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Plan to cut Saturday mail delivery gets ho-hum reaction in Harford

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Many business owners interviewed along Bel Air's Main Street this week said they had no problem with the U.S. Postal Service's plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery to homes and businesses, some going so far to say the move makes sense for the postal service.

Similar sentiments were expressed by people in downtown Havre de Grace, with most saying they won't mourn the passage of Saturday mail.

"I think it's a good idea," Mel Machovec, owner of StaleFish Board Company, said Wednesday. "Why not give them [employees] Saturdays off?"

"I just think it's kind of ridiculous. How important is that one piece of mail?" he asked. 

Machovec said he was not surprised by the move, with so many people using e-mail, rather than the traditional postal system, often called "snail mail" in the contemporary idiom.

"Mail is definitely getting to be a really limited thing," Machovec said, noting many printed items in general are disappearing. 

"When the guy comes in with the Yellow Pages, I'm like, 'Dude, save a tree, just take it back,'" he said.

Karen Jacobs, at Tiny Toes children's boutique, said most of her larger shipments are made by FedEx and UPS, anyway.

She was far from surprised by the post office's decision, adding she was "maybe more surprised that they actually, finally did it, rather than kick the can forward."

"I think it's the reality of the times we live in, where more and more [business] is conducted electronically," Jacobs said. "The world operates with a higher sense of urgency and they haven't been making the money that they need."

Jacobs did say she might miss Saturday mail a bit.

"In some ways, I might miss getting a fun magazine to read on the weekend," she said. 

Making adjustments

Angelo Monico, who runs Towne Barbers in Bel Air, said he would not be affected at all.

"It really doesn't bother me too much," he said, adding that having mail delivery six days a week is a lot.

"You just have to make adjustments," he said about doing business and processing mail.

David Towson, of Bel Air, said he heard the postal service would still deliver packages on Saturdays.

"I don't think I would have a terrific impact from it," Towson said of the change. "They have to do something."

"For package delivery, [the postal service] is still the best deal in town," he said.

One business owner, however, thought the move was a poor financial decision.

"Maybe they should find someone good in management," Mario Buontempo, owner of the Main Street Tower Restaurant, said upon hearing of the idea, adding it would "of course" affect business.

"People are so used to having that kind of service six days a week and some companies, like UPS and FedEx, they work seven days a week and it's worldwide," he said. 

Buontempo said the postal service should re-evaluate how it operates in general.

"They run the business like it's the 1940s and 1950s," he said. "You go into any [post office], they've got one guy working in front and six guys in the back."

"The way things are here in the U.S., [people] are so used to delivering mail six days a week," Buontempo said. "How can it be, something like the [post office], that they lose money?"

'Product of times'

Rob Magee, of Havre de Grace, was having lunch at Laurrapin Grille Wednesday in downtown Havre de Grace with several friends, when he was asked about the U.S. Postal Service's decision to stop delivering mail to homes and businesses on Saturday.

"I just think it's a product of the times," he said of the U.S. Postal Service's difficulties in an era when so many Americans use the Internet to correspond, shop and pay bills.

Magee's cohort, Ken Boyd, of Bel Air, said he "didn't know it was happening."

"Most of my interaction is e-mail or texts or over the phone," Boyd said. "I don't even mail my bills out anymore. Most interactions are electronic now; I just think [the mail]'s gone the way of the Pony Express."

Wayne Junior, of Havre de Grace, who was out in downtown Wednesday, said losing Saturday mail delivery is not an issue for him.

"Mondays through Fridays is fine with me," he said.

Jarrod Cronin, owner of The Vineyard Wine Bar in downtown Havre de Grace, said not having Saturday mail delivery would not affect his business.

"Most of our use of the Postal Service is going to be during the week," he explained. "On the weekends, we're just concentrating more on our business, our customers."

Change in August

The Postal Service plans to drop Saturday delivery of first-class mail beginning the first week of August, a move that the financially struggling agency said will save $2 billion annually.

The Postal Service is cutting costs aggressively as it grows increasingly frustrated that Congress is dragging its feet in authorizing a structural overhaul that could stabilize the agency.

The agency, which lost $16 billion last year, has blamed much of its recent troubles on a 2006 law that requires it to make massive payments into its future retirees' healthcare fund, as well as on reduced mail volumes as Americans increasingly turn to e-mail and online communications rather than dropping a stamped letter in a postal box.

Some experts have previously estimated that the Postal Service could run out of cash by October.

Ending Saturday mail delivery, however, will not significantly stop the financial bleeding, and some critics said the move could backfire if customers become irritated by an erosion in service.

According to the plan, the mail agency will still deliver packages and prescription drugs six days a week and will not change post office operating hours. But it will not deliver direct mail or magazines.

The announcement comes just weeks after the USPS board of governors directed the agency to accelerate cost-cutting measures rather than wait "indefinitely" for legislation.

Reuters also contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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