Overheard on CNN.com: Readers speak out in defense of 'snail mail'
The U.S. Postal Service's cost-cutting plans may affect mail-processing centers such as this one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
December 5th, 2011
02:07 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers speak out in defense of 'snail mail'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

We've known for some time that the U.S. Postal Service has been struggling in the Internet age. Now the economically strapped mail-delivery agency says it is planning to change its first-class delivery standard of one to three days to two to five days. Commenters were for the most part flabbergasted at this turn of events.

U.S. Postal Service wants to limit next-day service

Many readers indicated the Postal Service should not be forced to cut back. After all, many people still pay their bills through the mail. iReporter Melissa Fazli of Yorba Linda, California, said she was afraid Netflix users would have trouble sending their DVDs in the mail. The most–liked comment received many nods of agreement:

AndyDaniel: "Truth is, the USPS does a remarkably good job with most things. I can send a letter across the country in two to three days for half the cost of a cheap cup of coffee. I've sent Priority Mail many times, and it almost always does arrive in two to three days.

Yes, their tracking leaves something to be desired, and yes, sometimes there is a line at the post office, but there's a line at the grocery store, too, and I don't see people online complaining about it.

The post office has become a favorite target of jokes, but if you really look at what they accomplish for how little money, it's actually amazing. UPS will also send a letter (not next day) across the country, but it takes five to six days and costs about $5.50. Now I know that's not a completely fair comparison because UPS is barred from competing in first-class mail, but if you look at the big picture, and not the anecdotal memory of a screw-up here or there, the Postal Service comes out looking pretty good."

Another discussion sprang up from there about the Postal Service's business practices, and whether it should even be run like a business.

jw54: "Right on. It is remarkable what they do for so little."

busybiz: "They do all this with zero tax dollars."

All Dry Atlanta: "Little is the issue. Is this welfare for the ex-military or is this a business? It's a declining market segment that has been subsidized and declining for years. They missed the boat with the Internet, and like any other business you cannot fix that. Changes have to be made to (make) them market-competitive ... period ... or declare it corporate welfare and be done with it."

busybiz: "I disagree! As a small business owner I've seen remarkable improvements by the USPS, including online purchasing of stamps and address verifications, daily package pickup services at businesses like mine, fast delivery to our troops during wartime and even some online tracking. Congress screwed the USPS."

Fitty Fhaav: "The USPS isn't really a business, it's a government agency that is required to do most of the things that is does. If it were a business like FedEx or UPS, it would be able to make the necessary changes to remain solvent. But because it's a government agency, the USPS needs congressional approval for just about every change it wants to make."

As this spirited conversation continued, commenters talked about how the Postal Service could fund itself in an era dominated by technology. They didn't see eye to eye on the government's role.

Boater39: "Like so many things (in) government, it was never designed to be operated as a business. The government runs things that business (doesn't) want to/can't run because they will never be profitable. There will always be things in society that will never be profitable - that's what we pay our taxes for. Not to pay for politicians to become rich and assist their rich donors to become even more rich. Privatization of things is not the answer."

factChecker2: "Totally agree. E-mail is the real competition, but there are services that USPS provides that I would really miss. We should be thinking about the form USPS should take in an e-mail world. For instance, I would be willing to put my outgoing mail in corner mailboxes that are picked up daily, and they could deliver incoming mail to my door less often. That might save a lot. But they do a very good job at low costs. I feel sorry for the workers."

scuba31: "Except they can't do it for only a little money. Their competitors can, but there are so many government regulations tied to this particular Postal Service that (just like everything else the government touches) they cannot compete. It's as simple as that. They need to declare bankruptcy, go out of business or be let go from the government. Options 1 and 3 are preferable.

busybiz: "The USPS is not supported by taxpayers. It is regulated by the government, but not supported financially by the government."

Other commenters took aim at bulk mailers, saying they should pay more money to be able to send out their advertisements. (And some griped about the amount of paper waste they generate.) But many said the bulk mailers were a source of funding for the Postal Service and should not be discouraged from using the mail.

iEvolved: "Cut corporate welfare by eliminating discounts for their bulk junk mail. If corporations want to think they are people, then let them pay for postage like 'people.' "

Jonathon: "Many corporations or businesses (you actually don't have to be a corporation to do this) sort their own mail, hence the discount. Plus, how many people can guarantee thousands of letters to be mailed a day?"

factchecker2: "Giving a discount for presorting and for volume seem like smart business practices. And besides, USPS makes money on those arrangements. Their real problem is e-mail that is reducing the volume of 'snail mail.' "

Thomas2009: "iEvolved you definitely hit one of the nails on the head! All that (mostly unwanted) junk mail costs the USPS more to deliver than they currently charge. Americans really are subsidizing corporations because of this "bulk rate." Private delivery firms would not deliver bulk mail for the price USPS charges. That says volumes."

We also heard from a commenter, identified as a former postal worker, who described what it was like working for the agency. This poster brought up issues mentioned by other commenters, including workers' benefits and regulations affecting the agency as well as business relationships with UPS and FedEx.

hbrt814: "I'm retired postal and I can answer a few questions. It says on your bills to mail them a week early! There has never been any next-day guarantee on first-class letters! That's why we have Express Mail. The Postal Service is not allowed to have their own planes because UPS says it's unfair. Therefore the USPS has always been at the mercy of commercial airlines. Remember after 9/11 when all aircraft were grounded indefinitely? The USPS had to beg, borrow and steal to move the mail by any other means. The reasons that the USPS (is) in trouble are many, but the main problem is the pre-funding (mandate) of our retirement. If there were no more paid in, we would be covered until about the year 2035. Also, the USPS is a nonprofit organization whose only income is postage and services! No tax dollars have been spent on the USPS since we switched from civil service to Social Security in the '80s! Since the USPS is nonprofit, any money left over is quickly snatched up by Congress for their own use. Those of you who love UPS and FedEx have a nasty surprise coming. They take your money, which is usually more than the USPS charges, and they drop off pallets of parcels to the post office to be delivered by your carrier, pocketing the difference! Now, about Saturday delivery, whenever there is a holiday your mail carrier gets the day off. Not so for the machines that sort the mail and the rapidly disappearing human clerks who run them. On the following delivery day after that holiday there is twice the mail to be delivered. Now, imagine that happening every week just because of a Saturday. Not to mention the one-sixth of the work force whose job will no longer exist. Those people are called T-6s, and each one of them rotates a five-route schedule to do the routes on those five regular carriers' days off. Many of you may have heard less than glowing tales about this portion of the employees or maybe about postal workers in general but please remember that there are slackers in every walk of life and most of my former co-workers are the hardest-working people in the world! No other country can compare to the efficiency of the United States Postal Service! Happy holidays everyone!"

What do you think about the Postal Service's troubles? How often do you send messages, and do you continue to use "snail mail"? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Andreas Moser

    Life is too fast.

    December 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Confused

    We need to keep the USPS. They do a fine job reporting earthquakes.

    December 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    hbrt814 is absolutely correct.
    Not to mention that the USPS has as office in every town; UPS does not have a building in every town.
    For UPS to construct one in every town would be cost-prohibitive; who do you think they would pass the cost onto?
    One would have to be delusional to think that UPS would deliver door-to-door; given that they're also trying to break unions, that's just not going to happen.
    The cost of shipping a package is less at the post office than UPS; that's why so many mail-order and Ebay vendors use it.
    The reasons that the USPS is doing so badly is because of the pre-paid retirement benefits that Congress is forcing them to pay to the tune of 5.5 BILLION a year; what other company is forced to pay into a retirement fund 75 years in advance, for people not even born yet?

    December 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Don Wilson

    Maybe the deficiency is because the US Postal Service has a policy of BUYING HOMES from employees that transfer to new locations. What a nice perk! Some employees were actually changing what office they work from just to FLIP homes. They buy low, change locations, USPS buys the house from the employee at a PROFIT. Hello!! Maybe the USPS should sell all of the properties they OWN and try to do business legitimately.

    December 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bertina

    What happens if they get rid of USPS? Where will the congress funnel money from?

    December 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sovereign Copyright

    Sure, that's a fine idea, Don. And maybe Congress shouldn't require the USPS to pre pay a retirement fund 75 years in advance to the tune of 5.5 billion dollars a year. That's no way to run a business, either.

    December 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. s kel

    USPS is just another tool for Obama to get votes from. The guy has to go as well as all unions. They are obsolete. A waste of manpower. tollally useless like Obama.

    December 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat ( in a hat )

    If the US Congress feels it is necessary for USPS to prepay retirement funds, then why shouldn't they have to do the same thing. No, instead, they have a free retirement plan payed by the taxpayers. Where's the fairness in that. Congress should be made to pay into a retirement fund just like the rest of us, especially if they make a career of it.
    We need term limits on them just like the president. No free retirement, no free medical for life.

    December 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sovereign Copyright

    Most definitely NOT s kel above.
    If one is going to try and troll, it's useful to at least have somewhat of the same viewpoint as the one being trolled.

    Hello, bc(iah)

    December 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sovereign Copyright

    Bc(iah)

    I couldn't agree more.
    No member of Congress should make a career out of representing their const ituents.
    Term limits are an absolute necessity.

    Hey, where pmk1953?
    I miss him.

    December 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat ( in a hat )

    I know, I haven't seen him on these posts in a pretty good while. Where you at pmk1953 ?

    The term limits issue is one long overdue for addressing. Has the common citizen have any say in the matter ?
    If not, we should. After all, we're the ones that put them in there.

    December 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Also, re MIA:
    What happened to CSnSC?

    December 5, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BOMBO

    That could be a feature story one day – previous posters who haven't posted in a long time. Post a collection of their best comments. Ask them to come back.

    December 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNN's Nicole Saidi

      That's an interesting idea - I'm sorry folks haven't come back in a while. Who are some of your favorites? Could be hard to track down some of their stuff by now, but I can try, if you have links.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pete/Ark

    Debt collectors and the IRS are gonna miss USPS if it goes away...

    December 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    It takes a strong will to stay here if one differs substantially from party-line "liberal" thinking, much of which proves to be surprisingly conservative regarding perceived "morality" here.
    CSnSC had made jobs for workers in a RTW state, and I remember his being subjected to some criticism about it. Work is work, whether it pays the highest possible top dollar or not.
    We don't all have to agree about everything. I wouldn't return consistently if there were not a group of regular posters who can think.

    December 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
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