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Eye Opener: Mail service suspended in D.C. area

By Ed O'Keefe

Ramont Scott trudges along his route in Frederick, Md. on Tuesday. (Katherine Frey/Post)

Eye Opener

Updated 7:32 a.m. ET
Happy Wednesday! The Postal Service will once again suspend deliveries across the Washington region on Wednesday and will provide limited retail service at local post offices. The decision means no mail deliveries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern and western portions of Virginia stretching south to Fredricksburg.

Officials urge customers to consult or call 1-800-ASKUSPS for information on specific post offices.

The Postal Service also suspended mail service across the region on Saturday. Officials cannot recall making such suspensions occurring in more than 30 years.

The decision comes amid a drop in holiday mail volume that contributed to a $297 million net quarterly loss for the Postal Service in late 2009, officials announced Tuesday.

Estimates suggests the nation's mail service will deliver 10 billion fewer pieces of mail compared to last year during the fiscal year that began in September.

During the quarter that ended Dec. 31, mail volume dropped by 8.9 percent to about 45.7 billion pieces despite the busy holiday season that usually means a healthy clip of business. But quarterly operating revenues dropped by $700 million to $18.4 billion.

“Unfortunately, economic drivers that significantly affect mail volumes, such as continuing high unemployment levels and lower investments, appear to be lagging general economic recovery and last quarter’s growth in GDP,” said Joseph Corbett, chief financial officer and executive vice president. “This situation, coupled with the growth in electronic alternatives to mail, creates a very challenging environment.”

Combine the net losses in fiscal 2007, 2008 and 2009 with plummeting mail volume and postal officials warn they once again will be unable to afford the large payments legally required to prefund retirement benefits for current and future retirees.

Despite the poor financial performance, on-time deliveries held at 96 percent for the fifth straight quarter. But mail service and post office operations have been sporadic across the region since snow started falling on Friday. Mail carriers continued their daily slog Tuesday through the deepening slush and mountainous piles of dirty snow.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 10, 2010; 6:43 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Eye Opener  
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Delivery was officially suspended only Saturday and today? Well, we haven't seen mail service since Friday. I guess DC offices of the USPS decided to suspend delivery on their own.

Posted by: peacock907 | February 10, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

The USPS does a fine job but mail delivery should be cut back to 3 days a week--Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Why do we need every day delivery service when the bulk of the mail is probably "junk mail"? I pay all my bills on line and imagine that is a fast-growing trend. Again, I think the USPS does an excellent job but service should be cut way back to cut costs.

Posted by: SF271 | February 10, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I think people will LIVE without mail for a few days! The side roads are dangerous and getting the post office is impossible. The mail carriers have families as well. They don't need to sacrifice their safety for a Bed Bath and Beyond coupon.

Posted by: gfhood | February 10, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

If the mail is suspended indefinitely, I wouldn't miss a single thing. I have called all of the businesses that send me paper, and told them to suspend the mailings. Technology should have made the USPS obsolete 10 years ago. I thought about removing the whole box, but I am probably not quite there yet. Guess the only personal thing I received this month was a valentine from my mom. Imagine if the USPS just went away - 250,000 vehicles removed from the streets and millions of trees saved every year.

Posted by: 6664U | February 10, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

"Through rain, sleet and snow, hell no we won't go"... UPS & Fed Ex is still running, though at a slow pace...

Posted by: Fallguy1 | February 10, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Fallguy1 says UPS is still running. For some people. I got mail delivery Monday and Tuesday but not a scheduled UPS delivery on Tuesday. My mail carrier pushed through the snow, but not UPS. I'm not going to criticize them for it. It's an unusual and difficult situation.

Posted by: jackharllee | February 10, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

6664U wrote: Technology should have made the USPS obsolete 10 years ago.

Well sure, that would be just dandy for those of us who own and operate computers, but believe it or not, there are still LOTS of poor people out there who cannot afford computers, and who still get their mail via the good ole USPS. Beyond the poor, there are elderly folks who never learned to use them, and (boggle boggle) the occasional Luddite who simply choose to not expand their horizons.

Posted by: ktsmom9 | February 10, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

After reading your piece and the article on A11 I have just one thought. I think the Post should go back to the Fairfax Post Office and find out if the Post Master came to work during the storm on Saturday and today. The regular employees, clerks and letter carriers, were required to report on time, for many that means 7:00 am only to be told at 8:00-8:30 that the office was closed. Even then not all employees are allowed to leave, some clerks are required to stay in case someone wants to come and pick up his mail. My mail carrier broke his leg in the December storm. I don't think my mail is so important that someone should have to risk injury to deliver it.

Posted by: wentzemp | February 10, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I DO agree with the cutting back to 3 days, however. Alternatively, mail delivery could be made a subscription service, like newspapers, or trash pickup.

Posted by: ktsmom9 | February 10, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

How will we know?

Posted by: PaulLeddy | February 10, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

To 6664U: I guess that if NASCAR went away and the NHRA went away,we would have thousands of vehicles NOT burning nitromethane or gasoline and spewing fumes into the atmosphere for NO REASON. At least the Postal Service has a valid and crucial reason for using those vehicles. I am actually a fan of the NHRA,so I understand your reasoning.However,just because you don't feel that daily delivery is necessary,that doesn't apply to anyone but you. Businesses count on daily delivery,as well as daily processing of the mail,as they send out mail as well on Saturdays,as well as bulk mailings. Many businesses want sale flyers sent out to be delivered within a certain dated two-day window,as timing is everything with a sale. There are many other reasons for having a regular daily delivery. Many years ago,they had TWO daily deliveries.When the suspension of Saturday delivery was mentioned as a way to cut costs,most individual customers and virtually all business customers were overwhelmingly opposed. All retail businesses,all hospitals and clinics and many other types of businesses are open seven days a week,not even six.I suspect those who say "real" mail is obsolete" are under the age of 30. As a recently retired(58)letter carrier after 27 years in Vermont(and by the way,we never closed,even under blinding blizzard conditions) I saw most people eager to get their daily deliveries. No email or online ordered gift competes with a personally written letter or card in one's mailbox. My 25 year-old daughter lives in Florida,and I always send her packages of groceries that I packed myself, or little cards in the mail for no reason,and that,to me,will never become "unimportant".

Posted by: kjjmac | February 10, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

(1) Unfortunately this is the key month for tax forms. February is one month when mail service cannot be suspended or delayed. Perhaps we should consider changing the federal and state tax year to April 1-March 31, so the tax forms would be coming in spring -- when snow/ice would be far less likely.

(2) What does the snow have to do with USPS's structural fiscal deficit? Is someone at the Post trying to "leverage" the blizzard situation to get USPS phased out? USPS could be more profitable than than UPS and FedEx put together if it didn't have all these mandates, such as operating "post offices" in tiny communities everywhere in the USA and delivering "for free" to areas whose population density would not justify this from a business standpoint. The family farm is long gone, and has always been more myth than reality. Get rid of Free Rural Delivery, which was not part of the constitutional postal service but was added later. Require anyone outside of a city of 100,000 to pay a hefty fee for mail delivery. Shut down the post offices in these areas. These changes would have the double positive effect of restoring the natural incentives for "smart growth" and reducing the incentives for sprawl. Just because some politically connected developers put in some homes in Loudoun and Facquier does not mean that USPS should be required to put in multibillion dollar post offices there. The developers should pay for all improvements -- which, again, will restore the natural free-market incentives for smart growth that served the nation so well during the 1875-1950 period.

Posted by: CesarSozei | February 10, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Excuse me, but I live in a rural area and I look forward to my mail delivery every day. It is far more fuel efficient for a few letter carriers to traverse our sparsely populated county daily than to force every inhabitant to drive the 14 miles to the Post Office. Which believe me, people would do, so eager are they to get the mailed packages from all their online purchasing. You forget that most etailers use USPS to keep their shipping costs down.

Don't expect the USPS to make a profit. This is a vital public service and it should not be treated as if it is a business that ought to be profitable. Hey, the U.S. government isn't, so why hold the USPS to a higher standard?

Posted by: Lily60 | February 10, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

UPS has suspended at least some deliveries. I have an order on its way, and amazon let me know UPS was not going to deliver it today as scheduled.

Posted by: MarylandBear | February 10, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

We haven't had mail delivery in Glover Park, NW DC, since last Friday.

Since none of our streets (except Wisconsin Avenue) were ever plowed, and we now have fresh snow to contend with, I expect we will go without mail for at least 10 days---until at least mid-week NEXT week.

Posted by: gpark | February 10, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I love the USPS and I'm very computer savvy. I don’t want direct bill pay. I want to see my bill and mail the check at my convenience. Also, there are some companies where you have to pay for direct bill – why I don’t know.

I love getting mail every day especially cards and magazines. I know bills, junk, etc. but I just love coming home and getting my mail whatever it may be and when I don't have mail I wonder why not:).

Posted by: rlj1 | February 10, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Guess they'll have to change their slogan,
"neither rains sleet, snow or dark of night etc".

Posted by: Jimbo77 | February 10, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Did they ever restart service? We haven't seen mail (Bethesda) since 2/5 (friday). We did see Fed Ex in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Dpete1 | February 10, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen any mail since last Friday in Cleveland Park 2008. So now they've officially suspended it--haven't been making much effort before this.

Posted by: observator1000 | February 10, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

No mail since Friday here (Dunn Loring) either, but UPS and FedEx have been around.

Posted by: susanmccullough1 | February 10, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

This is joke? I have not receive any mail since Friday. I am waiting for important documents that were mailed last week, but I have not seen mailman in my neighborhood 6 days!

Posted by: virginian4 | February 10, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The last few days I have seen 50 or more UPS trucks zooming up the street. I live on a main thoroughfare. I ordered some things from Amazon and the tracking said "exception" meaning delivery rescheduled because of conditions beyond UPS control. I called UPS and they returned my call less than a half hour later saying there was a backlog and they weren't able to get to my street yet. I was ready to stand outside and catch my packages as all these Big Brown trucks zoomed by. Any way a few hours later the Big Brown truck was parked out front sideways across mine and the neighbors shared drivway and he was getting out. I quickly held open the door and he delivered 6 large and long parcels. Two things you can count on in a blizzard (1).you can count on Brown and (2)you can count on Amazon.

Posted by: peace4all2 | February 10, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

And to my friends who don't think we need mail, the Postal Service delivers a lot more than just junk mail. Thanks to my health insurance, my medication comes in the mail. I, for one, would LOVE to get my mail and my next supply of meds.

Posted by: redgrifn | February 10, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

hey people-planes are not flying so no first class is either.once planes begin to fly,people and luggage will go before the mail.your street is probably not passable and your stuck @ home. why should your mailman risk his life getting to work and then trying to get down your street that has not been blame someone else when you do not consider ALL the facts.

Posted by: kboxclerk | February 11, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

UPS from their Landover MD office wouldn't deliver my package on Idaho NW today, Friday 2/12, because of "adverse weather conditions"

Posted by: vip45vips | February 12, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I am still waiting on 3 packages from UPS. They are all in Landover MD and I live in NW DC just off of Connecticut Ave. The roads are clear for the most part and FedEx already delivered but UPS is still on an exception. I have gotten my USPS mail though.

Posted by: cmills29 | February 13, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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