End of Saturday mail: Who will notice?

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Post Office ending Saturday mail

Businesses, the elderly and rural residents are among those likely to be most affected by the end of Saturday first-class mail delivery.

No mail on Saturdays? No problem for most of us.

News that letter carriers won't be delivering mail on Saturdays anymore was met Wednesday with a collective yawn by most Americans, who, in an age of instantaneous electronic communication, long ago abandoned the drop-a-letter-in-the-mail routine.

As one man quipped on Twitter (one of those modern communications platforms):

"TERRIBLE NEWS: Starting this summer, the only way to send mail on Saturdays is going to be to do it instantly and free of charge online."

But the change, which the financially hemorrhaging U.S. Postal Service wants to implement in August, has its share of detractors. They say they still depend on Saturday mail for their business, for personal necessities and for the sheer joy of reading and writing a letter.

The elimination of Saturday deliveries applies only to first-class mail, which includes letters. The Postal Service will continue to deliver packages six days a week and will not change post office operating hours.

Among those who are likely to be affected most by the change:

— Businesses that use first-class mail for advertising or for delivering goods. Netflix, for example, still delivers DVDs by mail, leading some to wonder if the rent-a-movie company will eventually raise prices for its subscription service. Greeting card giant Hallmark, meanwhile, has been paying lobbyists to try to persuade Congress to fight the proposed cut. Small businesses will be affected too. A local hardware store that wants to alert neighborhood residents by mail about a sale, for example, will need to send out their flyers a day or two earlier.

— The elderly and people living in remote, rural areas. The Treasury Department is moving toward electronic direct deposit and wants to stop sending paper Social Security checks as of March 1. But not all senior citizens can access a computer. "There is still a large group of people — particularly in rural areas — whose lifeline to the outside world is the Postal Service," said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., "whether it's their Social Security check, an important document or even just a card from a loved one." Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also said he will oppose the Postal Service plan. "Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options. Rural Americans, businesses, senior citizens and veterans will be hurt by ending Saturday mail," he said.

Postal workers. As many as 22,500 jobs could be eliminated under the plan. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said no layoffs are planned and the cuts will be accomplished by reducing overtime and part-time hours and by offering buyouts to current workers. The National Association of Letter Carriers calls the move arrogant. "America's letter carriers condemn this reckless plan in the strongest terms. We call for the immediate removal of the postmaster general, who has lost the confidence of the men and women who deliver for America every day. And we urge Congress to develop a real reform plan that gives the Postal Service the freedom to grow and innovate in the digital era," NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a statement.

A recent poll showed most Americans support the idea of eliminating Saturday mail as a way for the Postal Service to save money.

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Rick Geddes, associate professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and author of "Saving the Mail: How to Solve the Problems of the U.S. Postal Service," noted the Postal Service lost $16 billion in 2012. He said the elimination of Saturday mail delivery won't have much effect on most Americans and might save the Postal Service some money in the short term. But he said the Postal Service, a quasi-independent agency that is overseen by Congress, will be doomed unless lawmakers allow it to operate more like a business.

"Cutting the cost of typewriters when we had word processors would not have saved the typewriter market," Geddes told MSN News.

Will that mean no more mail delivered on, say, Fridays in the future? The prospect of already losing one day is leaving some people fretting about the demise of a tradition.

"I never get a chance to look over my mail," Hela Borer, a New Yorker who says she works "crazy hours" Monday through Friday, told NBCNews.com. "If they don't deliver on Saturday, they just lost one customer."

Natalie DiBlasio, a 22-year old who writes — and mails — letters the old-fashioned way, said she was "devastated" by Wednesday's announcement.

"To some, letter-writing is dead. Not to me," she wrote — electronically — in USA Today. "I am sad to see even one day of mail delivery going away, and worried it might prevent others from discovering the beauty in writing a letter — and hearing that someone was overjoyed to have heard from you. A gift that's becoming harder and harder to give in an increasingly digital world."

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