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In announcing Saturday service cuts, Postal Service turns to e-mail

By Ed O'Keefe

One day soon you may not see your letter carrier on Saturday. (Post)

The U.S. Postal Service this week used e-mail as the means to inform regulators of its plans to cut Saturday mail delivery, a move that might seem to go against the grain for an agency tasked with delivering snail mail.

Postmaster General John E. Potter told reporters that the Postal Regulatory Commission requires him to submit his plans electronically. But the whole thing seems about as silly as auto executives flying to Washington to talk up the viability of the auto industry. (Oh wait, that actually happened...)

Submitting via e-mail "does not go against the grain," insisted a PRC spokesman. Submitting the plans online provides for transparency and accountability and sending hard copies would require the extra work of scanning documents and posting them online, he said.

So the explanation appears to prove a point: Paper mail is increasingly obsolete and inconvenient.

A Postal spokesman said privately that officials considered having Potter deliver his plans in person, but they figured reporters would blast the staged photo op.

By law, the Postal Service must seek a non-binding opinion from the PRC before it can move forward with its plans.

“The ball is in our court now," said PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway, who cautioned "There will be no final decision until the record is complete.” (Neat fact: Goldway is the longest serving presidential appointee in the executive branch, serving more than 11 years.)

Goldway said the commission plans to consider whether cutting Saturday delivery would in fact save as much money as estimated, whether mail volume may drop farther than anticipated, whether customers would still have adequate mail service if cuts are made, and the potential economic impact of cutting Saturday deliveries.

The panel plans to hold at least six hearings to hear from customers; some of those hearings may occur in Chicago, Dallas and Sacramento. Concerned customers can also submit comments online.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 31, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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