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. BOMBO

    It helps to have a thick skin too. I actually get a good laugh out of some of the comments directed at me.

    December 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat ( in a hat )

    Individualism is what has kept these posts fun. If everyone thought the exact same on all issues, it would be so boring.
    We can all agree to disagree on issues and still be friends. nothinf perosonal, just differing outlooks. But you have some come on here and immediately start name calling.

    December 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BOMBO

    My favourite is people who post the reply "Your an idiot." Is punctuation that difficult to figure out?

    December 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CNN's Nicole Saidi

    Yeah, I gotta agree. The best discussions come from spirited and yet respectful discussions, not groupthink.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. whatsupwitdis

    A serious re-vamp of the USPS is long overdue. They still have a valuable role in our daily lives, but they need to start treating their operations like any other "real business". Plenty of personnel and benefits cuts, etc are probably inevitable as is a realistic stamp price and 5-day a week deliveries to start. The underused facilities need to go ASAP! A critical review of every step of the mail process is needed to find waste and duplication and go ahead and eliminate it.

    December 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. hamsta

    The only two divisions of the government that remain efficient are the post office and the military.why dont we get rid of the useless and abusive government programs such as child services the irs and the epa instead?

    December 5, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hamsta

    Just to prove my point where was child services when the columbine massacre happened?answer-force feeding the kid zoloft an antidepressant used to treat adhd.the list of side effects begins with-warning may cause suicidal or homicidal behavior.when the kid told the psychiatrist he was having homicidal thoughts they force fed him twice the dosage.child services blames marilyn manson bullies and gangs.

    December 5, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Iceman

    Nicole saidi sent me a virous ,,,, everybody be carefull!!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Twiga

    Losing Saturday delivery would be OK with me. Saturdays use different carriers and most of our mis-delivered mail (record is 18 pieces of other people's mail in one day – 3x our normal day not counting junk) comes then and I would guess that most of our missing mail also was delivered somewhere else that day. I'm not sure if UPS is any better (note on door: "package is in the boat" or valuable items left on the front step). I find it interesting that UPS and FedEx drop pallets in the post office – apparently USPS has delivery vans painted brown or FedEx colors?

    December 6, 2011 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. pan

    The USPS does a great job considering the large number of places they deliver
    to. If hbrt814 is correct then congress should not be taking any excess money.
    Set the money aside for improvements in the service. As far as paying bills go, do the math.
    A stamp and the few minutes to fill out a check and post it cost way less than a computer,
    OS, bill pay program, internet access and fees that your bank may charge over a three year span. And the companies who keep pushing for online payment don't even give you a price
    break for doing it.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. suzanne

    How about we just refuse to deliver any junk mail. Where are the green people when it comes to all this junk mail. I am tired of getting credit card offers from CHASE!

    December 6, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Diana

      Right take away the money the PO can make. That makes a lot of sense.

      I for one believe the PO will be dead within the next 10 years.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    The USPS needs a major revamp of it's processes. Cut out Saturday deliveries for sure, and cut down more delivery days in low volume areas. Shape up the postmasters to be more responsive to customers, get the employees to actually follow PO procedures (the online mail stop process is totally hit or miss in our town).....and charge more for all that junk mail that most people don't want to receive anyway.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Uncommon sense

    The USPS could easily be saved with just a couple of simple changes. For one the Postal Service should be allowed to invest its $325,000,000,000 in retirement assets the way any other business does. The current requirement that the USPS “invests” 100% of its retirement assets in low return federal bonds is killing it.
    The increased returns of around 2-4% per year that would exist using a modern diversified portfolio would cut postal expenses by $6.5 to $13 Billion dollars per year.
    This simple change would save several times what the proposed consolidations and service cuts are expected to save.
    The current plan is a death spiral plan. Eliminating overnight service will ultimately cost much more in lost revenue than it will ever save in expenses

    December 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daisy

    USPS doesn't get it why they are going bankrupt!. It is because of the bad service they provide. Very long lines without adding personnel. To think it's subsidized by our tax moneys. Time is important to people & business and the other private mailing companies provide this. By increasing the stamp price, lessening personnel and making the mail delivery longer, the USPS is near extinction.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      dumb daisy this is attempt to privatize public govt service a small group for their personal profit...mind you will continue to pay the same amount taxes plus a fee to the politically connected private sector and no service or limited services...don't want private peeps handling my mail...another republican antic the place dollar gain to only a few while households go to the unemployment lines and cities goes bust...really need to clear our washingtondc...only the filthy rich and dufus would support the closing of postsl services.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • unretired05

      It is not subsidized by taxes. Learn about the creation and limitations on the postal service before you comment. For the USPS to increase rates literally does take an act of Congress. They have no control over prices It is just another time that Congress isn't doing it's job. Then they want to blame it on the Unions or the waste when the true waste is in Congress.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      DUUUUUUfusss, congress will be making this decision...outsourcing on megaSCALE. Taxpayers financed this operation...and republicans's been trying to halibuten this service to their greedy hands aka private sector...with state and local communities to financed this bailout. these unemployed will need welfare, foodstamps, medicare medicaid. unemployment benefits, foodbanks...who financed these services??? YOU DO DOOFUS! play semantics with
      someone else...why are fed ovt agencies bypassing the use of us postal services to use taxdollars to pay private fedex and private ups...where atty general on this waste and fraud...postal service and its business operate under federal law and congress.

      December 7, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. unretired05

    Just another instance of Congress not doing its job in a timely manner. If Congress would raise rates and make allowances for increased cost there would be no problem. If they weren't trying so hard to not make a profit and could build a nest egg to allow for increased energy cost like a business instead of always playing catch up they wold be solvent.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      as much as they need to regulate....congress don't run private business...but their foot is in the us postal service because it is very much GOVT BUSINESS...reconize fool...!

      December 7, 2011 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
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