Snail mail blues: What do new USPS slowdowns and value hikes imply for you?

USPS slowdown starts Oct. 1: What to know about new delays and price hikes for mail

Prepare for some postal service slowdowns and momentary fee will increase for the vacations. 


Angela Lang/CNET

For those who use the US Postal Service to do enterprise or pay payments, like 160 million different residences and firms, you is perhaps in for a bumpy trip with the company’s current supply and fee modifications. 

The new service requirements for USPS first-class mail and packages, which began on Oct. 1, lengthen supply time for about 30% of its quantity. What meaning is a few letters, parcels and journal subscriptions touring longer distances might take as much as 5 days to reach, as an alternative of two or three days. Furthermore, on high of the newest value will increase that took impact in August, the Postal Service simply quickly elevated the price to ship a parcel in the course of the vacation season. 

Sending letters or packages throughout the nation by the USPS can already really feel like a sport of probability to many. In the course of the first quarter of 2021, round 20% of first-class mail was delivered late. The present modifications are a part of Postmaster Normal Louis DeJoy’s 10-year Delivering for America plan to overtake the company and attempt to deal with its large debt. Moreover lengthening mail timetables and elevating charges, the plan, which has generated controversy, additionally reduces put up workplace hours. 

Each hour, an common of 17.7 million mail items are processed and delivered by the Postal Service, a portion of that are packages from on-line retailers like Amazon. However there’s been an enormous decline within the quantity of first-class mail like letters, playing cards and payments as People rely an increasing number of on digital funds and communication. And with the rising demand of e-commerce, the company is struggling to match the fast supply of packages from opponents like UPS, FedEx and even Amazon itself, which has its personal supply community.  

How will the Postal Service’s modifications influence you? Costlier or erratic mail supply might result in delays in marriage ceremony invites, birthday playing cards, unemployment checks, mail-in ballots or baby tax credit score funds. Beneath, we’ll clarify what these value hikes and delays imply, what to do if you happen to’re dealing with a holdup with a bundle, and what choices you must ship mail. This story was just lately up to date. 

What’s the Postal Service’s new cost-cutting plan about?

The Postal Service has stated it is struggling to fulfill excessive efficiency requirements, and it has been financially underwater for some time now. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated its sluggish service and money disaster, as staffing shortages collided with each the surge of on-line shopping for for necessities and the inflow of 2020 election ballots, which pushed DeJoy into the nationwide highlight. (Extra on that beneath.) 

A technique the USPS plans to scale back prices is by utilizing fewer airplanes to ship mail and as an alternative use extra vehicles, which might transfer a better quantity of mail for much less cash. Floor transportation can be extra dependable than air in all seasons, in response to the Postal Service

When requested for remark, a Postal Service spokesperson stated the brand new service requirements will improve supply reliability, consistency and effectivity for purchasers. 

The Postal Service’s 10-year plan additionally features a multibillion-dollar contract to modernize the traditional supply automobile fleet, with the brand new vehicles showing on provider routes in 2023. There are additionally proposed investments in tools and infrastructure to assist transport the rising quantity of packages extra effectively, in addition to upgrades to postal services. 

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Specialists say the brand new modifications will result in the most important slowdown of mail in additional than a technology. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

How is supply for first-class mail and packages altering?

Not all first-class mail shall be affected by the brand new service requirements. This is the way it breaks down. 

First-class mail (standard-size, single-piece letters and envelopes): The Postal Service says 39% of mail will now be delivered in three to 5 days, relying on the gap between origin and vacation spot. The remaining (61% of native mail) shall be unaffected and shall be delivered in a single to 2 days. 

First-class bundle service (smaller, light-weight parcels): The Postal Service says 32% of packages will now be delivered in 4 to 5 days, with the longest distances having the longest timetable (similar to between California and New York). The rest (68% of packages) will nonetheless be delivered in two to 3 days. 

Periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers): The Postal Service says solely 9% of publications will now be delivered in as much as 5 days, and 93% will nonetheless be delivered in two days or much less. 

What in regards to the new charges for sending letters and packages? 

On Aug. 29, the Postal Service raised the value of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 cents. Meaning Without end stamps now price 3 cents extra. (You will get a cool, personalised design from the put up workplace or from usps.com.) However as a result of Without end stamps by no means expire, those to procure in 2020 — or any prior 12 months — stay legitimate although the postage fee has gone up. 

Different first-class standard-size mail and enormous envelopes, together with presorted letters like payments and statements, and newspapers and magazines had a value improve, as did media mail similar to books. The costs for particular providers like licensed mail and cash order went up as properly in the course of the summer time. 

Whereas including a few cents to ship a birthday card won’t burn a gap in your pocket, even a small improve may very well be ruinous for companies that ship a ton of mail or corporations that depend upon mass mailings. 

The US Postal Service additionally introduced a momentary value improve on business and retail home bundle shipments for the 2021 peak fall and vacation season, in impact Oct. 3 by Dec. 26. The value will increase vary from 25 cents to $5 per bundle on precedence mail, precedence mail specific and first-class bundle service. They’re detailed in this assertion.

In line with the company’s plan, there may very well be much more value will increase over the following decade. Whereas the Postal Regulatory Fee stated there will not be one other improve till subsequent summer time, the USPS will probably begin implementing value hikes twice yearly beginning in 2023. 

What could cause Postal Service supply delays?

There are various the explanation why there is perhaps a holdup along with your Postal Service mail, and plenty of occasions it isn’t what you’d count on. Listed here are a number of the most typical causes for mail delays. 

  • Climate: Postal supply disruptions may very well be resulting from extreme winter storms, floods, pure disasters or energy outages. Prospects can verify weather-related delays on the Service Alerts web page on the Postal Service’s web site. 
  • Holidays: The vacation season is the busiest time for the Postal Service, and the spike in parcel quantity could cause delays if the company is not capable of take care of the quantity of rush purchases by retailers. One solution to keep away from that is to organize early and keep away from last-minute present shopping for and transport. 
  • Improper deal with: Generally the supply deal with is wrong, or there’s an issue with the deal with similar to a lacking house quantity or an unreadable avenue identify. 
  • Notification slip lacking: If the Postal Service wasn’t capable of ship your mail as a result of nobody was there to obtain it or there wasn’t a secure place to go away it, you may get a discover telling you that your bundle is ready on the nearest put up workplace. Nevertheless, if that slip will get misplaced, you might need to take a pair further steps to trace down your mail (see beneath). 

There was additionally the pandemic, which affected postal employees. Staff needed to observe social distancing pointers, quarantine restrictions and security protocols, resulting in interruptions within the processing and supply of mail. On the similar time, there was a big rise in parcel quantity due to the lockdowns, and sure USPS services have been so overwhelmed that they merely stopped accepting mail. 

In July 2020, DeJoy made an “operational pivot” on the Postal Service to avoid wasting prices. Letter carriers, who usually make a number of supply journeys to make sure well timed distribution of mail, have been instructed to not make any further journeys and to depart mail behind at distribution facilities, The Washington Put up reported. A month later amid intense criticism and considerations about upcoming mail-in ballots, DeJoy retracted the choice till after the federal election. In October 2020, the US Postal Service agreed to reverse all the slowdowns and to prioritize election-related mail.

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The Postal Service tasks that the variety of packages will improve considerably over the following few years, pushed by on-line procuring. 


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Who shall be impacted by the USPS slowdowns?

People and companies will face longer supply occasions for each outgoing and incoming mail that should journey by postal truck for farther distances. So the modifications will particularly influence folks sending letters or packages from coast to coast — and in addition to and from Alaska and Hawaii, in addition to to and from Puerto Rico and US territories that depend on air transportation. 

Delays in first-class mail might additionally have an effect on clients erratically relying on the ZIP code. In line with The Washington Put up, the plan will disproportionately have an effect on Western states and elements of Texas and Florida, for instance. Additionally, rural communities, low-income households and seniors are likely to rely extra on the Postal Service. 

Mail delays are a burden for individuals who danger charges or penalties for late lease checks or payments. They’re additionally worrisome for these ready for funds or vital paperwork to reach by put up. (We suggest you give your self a wholesome window to ship vital paperwork or affirm that mail despatched by a particular put up date shall be accepted by your recipient.)

Supply lags might even be a matter of life and loss of life for some individuals who depend upon a mail-order treatment system. Already in the course of the pandemic, many individuals opting to obtain prescriptions at residence have confronted issues receiving their life-saving medication on time by the Postal Service. 


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What is the controversy behind USPS delays and price hikes?

When DeJoy unveiled his 10-year plan back in March, he said, “The Postal Service’s problems are serious … but they can be solved,” while later acknowledging that there will be some “uncomfortable changes.” 

DeJoy’s tenure with the US Postal Service has been contentious since he took the helm in June 2020. He’s been under fire by Democratic lawmakers who accuse him of undermining and degrading service, as well as intentionally slowing down mail ahead of the 2020 November presidential elections — an allegation DeJoy has denied. The Justice Department is also investigating DeJoy over alleged campaign finance abuses. And ethics watchdogs have recently exposed his continued financial ties to a major logistics contractor, XPO Logistics. According to The New York Times, the Postal Service has paid about $286 million worth of contracts over the past seven years to the firm, where DeJoy had been an executive.

Independent postal experts and other critics wonder why the agency would opt to slow down mail when it’s already struggling to deliver mail on time. The Postal Regulatory Commission issued an advisory opinion on July 20 that found that the estimated annual cost savings for the Postal Service’s proposed service standard changes won’t, in fact, lead to “much improvement” of the agency’s current deficit woes. The commission also expressed worry that the Postal Service did not do any “operational or pilot testing” for the proposed changes.

How can I make sure my mail arrives on time?

A Postal Service representative said that customers can still use Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail services with a one-to-three-day standard to ship letters, larger envelopes or packages within the contiguous United States. However, if you plan to use regular first-class mail or package service, the service recommends that you plan ahead and send your mail early in order for it to reach its destination on time. 

Another option is to compare rates and delivery estimates with competing carriers, like FedEx or UPS. 

What can I do if my USPS package is lost?

When sending or receiving a letter or parcel with the Postal Service, keep in mind that delivery estimates are just that — estimates and not guarantees. The only service that offers a money-back guarantee for delivery within a two-day window is Priority Mail Express. So unlike first-class mail or regular priority, you’ll actually get a refund for a late delivery. 

If you’re waiting on a letter or package that has an incorrect address or was stuck in a weather-related delay, the only way to intercept or reroute it is with a tracking number. Some Postal Service offerings automatically include tracking at no extra charge, like for first-class package service. But if you need tracking for first-class mail (like a letter, flat or postcard) or media mail, you’ll have to pay an additional fee to get it certified.

According to the US Postal Service, adding a tracking service doesn’t expedite or guarantee delivery. It just makes it possible to find your item if it’s lost. If you are the recipient of a USPS package and don’t know the tracking number, you can reach out to the sender to get it and then check its status online. You can also ask a Postal Service employee to help you based on providing your address. 

If you feel like you’re experiencing an atypical delay and you think your mail has gotten lost after five days, you can submit a missing mail search request, and the Postal Service will try to locate it. You can also file a complaint by email or by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS.

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