit the country together with universal mail service.”
As we noted, the Postal Service’s mission is expressed in its name. It’s meant to be a federal service to Americans of all income levels, living in all areas of the United States.
It is deeply regrettable that the Postal Service is diminishing this mission at DeJoy’s behest. As The Washington Post reported last week, though, there is hope: President Joe Biden “on Friday announced plans to nominate two former federal officials to the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board, replacing key allies of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, including its Democratic chairman. … It potentially gives liberals on the panel two crucial votes to oust the postal chief, who can be removed only by the board.”
The future of the U.S. Postal Service shouldn’t be a partisan matter. Its preservation should be the concern of all of us. Including our representatives in Washington, D.C.