One reason snail mail feels so good to receive is because it wasn’t easy to send. When a letter lands in your mailbox, you know the mailer put thought into it—writing a note, scrounging up stamps and an envelope, and seeking out a blue box to drop it in. Paradoxically, it’s that same effort that makes the U.S. Postal Service less and less appealing to use.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that the rise of the internet hasn’t been great for the Postal Service. Americans are sending less mail than they used to, with overall volume falling 43 percent since 2001. That decline is especially pronounced among Millennials. In 2001, Gen X-ers between the ages of 18 and 34 received 17 pieces of mail per week. By 2017, that number fell to 10 pieces of mail for Millennials in the same age range.
The financial toll has been significant, too—to the tune of $2.7 billion in losses in 2017. While e-commerce has been a boon, with package deliveries expected to raise USPS’s total revenue by half a billion dollars this year, that growth comes alongside a steep decline in first-class mail, which includes letters and postcards. That part of the business is projected to fall $800 million this year.