The Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau is not doingthe U.S. Postal Service any favors since the rise of the Internet.
Granted, the bureau spends significant postage sending out nearlya million visitors' guides annually.
"People still want the glossy guide book," said Janet Wall, vicepresident of communication for the bureau, "It's a tool that peoplecan carry along."
But the bureau is also focusing heavily on its Internet presence.The bureau's Web site receives 270,000 hits a month in peak season.
And it has nearly abandoned paper copies of its newsletter thatgoes out to member businesses, replaced by a periodical e-mailversion, saving the bureau postage costs.
"There's no 37-cent stamp involved," Wall said. The only costincurred was the software that manages the e-mail distribution.
With the rise of the Internet, e-mail and instant messaging,companies are communicating with their clients and their employees ina paperless fashion.
Once the domain of the corporate mailroom, messages and memos makeit effortlessly and efficiently from desk to desk. And in somecompanies, from city to city.
The U.S. Postal Service has strived to be more efficient aselectronic mail threatens its traditional turf.
While the USPS could not provide statistics on the region's mailtotals, Lancaster's new postmaster Louis DiPerna believes use of themail here is on the decline.
A former postmaster in Gap, Mount Joy and Lititz, DiPerna has seenchanges in the way mail is handled during his 20 years in the area.
More precisely, the lack of handling.
He estimates that 80 percent of mail is now scanned and sorted bymachine, going untouched by postal employees until put into a mailboxby a letter carrier.
That efficiency, coupled with Internet innovations of personal e-mail and online bill payments, has led to a decline in volume and inpostal workers, despite increases in addresses.
"The days of letter writing are down considerably," DiPerna said."My kids' generation is heavily involved in the Internet, whilepeople in my generation are still writing checks to pay their bills."
E-mail 'saves trees'
Laura Wakeley, vice president of corporate communications forFulton Bank, said account holders still receive a paper statement inthe mail. And there's still a lot of other paperwork anddocumentation involved in the banking industry.
But she said her company saves money every day thanks to e-mail.
"It's probably saved a lot of trees," Wakeley said.
Wakeley said her corporate e-mail system ties together the bankbranches and has almost eliminated the need for couriers to shuttleinter-office mail between her company's 200 branches and offices.
And electronic mail allows for a wide variety of distributionoptions.
"You can copy [an e-mail] to anyone and they can read it andeasily delete," Wakeley said.
Denise Splain, a group leader at Lancaster Laboratories on NewHolland Pike, also sees her company's communication changing.
"Our electronic mail has grown," she said, "But a lot of what wedo has to be followed up with hard copies [for signature purposes].And as our business grows, our mail grows more and more."
Splain's duties include managing the company's copy and mail room.She said she hasn't seen a decline in mail at her company in her 17years there.
"Some of that is growth. We've been fortunate that our business isgrowing.," Splain said. "Many years ago, [the mail sorter] did manytasks [other than mail]. Now, the job has narrowed to all mail andsome support functions.
Where postal is going
USPS delivered 99 billion pieces of first-class mail in 2003, downfrom 102 billion the year before. But in the same time, standard mailtotaled 90 billion items in 2003, up from 87 billion in the prioryear.
USPS expects first-class mail to decrease by 2.1 billion pieces in2005, and standard mail volume to grow by 3.8 billion pieces.
In September, USPS chief financial officer Richard J. Strassertold the postal board of governors that, for the first time, first-class mail is expected to be surpassed by advertising mail.
Strasser said the result is expected to be a balanced $68 billionbudget for the agency in 2005, despite the declines and continuinghigh fuel costs.
With the balanced budget, the USPS promised no rate hike in thecost of first-class postage until at least 2006.
The amount of any rate increase remains uncertain with actionstalled in Congress on changes to the law governing postaloperations. The post office has been seeking more flexibility inchanging rates and service and wants to be relieved of theobligation, not imposed on any other agency, of paying militaryretirement benefits for its workers who were formerly in the armedservices.
Postmaster General John E. Potter has said that without therequested changes, a rate increase could be in double digits. A 10percent hike would boost the price of stamps from 37 cents to 41cents and a 15 percent hike could increase the cost of mailing aletter to 43 cents.
Lancaster postmaster DiPerna thinks another postage hike would"kill first-class mail," and that the postal service needs to work ontrimming its budget.
Despite the cost controls, Mark Hnasko, spokesman for theHarrisburg district of the USPS, said that the postal service iskeeping its level of service high.
"Ninety-five percent of customers like what we're doing" accordingto a recent survey, Hnasko said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.