US post may cut deliveries to five days a week as cash crisis strikes

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The Independent US

The mailbox that is the sentinel of nearly every suburban home in America may soon be getting a second day of rest each week if managers of the US Postal Service cannot find a way to staunch the bleeding of its finances.

The Postmaster General, John Potter, this week suggested that, unless things improve soon, he may have little choice but to suspend all postal deliveries on a second day of the week, probably either Saturday or Tuesday, when traffic in the system is usually lighter. "I am forced to consider every option given the severity of our situation," he told members of a Senate panel on government affairs, admitting that stopping deliveries for a second day remained a "worst-case scenario".

Such a step would hardly seem to fit with the postal worker's credo in America, inscribed atop the grand entrance of New York's main post office. It insists "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds".

A slumping economy and a growing defection of the public to alternative means of communication, notably email, may be doing to the humble postal worker what gnarly weather conditions could not. There was a 4.5 per cent drop in pieces distributed by the mail service last year. Moreover, Mr Potter warned that, in the current fiscal year, the Postal Service could lose about $5bn (£3.5bn). Most of the senators said even a temporary suspension of deliveries on another day would send a signal that the Postal Service was surrendering. "I am very disappointed that Postmaster Potter would... advocate, as a potential solution to this economic crisis, the elimination of the requirement of six-day-a-week delivery," said Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine.

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