On a recent Saturday I got two pieces of mail. One was an advertisement from a hearing aid company to alert “a select few” that a “factory trained” representative would be available for “five days only” to conduct free hearing tests. “Your problem may just be wax!” the flier informed me optimistically. But just in case, I was being offered $1,000 off the purchase of a hearing aid.
I already have hearing aids, and I don’t need another, so I tossed the ad in the trash.
The other piece of mail was the umpteenth reminder from Chase bank, where I have a checking account, that beginning Aug. 15, if I don’t sign up for debit card overdraft coverage my debit card purchases will be denied if I don’t have sufficient funds. If I do sign up, I will be charged $34 for each overdraft. It sounded like a no-win either way, so I tossed that letter too.
The U.S. Postal Service is hurting these days, in part because consumers are communicating much more by e-mail and paying their bills online. To help with its ailing bottom line, the agency wants to discontinue Saturday mail delivery.
Based on my Saturday mail deliveries, I am all for stopping them. In fact, I wouldn’t half mind if the post office cut delivery another day too. I have been saving my mail the last few weeks to see how much important communication I would be missing without Saturday delivery or even any delivery. Not much.
Most of my correspondence now is by e-mail. I rarely get hand-written letters anymore. Even my holiday cards mostly arrive electronically. I get some bills by U.S. mail, but almost all of the companies send me an e-mail notification too, and a link to make my payment. By the time the bills arrive by regular mail I have already paid them.
But there is still significant paper in my mailbox most days. Here is what I found recently.
A local Toyota dealer where I have occasionally had my truck serviced wrote to say, “We miss your Tacoma.” But my Tacoma doesn’t miss its high repair prices.
My old university wrote to invite me on a cruise around Spain and Italy starting at $3,499 (for an inside stateroom, of course, with “very limited availability”). Can’t afford it and don’t like cruises.
Office Depot sent me coupons for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more or $15 off on $75 or more. But it wasn’t valid for my brand of printer ink, which is about all I ever get there.
I got ads for term life insurance, more hearing aids, cremation services, cemetery plot purchases and, although I am a renter, energy-saving home improvements. Forest Lawn Mortuary offered me a free guide titled “My Final Wishes Organizer” if I would take a survey inquiring into such things as whether I had ever considered prepaid funeral plans.
There was a flier from a scooter store and a dentist advertising $49 cleanings. There were offers of satellite TV service and car insurance. There were discount cards from Macy’s and coupons from buffets, grocery stores and maid services. There were offers of gym memberships and discounted carwashes.
The worst junk mail was for California’s recent primary election. I got pitches from local, state and congressional candidates. It was the county races that seemed the nastiest, with daily fliers accusing one candidate or another of “backroom deals,” of trying to “buy a seat” or of “wasteful spending.” Sometimes there were several pieces a day of sniping mail. The volume may have made the post office happy, but I was disgusted.
In the past month, I did not get one personal letter; those were all by e-mail. I did get a few bills and a book I ordered on the Internet.
Stopping Saturday deliveries would at least give me a one-day respite from all the junk mail. But here’s an even better idea: What if the post office had a junk mail filter like the e-mail providers? How about a voluntary opt-out program for anything that is not first-class mail or packages? It wouldn’t help the Postal Service, which makes money on junk mail, but it would save on residents’ time and trash.
Les Gapay is a freelance writer in Rancho Mirage, Calif.