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Postal cuts show generation divide

E-mail means not all customers will feel loss of Saturday delivery

Letter carrier Joe Seelig of Weymouth delivered mail on his route in South Boston on Wednesday. The Postal Service plans to cut Saturday mail delivery starting in August.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Letter carrier Joe Seelig of Weymouth delivered mail on his route in South Boston on Wednesday. The Postal Service plans to cut Saturday mail delivery starting in August.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Elizabeth Ford, a South End retiree, outside the Post Office in Roxbury.

For South End retiree G. Elizabeth Ford, this one hits hard. First the blue Postal Service boxes began disappearing, then postal branches began consolidating, and, of course, the cost of stamps just keeps going up. Now the US Postal Service says it will slash Saturday mail delivery beginning this summer in an effort to save $2 billion.

It is too much.

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“I think it’s terrible,’’ said Ford, walking to a waiting car. “Just awful.”

That’s not how 21-year-old Sarah Lockwood sees it. The Somerville resident has long been weary of the slow pace of mail delivery. She rarely sets foot in a post office. And the elimination of Saturday mail will not make a dent in how she pays her bills or corresponds with her friends and family.

“I don’t expect a lot from snail mail,’’ said Lockwood. “I do e-mail.”

The announce­ment that the Postal Service plans to reduce mail deliveries from six days a week to five is exposing how a struggling agency is grappling with new demands and a generational ­divide and drawing strong reactions Wednesday.

Under the plan mail would be delivered Monday through Friday beginning the week of Aug. 5. Package deliveries would continue six days a week and mail to post office boxes would still be delivered on ­Saturdays.

‘I don’t expect a lot from snail mail. I do e-mail.’

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Post offices would keep their regular Saturday schedule, the agency said.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said that the Saturday cut is intended to highlight the agency’s strengths — package deliveries have increased, but letters have sharply dropped — and adjust to the ­financial realities of the nation’s shifting mailing habits.

An agency spokeswoman, Christine Dugas, said the service deliberately scheduled the switch for the slowest mailing month of the year to give ­“ample time for folks to adjust to the change.”

But the announcement has set off a storm of criticism from segments of the population who still rely on mail service. US Representative William R. Keating blasted the plan, saying it leaves rural areas in the lurch.

“For residents living in less-populated areas or areas like Cape Cod, as I do, ending Saturday service would be like cutting off one of our lifelines,’’ said Keating, who worked his way through college and graduate school as a letter carrier.

US Representative Edward J. Markey also criticized the move and said a better ­approach to the financial troubles would be a congressional overhaul of the postal system.

And with mail carrier jobs potentially at stake, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association called the plan “reprehensible and irresponsible” and said “rural families’ livelihoods often depend on efficient six-day-per-week mail delivery.”

In Boston, residents greeted the change with a mix of regret, indignation, and acceptance. Even some like Jonathan ­Toland, a 29-year-old from Shrewsbury who said he does not use the Postal Service much anymore, felt a twinge of nostalgia.

“What this symbolizes to me is the change of the American way,” Toland said. “I’ve grown up with the Post Office deliveries six days a week.”

The Postal Service, which lost nearly $16 billion last year and has sunk deeper into a ­morass of financial problems, said it has been advocating for five-day deliveries of mail and packages for the past several years.

And with a 25 percent decline in first-class mail, the agency targeted Saturdays, its lowest volume day.

In an answer to critics, ­Dugas pointed to recent independent polls in which 70 percent of respondents say that the Saturday plan will help the Postal Service reduce costs and return to financial stability.

“They think it’s a wise choice,’’ said Dugas.

Outside the post office on Malcolm X Boulevard in ­Roxbury, some residents said that they favored the plan and that eliminating Saturday mail deliveries will not affect how they do business.

“I don’t get a lot of mail on Saturdays,’’ Ada Jones, 69, of Roxbury said after buying stamps, “so, it’s not going to affect me.”

David Murray, a 47-year-old from Milton, said he has a post office box and does not rely on deliveries, so he is fine with the plan. “I think it’s a good idea, if they are going to save money, as long as they don’t raise the price of stamps,’’ he added.

But Estelle Kelly, a 69-year-old retiree from Roxbury, complained about what she calls the steady decline in postal deliveries, saying this is yet another blow.

“The mail comes late as it is,’’ said Kelly. “My mailman don’t come til 2 or 3 o’clock. Plus they give them longer routes. And now they want to cut Saturdays. It’s like I’m being cheated.”

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Sarah Lockwood (left) and Windsor Hanger outside the Fort Point Station Post Office. It was the first time visit for the two.

At the Fort Point post office in South Boston, Sarah Lockwood and her 24-year-old coworker Windsor Hanger were making a rare visit to a post ­office and their first to this one. They came not to send or pick up mail, but because a letter carrier had mistakenly picked up unlabeled hot-pink packages from their office.

“I do e-banking; I only have to get stamps when I send thank you notes and for other formal things,’’ said Hanger, who racked her mind trying to think of when she needed deliveries or to send mail. “Oh, yeah, I send mail to my grandmother.”

The two walked into the Post Office and later left carrying their reclaimed packages. They had no need of ever returning.

Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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