No more birthday cards and bills or magazines and catalogs filling the mailbox. It's a worst-case scenario being painted for an organization that lost $8.5 billion in 2010 and seems headed deeper into the red this year.
"A lot of people would miss it," says Tony Conway, a 34-year post office veteran who now heads the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.
The letter carrier or clerk is the face of the mail. But hanging in the balance is a $1.1 trillion mailing industry that employs more than 8 million people in direct mail, periodicals, catalogs, financial services, charities and other businesses that depend on the post office.
Who would carry mail to the Hualapai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon? To islands off the coast of Maine? To rural villages in Alaska? Only the post office goes to those places and thousands of others in the United States, and all for 44 cents. And it's older than the United States itself.
Ernest Burkes Sr. says his bills, magazines and diabetes medication are mailed to his home in Canton, in northeast Ohio, and he frequently visits the post office down the street to send first-class mail, mostly documents for the tax service he runs. As his business increased over the past three decades, so has the load of mail he sends, and it's still pretty steady.