Snail mail blues: What new USPS slowdowns and worth 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 short-term charge will increase for the vacations. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Sending letters or packages throughout the nation via the US Postal Service looks like a sport of probability lately. Throughout the first quarter of 2021, round 20% of first-class mail was delivered late. And if you happen to use the Postal Service to do enterprise or pay payments, as 160 million residences and corporations do, you are now in for a bumpier journey. 

The USPS initiated new service requirements on Oct. 1 for its first-class mail and packages, lengthening supply time for about 30% of its quantity. Which means some 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. That is not all: Along with worth will increase applied in August, the price to ship a parcel has briefly gone up only for the vacation season. 

The modifications are a part of Postmaster Normal Louis DeJoy’s 10-year Delivering for America plan to overtake the company and attempt to sort out its large debt. In addition to lengthening supply timetables and elevating costs, the plan, which has generated controversy, additionally reduces publish 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 a large decline within the quantity of first-class mail like letters, playing cards and payments as Individuals 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 opponents like UPS, FedEx and even Amazon itself, which has its personal supply community.  

What do the Postal Service’s modifications imply for you? Costlier or erratic mail supply might result in delays in wedding ceremony invites, birthday playing cards, unemployment checks, mail-in ballots or youngster tax credit score funds. Beneath, we’ll clarify who these worth hikes and delays might have an effect on most, what to do if you happen to’re dealing with a holdup with a package deal, and what choices it’s a must to ship mail. This story was up to date. 

What the brand new USPS cost-cutting plan is 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 under.) 

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

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

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


Specialists say the brand new modifications will result in the largest slowdown of mail in additional than a era. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

How supply for first-class mail and packages is altering

Not all first-class mail can 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 space between origin and vacation spot. The remainder (61% of native mail) can be unaffected and can be delivered in a single to 2 days. 

First-class package deal 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 (resembling 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. 

Increased postage and supply costs are additionally right here

On Aug. 29, the Postal Service raised the value of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 cents. Which means Without end stamps now value 3 cents extra. (You will get a cool, customized design from the publish workplace or from However as a result of Without end stamps by no means expire, those you purchased in 2020 — or any prior 12 months — stay legitimate although the postage charge 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 worth enhance, as did media mail resembling books. The costs for particular companies like licensed mail and cash order went up as effectively. 

The US Postal Service additionally introduced a short-term worth enhance on industrial and retail home package deal shipments for the 2021 peak fall and vacation season, in impact Oct. 3 via Dec. 26. The value will increase vary from 25 cents to $5 per package deal on precedence mail, precedence mail specific and first-class package deal service. They’re detailed in this assertion.

In response to the company’s plan, there might be much more worth will increase over the subsequent decade. Although including a few cents to ship a birthday card won’t burn a gap in your pocket, even a small enhance might be ruinous for companies that ship a ton of mail or corporations that rely upon mass mailings. 

Many issues could cause USPS supply delays

There are a lot of the explanation why there is likely to be a holdup along with your Postal Service mail, and plenty of instances it is not what you’d count on. Listed here are a number of the commonest causes for mail delays. 

  • Climate: Postal supply disruptions might be attributable to 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 in a position to cope with the quantity of rush purchases via retailers. One technique to keep away from that is to organize early and keep away from last-minute reward shopping for and delivery. 
  • Unsuitable deal with: Typically the supply deal with is wrong, or there’s an issue with the deal with resembling a lacking residence quantity or an unreadable road title. 
  • Notification slip lacking: If the Postal Service wasn’t in a position to ship your mail as a result of nobody was there to obtain it or there wasn’t a secure place to depart it, you may get a discover telling you that your package deal is ready on the nearest publish workplace. Nonetheless, if that slip will get misplaced, you don’t have any approach of monitoring down the package deal. 

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 identical time, there was a major 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 save lots of 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 additional journeys and to go away mail behind at distribution facilities, The Washington Submit reported. A month later amid intense criticism and issues about upcoming mail-in ballots, DeJoy retracted the choice till after the federal election. In October 2020, the US Postal Service agreed to reverse the entire slowdowns and to prioritize election-related mail.


The Postal Service initiatives that the variety of packages will enhance considerably over the subsequent few years, pushed by on-line procuring. 


Tens of millions might be impacted by the USPS slowdowns

People and companies will face longer supply instances for each outgoing and incoming mail that should journey by postal truck for farther distances. So the modifications will particularly influence individuals 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 response to The Washington Submit, 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 inclined to rely extra on the Postal Service. 

Mail delays are a burden for many 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 publish. (We advocate you give your self a wholesome window to ship vital paperwork or affirm that mail despatched by a selected publish date can be accepted by your recipient.)

Supply lags might even be a matter of life and dying for some individuals who rely 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 via the Postal Service. 

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USPS delays and price hikes have been controversial

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 to make sure your 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 to do if your 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. But if you need it for first-class mail or media mail, you’ll have to pay an additional fee. 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 feel like you’re experiencing an atypical delay and you think your mail has gotten lost, you can submit a missing mail search request, and the Postal Service will try to locate it. 

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