The USPS Struggles Amid the Pandemic and the Impact on Everyday Mail
Millions across the globe found themselves in the same situation last March - stuck at home. Since stores and shops were shut down, with the exception of those deemed essential, many Americans turned to online shopping. Everything from groceries, to clothing, essential items like toilet paper, and more, was now being increasingly purchased online.
The Turn Towards Online Shopping and Shipping
As millions of people sheltered in place under stay-at-home orders, the US Postal Service, Amazon carriers, FedEx, and UPS all experienced huge upticks in demand.
In fact, by the end of May 2020, online shopping had skyrocketed up, *increasing 77% compared to last year. The responsibility to fill this huge increase in e-commerce purchases meant the delivery systems were going to need to perform like never before.
As a consequence, delayed packages become more normal and expected. Amazon’s shipping, in particular, struggled at the start, before they began bringing on more delivery personnel. But one of the hardest hit was the United States Postal Service, the government-funded postal service that lacked Amazon’s ability to significantly increase their delivery trucks.
The Hit on USPS
The USPS has long been the standard mailing carrier for most Americans. Our daily mail includes not only paychecks and bills to pay, but our more enjoyable mail, like packages, magazines, and catalogs.
Facing the struggle to keep up with demand on deliveries from the increase in online shopping, the employees were working overtime and extended shifts. Packages and standard mail was arriving late. Then, as the pandemic worsened, more employees were catching the virus and had to quarantine, bringing **the availability of delivery personnel down even further.
Two other huge factors the USPS would face came between October and December.
First would be managing the increase in ***mail-in ballots during the biggest voter turnout in US election history, with millions of ballots needing to be processed in an industry already stretched thin. With concerns over the virus, more Americans turned to vote-by-mail ballots, which had strict deadlines for delivery.
Then came the holidays. More Americans doing their holiday shopping online, since, in many states, stores and malls were still limited, and most chose to play it safe by shopping at home. Plus, since many Americans couldn’t travel or visit family, more people were shipping packages and presents for the holidays.
The USPS couldn’t keep up with the holiday demand given the challenges of staffing numbers, funding, and the massive increase in mail and packages.
The Impact on Magazines and Subscriptions
One of the unintended consequences of the demands placed on the USPS would be the delays caused for regular magazines, subscriptions, and everyday mail.
With regards to magazines and other publications, they had initially experienced a mild drop in delays, hovering at around 80% on-time deliveries.
But when the holidays hit, that plummeted to 50% on-time. With resources stretched so thin, publications also didn’t have the option to mail out subscriptions earlier since they face deadlines from the publishers and printers. In addition to this, the USPS tried to work on prioritizing packages to try to deliver as many as they could by Christmas.
The Calming of the Storm
Even now, at the start of 2021, the USPS is still struggling to keep up with the demand for deliveries. But, despite all the struggles endured by the USPS, the tide has hopefully started to shift.
The holidays have ended, so online orders have dropped. The election is over, so the rush for ballot deliveries is gone. The vaccine is now being distributed in the US, which will help to substantially slow the spread and allow people back to work. As the pandemic wanes, in the coming year, people will return to traditional shopping. All this will allow the USPS to return to their standard practice of on-time delivery of American’s paychecks, bills, magazines, and more.
***NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/us/politics/usps-vote-mail.html
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