Going Postal

When it absolutely, positively has to get there… sooner or later. Maybe.
Buzz Machine: The Death of snail mail and Sunday papers
I was actually waiting for some mail to arrive, and finally received it today. My eye doctor had promised to mail my latest eye prescription card 2 weeks ago today, but the office manager forgot to put it in the mail until a few days ago. My husband David was waiting for stuff, too, and had checked the mailbox 3 times today. Third time’s the charm; the letter carrier must have just gone by.

I rarely get mail anymore (note to self: to get it, you have to send it). And with Chicago’s shabby record with mail delivery chances are you might not get it at all. However, when the system works, it works well, as most person-to-person mail gets delivered the second day here in the suburbs. My prescription card came in an envelope postmarked July 23rd.

I don’t think “snail mail” will go completely away, but it’s already becoming more of an event marker than a communication method, aside from holiday postcards. The only time I mail something now is for holiday and (when I remember in time) birthday cards.

Back when our street was torn up and repaved, all the mail boxes were pulled up and a set of community boxes were temporarily installed about a block away, near the park. Picking up mail became almost a social outing, as neighbors that normally never saw each other walked or drove by to pick up their mail, usually in the afternoon or evening after work. I actually missed it when it was over and we had our nice new street back, along with the brand new mailbox (the old one had a rotted post).

The Washington Post reports that “in the past year alone, the Postal Service has seen the single largest drop-off in mail volume in its 234-year history…. That downward trend is only accelerating. The Postal Service projects a decline of about 10 billion pieces of mail in each of the next two years, going from a high of 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006 to 170 billion projected for 2010.”

No, physical delivery won’t ever die. (Like a good newspaperman, I lie in headlines to get attention.) Indeed, we’ll get more ever deliveries of more stuff that used to be on store shelves but are now ordered online. That’s what UPS’ and FedEx’ businesses are built for. But, as the Post says, we’re sending fewer messages to each other; we have much better means to do that now. And companies are trying hard to reduce their cost of dealing with us – billing, bank statements – by taking that online.

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