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Postal Service plan to cut Saturday delivery catches some by surprise

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Updated: March 8, 2013 7:32AM



Coupons for things you’d never dream of buying.

Dreaded bills.

Solicitations not so cleverly disguised as: “Important Information. Open immediately.”

If that’s what is stuffed in your mailbox most days, you probably won’t care that the U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering mail ­— with the exception of packages ­­— on Saturdays.

On the other hand, Jennifer Vu, who still enjoys sending and receiving mail the old-fashioned way, appeared stunned at the news.

“Oh my gosh — that’s surprising,” said Vu, 30, a River North physician dropping off her wedding invitations at the Fort Dearborn branch post office downtown Wednesday. “I’m not happy about it. It’s one less day to get mail. I already feel it’s difficult when you don’t get mail on Sunday.”

The Postal Service’s new plan is intended to save about $2 billion, the financially struggling agency says.

The service announced Wednesday that the Saturday mail cutback would begin in August.

The move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with increasing use of email and other Internet use.

Under the new plan, mail would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open that day.

But some folks are so irritated with the current quality of service, they’d be happy to see the Postal Service abolished entirely.

“They’re horrible. Burn it down,” said a River North Postal Service customer who agreed to give only his first name, Scott. “You stand in line. There are 12 people in line, and no one reacts to the fact that you’re there. The level of service — they should be embarrassed.”

The elimination of Saturday mail carrier delivery service is of no concern to a few shoppers outside a Norridge grocery store Wednesday afternoon.

“I have no complaints,” said German Corzo, as he laughed about the notion of having one less day to receive bills.

The thought of no Saturday letter service also didn’t faze Dorothy and Tom Fahy.

“No, it’s not going to affect us,” Dorothy Fahy said.

“No, it won’t matter,” added Tom Fahy.

But Michael Maruszak, 53, who works downtown but lives in southwest suburban Justice said the Postal Service remains valuable — particularly for older, less tech-savvy people.

“The older people don’t get out that much — they’re not computer literate. Not having them deliver the mail [Saturdays] is going to cause a lot of problems,” said Maruszak, then adding, “The post office is trying to keep themselves going but the more you take away, the more people are going to [say], ‘Do we really need them?’”

Business was brisk Wednesday morning at the Tinley Park Post Office, where people had mixed reactions to the news.

Angie Watkins, 50, of Tinley Park, thinks it’s good idea.

“Whatever they do to save money is great because we need the Postal Service,” Watkins said. “I won’t miss Saturday delivery. You get mail through the week. So it’s OK with me.”

Dr. Bob Marini, 49, of Tinley Park, also supported the cost-saving idea.

“That’s a lot of money. It’s only a step in the right direction. It’s not a big deal to not get Saturday delivery,” said Marini, an optometrist in Palos Heights.

Arnold Lorenzini, of Palos Heights, said he won’t miss Saturday mail.

“Five days a week is enough, unless you send something critical,” Lorenzini said. “They’ll use special delivery or overnight for that. If this saves money, I’m for it.”

Lorenzini, 72, is semi-retired. He works three days a week as the manager of Harbor Tool Manufacturing in Tinley Park.

“I don’t think the company will suffer because now with all the computer communications, e-mails, all of that, we have 24/7 communications anyway. Obviously, that’s why the post office is losing money. It’s really hurting the post office,” he said.

Damon Lucero, 47, of Tinley Park, was not surprised by the news.

“Well, they’ve been talking about it since I was in high school,” Lucero said. “Even when the service was in effect, it was always kind of spotty. It would get there at 5 in the evening, super late. During the week it’s around 10:30 in the morning. Usually, I’m all for the unions but I don’t think this is a great loss. It’s good and it’s bad but it’s no loss. You can still mail stuff [on Saturdays] at the post office, so it’s no big deal.”

Alea McNellis, 24, of Tinley Park, worries that the lack of Saturday delivery may hurt her fledgling at-home business.

“It kind of sucks,” McNellis said. “I do eBay so it helps with my shipping and stuff. I won’t get pickups at my house then.”

In Joliet, several people doubted the changes would have much impact on their lives.

“To me, it doesn’t really make a difference,” said Nicole Bregar of Joliet. “I do all my bills online. It’s the economy, so hopefully they’ll change it back when the economy improves.”

Said Frances Casillas, also of Joliet: “Sometimes a lot of it’s just junk mail, anyways.”

Residents in the north suburbs were divided.

“Actually, I don’t like it,” said Carolina Machint of Waukegan, as she exited the post office on O’Plaine Road in Gurnee.

Alice Perez, 61, of Park City, felt the same way.

“No, I like getting my mail every day if possible,” she said, although she understands the need to save money.

Sean Smith, 40, of Gages Lake, was accepting of the fact because the Postal Service is losing money. “If they are doing it to save money it’s a good idea. I feel [that] if it puts them in the green then it’s a good idea,” he said.

Cathy Kramer, 53, of Beach Park, whose ex-father-in-law is a retired postal worker living in Florida, said she didn’t see it affecting her greatly. “It doesn’t really upset me too much,” she said. “It’s not like I’m staring out my window [on Saturdays] waiting for the mail. I’d rather they be more efficient.”

“I think this is a good move.... One step closer to privatization,” said Jim Moran, a Libertyville resident and village trustee, in a Facebook posting.

Customers’ opinions in northwest Indiana, such those at a Merrillville post office, ran the gamut.

Valparaiso resident Sue Poss said she didn’t really care about truncated service since she pays most of her bills online and most of the items she receives are junk mail.

Hobart resident Betty Davis was saddened by the news.

“It indicates that service has gone out the window,” Davis said. “A lot of people are dependent on receiving things in the mail. I work with senior citizens and even if they can afford a computer, the (Internet) service is too expensive for them.”

Davis said the agency must work more efficiency but Congress also should fix the law that requires the Postal Service to collect 10 years of future retiree health care costs. No other federal agency is subject to such a requirement.

Merrillville resident Eric Cross said ending Saturday service is good “if it’s going to save the money they say it is.”

“I want the Postal Service to stay solvent, and I think people will accept the change for the money they say it’s going to save,” Cross said.

Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages — and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to approve the move. Though an independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.

It was not immediately clear how the service could eliminate Saturday mail without congressional approval.

But the agency clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change.

Material prepared for the Wednesday news conference by Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO, says Postal Service market research and other research has indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs.

Contributing: AP, Cathryn Gran and Steve Metsch



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