More 2021 Changes Coming to the USPS
The United States Postal Service has been in trouble for years. It has been losing money hand over fist, come under fire for its deals with Amazon and other online giants, and been forced to deal with several instances of carriers dumping mail instead of delivering it. In April 2020, Megan Brennan, who was then the postmaster general, announced that the USPS could run out of money within six months, leading to concerns that the agency would be forced to close down. Despite the agency’s desperate need for money, the USPS enacted only a nominal increase in 2020. For example, the only increase for first-class letters was an increase of $0.05 for additional ounces when mailing a large envelope. Media mail rates were increased 1.9%, while Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Flat Rate, Priority Mail Regional Rate, First-Class Pack Service, and Parcel Select Ground prices increased between 2% and 3%.
Fast-forward to January 2021. Priority Mail retail rates were increased by an average of 3.5%, and commercial rates were increased by an average of 4.2%. Priority Mail Express rates increased between 1.2% and 2.5%. Other categories had rate increases between 9% and 20%. In August, the USPS raised the first-class rates. The rate for mailing a postcard increased to $0.40, a letter went from $0.55 to $0.58 for the first ounce, and the price of mailing a flat or large envelope rose to $1.16 for the first ounce.
Apparently, these increases were deemed insufficient. In September, the USPS had another announcement, and this one has potentially staggering implications for those who operate a home-based or small business. The USPS is raising its rates from October 3 to December 26, and, to add insult to injury, the agency is deliberately slowing down delivery for some mail and packages.
USPS 2021 Holiday Rate Increases
The planned rate changes cover a variety of services, but few home-based businesses qualify for some of the more unusual services. For most small businesses, the relevant information relates to the packages that they ship. Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes and boxes will cost $0.75 more during the holiday season. The temporary price increase for USPS Retail Ground and Parcel Select Ground is between $0.25 and $0.75 for packages weighing less than 10 pounds, between $1.50 and $3.00 for packages weighing more than 10 pounds but less than 20 pounds, and between $2.50 and $5.00 for packages weighing more than 20 pounds but less than 70 pounds.
Why Is the USPS Delaying Mail?
It is common knowledge that hurricanes, blizzards, floods, and other severe weather events can disrupt the transportation of all goods, including the mail. Bridges can be washed away, power may be lost, or roads can become impassable. It is also common knowledge that the holiday season is an especially busy time for the post office. Furthermore, once the pandemic brought lockdowns and social distancing, many people began ordering more of their basic supplies online to avoid shopping at a local store. Remote workers became more numerous, and so did the number of school-age children who had to take virtual classes. Although all of the factors mentioned above can certainly contribute to postal delays, the crux of the problem is not an act of nature, an increase in volume, or a direct result of lockdowns and other safety precautions.
Readers of a certain age will remember that the USPS once offered airmail as a method of domestic mail that would get a letter to its recipient faster than first-class mail. As the name suggests, airmail was moved by airplane between major centers, then delivered by truck to its final destination. First-class mail was moved by truck along its entire path. Domestic airmail service ended during the 1970s because the USPS had shifted most first-class mail to air transportation. Ironically, the USPS is now reversing the trend. The agency is now increasing the volume of mail transported by truck and reducing the number of airplanes it will use. The agency states that trucking the mail will reduce costs, offer greater reliability in all seasons, and be better for the environment.
Will All Mail Be Delayed?
According to the USPS, the new standards will not affect all mail. The type of mail and the distance between the origin and destination are the key factors. Local mail should be unaffected, but first-class letters and envelopes could take up to five days to be delivered. Approximately 32% of first-class packages will see an average delay of two days, increasing from two or three days to four or five days. Newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals may be affected, but the USPS has stated that only 9% will have a delivery time of up to five days; the balance should be delivered in less than two days.
The delays will have the most impact on mail that must travel a great distance, including mail going from one coast to the other. Mail to and from Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and United States territories could be delayed. The delays could also have a disproportionate affect on rural communities, especially in the southwestern states.
Tips for Dealing With the USPS Changes
Keep in mind that the price increases and delays can affect both your incoming and outgoing mail. Adapting to the situation is primarily a matter of having a good plan in place.
1. This is no time to forget about your inventory. Whether you manufacture your products, order them from a wholesaler, or order repair or replacement parts for your service business, you do not want to be caught without sufficient stock to satisfy your customers. Allow extra time for your raw materials, finished goods, or spare parts to reach you.
2. If you offer free shipping, or you charge a fixed fee that is based on the dollar amount of the order, see how the increases affect your profits. You may need to eliminate the free shipping, raise your fixed fee, or increase the price of your products to offset the higher USPS rates.
3. Let your existing and prospective customers know about the possible delays, and encourage them to get their orders in early, especially if they want to receive them before the holidays. Post a banner on your website, send an email, mention it in your newsletter, or tweet about it.
4. Explore all options. For example, this might be a good time to get a virtual business address, switch to a local supplier, or give UPS or FedEx more of your business.
5. If you receive or deposit checks by mail, be prepared for possible delays. Pay careful attention to your cash flow to ensure that you have sufficient funds available to meet your payroll, operating, and other essential expenses.
6. Make sure that you stay current on any relevant news about the USPS. For example, the agency often issues statements when delays are longer than expected. Furthermore, although the USPS has stated that the increases are only temporary, you want to watch the news to ensure that the expiration date does not change.
7. Try not to stress over the situation. The success of your business depends on you, so take care of yourself so that you can take care of your business. Get a sufficient amount of sleep, continue with your exercise routine, keep your medical appointments, and eat a balanced diet.