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Saturday Mail Service: Myths and Realities

Let's cut through the rain, snow and heat over the U.S. Postal Service's big announcement this week and figure out what's really going on.

Nickolas Muray (American 1892-1

Let's start with three basic facts: The Postal Service isn't funded by tax dollars. It's been hemorrhaging money for a long time. It lost nearly $16 billion last year.

Myth: The Postal Service is canceling all Saturday delivery.

Reality: The Postal Service announced that it's ending "mail delivery" to street addresses on Saturdays but will continue to deliver "packages" on a six-day-a-week schedule. That means if you rely on mail-order prescriptions, you won't be left short; your magazines and Netflix movies, though, will have to wait until Monday. Mail will still be delivered to P.O. boxes on Saturdays, and post offices currently open on Saturdays will remain open on Saturdays - at least for now.

Myth: Consumers hate the idea.

Reality: An October 2011 survey by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that people favored the idea of discontinuing Saturday delivery by a ratio of four-to-one.

Myth: It's a done deal.

Reality: The move is expected to save the Postal Service about $2 billion a year. But Congress still has some control over USPS, and lawmakers (who send and receive lots of mail) hate the idea. Year after year, they've passed budgets that require six-day delivery.

Myth: Most Americans use email and pay their bills online, so having a letter carrier show up on Saturdays doesn't really matter.

Reality: Carriers do more than just deliver mail. Sometimes they're the only contact for disabled and elderly people who are homebound. Thanks to the Carrier Alert Program, a joint effort of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Postal Service since 1982, mail deliverers contact appropriate officials if they see anything amiss with people on their route who have registered for the program. NALC president Frederic Rolando called the end of Saturday mail delivery "a disastrous idea.... It would be particularly harmful to small businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication."

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