Amazon to begin offering Sunday delivery option for purchases

First in line for the Sunday option, free to Prime members, will be LA and New York. And -- what's this? -- deliveries will be handled by the US Postal Service.

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Amazon will begin Sunday delivery of packages to customers in the nation's two largest cities later this month with the help of the US Postal Service.

The Internet retail giant announced late Sunday that it would begin offering the delivery option for certain items in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas on November 17. Amazon expects to expand the offering next year to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Phoenix.

"If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can order a backpack for your child on Friday and be packing it for them Sunday night," Dave Clark, Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations and customer service, said in a statement.

Sunday delivery will not be available for all merchandise offered on the site. Eligible items will list Sunday as a delivery option at checkout. The delivery option will be free to Prime customers who choose the two-day shipping option. Customers who do not have a $79-per-year Prime subscription will be able to use Sunday delivery as well, but they will pay standard shipping costs for business day delivery.

Amazon will deliver packages to USPS locations on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings, and the Post Office will then deliver the packages to customers, the Wall Street Journal reported. For more than a year, the service has been building a "flexible" workforce that would be willing to work Sundays, the newspaper reported.

Amazon did not reveal how much it would pay the USPS for service on Sundays, a day on which the postal service generally does not deliver mail and packages. Amazon declined to offer more details on its arrangement with the USPS.

The move ratchets up retailer competition to win customers through promises of quicker delivery. Amazon first turned up the heat in 2009 with Local Express Delivery, which offered same-day delivery of items to customers in select cities. Google began in San Francisco last year, while eBay announced last month it would , dubbed eBay Now, to 25 cities next year.

The Sunday delivery option could also be a shot in the arm for the USPS, which is expected to lose $6 billion this year -- and which not long ago had been considering eliminating Saturday service as a way to cut costs.