By Alan Burke
---- — You can’t get blood out of a stone. And a random sampling of North Shore residents interviewed this week by The Salem News uncovered people mostly resigned to the fact that, come August, you won’t be able to get Saturday mail delivery out of the post office.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe made the announcement Wednesday, citing the need to stem the flow of red ink engulfing the post office, which faces the difficult situation of being a quasi-governmental agency that must earn its keep in the private sector.
The end of Saturday mail delivery will come unless Congress steps in to maintain the service.
Interviewed outside the Salem post office at Riley Plaza, Salem resident Paul Connelly took a sympathetic look at the building behind him and observed, “Their hands are tied. They’re supposed to be run as a private business, but they can’t do the things a private business can do. Everything has to be approved by Congress.”
If the cutback in delivery must come, Connelly added, better it should be Saturday than the middle of the week. “I’m resigned to this,” he continued, noting the need to deal with a budget now billions of dollars out of balance.
Nearby Peter Kellett simply shrugged at the news. “It’s not a big loss to me,” he said. “Most of my correspondence is by e-mail. All the bills come via the Internet. I’m completely online. I don’t even have a (telephone) land line.”
A native of the United Kingdom, Kellett has lived in the U.S. for 40 years, but he keeps tabs on the old country and notes that the British government just did the same thing, eliminating Saturday mail delivery. “Some people in the U.K. are pretty upset about it.”
It’s an indication that the need for traditional mail delivery is declining all over the world. And that, in turn, probably explains why few people voice more than mild complaints about the decision. In fact, some had just the opposite reaction.
“I think it’s a great idea,” smiled Phil Berube of Danvers. “It’ll save us some money.” He joked, “I’m a cheapskate.”
But Berube also acknowledged talking it over with postal workers who see bad news for them. “You’re going to end up losing some postal carriers,” he reported sadly. “You might lose five postal carriers here,” he said, nodding to the post office on Conant Street. in Danvers.
“I hear the news,” Regina Mastrangelo of Beverly said, shaking her head. “I don’t like the idea. But if they have to raise the money, it’s better they have it off.”
For her, she noted, Saturday is simply a day to receive bills that could just as well be obtained on Monday.
By eliminating Saturday deliveries, however, customers will find themselves without mail for two straight days. Diane Delp of Peabody, after dropping off a friend at the Wallis Street Post Office in Peabody, pointed out, “On a (three-day) weekend you’re going to wait a long time for your mail.”
Delp and her husband rely on mail deliveries for paying bills, and with those long waits she worries, “I might miss a deadline.” She also frets over the fate of postal workers and suggested that reducing the service will only encourage customers to turn elsewhere.
Sue Kinzie of Beverly, however, sees an upside to the reduced costs that are expected with reduced service. “If it stops the price of stamps from going up, I’d say it’s a good thing.”
The owner of the Beverly Port Marina, Kinzie concedes that Saturday delivery isn’t much use to her. She spoke in front of a sign at the Beverly Post Office that advertised Sunday hours for automated services in the lobby.
“We can operate from Monday to Friday,” said Kinzie. “Most businesses run from Monday to Friday. And I’m sure that most postal workers would rather have their Saturdays and Sundays off.”