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Monday, January 24, 2011

Postal Service Desperately Trying to Close Thousands of Branches

Posted by on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 12:30 PM

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Postal Service wants to keep the cuts coming:

Now, with the red ink showing no sign of stopping, the postal service is hoping to ramp up a cost-cutting program that is already eliciting yelps of pain around the country. Beginning in March, the agency will start the process of closing as many as 2,000 post offices, on top of the 491 it said it would close starting at the end of last year. In addition, it is reviewing another 16,000—half of the nation's existing post offices—that are operating at a deficit, and lobbying Congress to allow it to change the law so it can close the most unprofitable among them. The law currently allows the postal service to close post offices only for maintenance problems, lease expirations or other reasons that don't include profitability.

The Postal Service is doing their damndest to cut themselves into irrelevancy.


Comments (24) RSS

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why is the mail a for-profit system?
Posted by balmonter on January 24, 2011 at 12:39 PM · Report this
They've been going that way for a long time. I can't even drop mail off securely at my own home anymore. Someone (apartment management insists it was the USPS) decided that the existing outgoing-mail system (an empty box with a slot cut into the door) didn't meet some standard or another and they sealed it up. If I want to mail something, it has to go into an open basket, so I don't mail anything anymore unless it goes directly into the blue box at the nearest post office.
Posted by djlynch on January 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM · Report this
Delivering the mail is one of the FEW things actually listed in the Constitution to be provided by the federal government. Why can't it operate in the red?

We obviously don't give a rip about the Pentagon's failure to focus on the bottom line.
Posted by Punditwatch on January 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM · Report this
Kinison 4
You dont need the post office to SEND mail, just need it to recieve it. Go to any UPS or Kincos and they'll ship whatever you want USPO. So they can close whatever they want, wont change the fact that mail still gets routed from major distro centers.
Posted by Kinison on January 24, 2011 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 5
Eh, it could be worse. England is actually trying to sell the Royal Mail to a third-party contractor (it's broke too). No joke.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on January 24, 2011 at 12:49 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 6
@4, unless you need to receive certified or registered or whatever it is where they leave those orange tags in your mailbox to go pick up your mail.

i've started not picking up that stuff, because my mail center is several miles away, while my local post office is 2 blocks away. Something says to me if this "closing" thing happens, it'll be the local PO that goes away.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on January 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Dougsf 7
Streamline that shit once and for all. Not everyone in line is an idiot, and not everyone that works there is slow—it's that the myriad of mailing options and services are confusing and sometimes redundant.

Those automated postal center kiosks are the best thing that's happened to the post office in years, roll more options into them like international shipping, tracking, confirmation, (I realize some of those things are now an option, but kill the annoying slips, those confirmation numbers could be generated by the parcel at the point of purchase which would speed the process up about 1,000%) etc. and leave a skeleton crew for the folks the require human help.
Posted by Dougsf on January 24, 2011 at 1:00 PM · Report this

They should have USPS machines all over the place.
Posted by kersy on January 24, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Kinison 9
Also, for some reason we fine companies for un-solicited emails (spam) as well for real junk mail. The fines for spam are rarely collected because the sender is typically overseas. But for junk mail, we do collect fee's and its often paid and theres no reason why we cant make adjustments to the RTS fees and reduce junk mail at the same time, without putting a huge dent in the budget of the post office.

If the piece of junk mail is addressed in your name and address, then write RTS on it and send it back (drop it in some random post office bin). If the original sender is a company, they get charged to have mail delivered back to them. RTS Fees are typically 80 cents to a dollar to send back.

All one needs to do to, is to ban the sending of any mail addressed to "Bulk Resident". Companies can still send you junk mail, but its mail with your name and address on it, which you can simply write "RTS" on it and send it back. After a few RTS letters are sent back, they update their mailing lists and cease sending you crap you dont want, because it costs them alot more money to have it mailed back to them.

Im sure alot of people will complain that this cuts into the post offices bread and butter of sending junk mail. Sure, but it also streamlines their efficiency, If most of the mail you get is junk mail, then that means you have some distro centers dedicated to routing junk mail, wouldnt need them if the level of junk mail came to a grinding hault.

While this is going on, just increase the costs of business RTS fee's. Jack it up to 2$ per mail, eventually to 5$. If your a company that gets a tray of RTS mail every day, that extra 1$ fine is going to sting. They'll update their mailing lists fast. As the volume of junk mail drops, you gradually raise the RTS to they dont punch a huge hole in the USPO budget.

I used to work in an office where one of my daily work duties was to sort through RTS mail. Had a tray maybe filled with 500 envelopes that I had to open and sort to send back to various departments. Thats 400$ in RTS fee's to the company, per day, just to have mail returned to them. Whatever 3rd party company they hired to update the mailing list, obviously didnt update it fast enough as the volume of RTS mail never changed during the 3 years I worked there. When the fee's of 400$ a day go to 800$ a day and possibly 2,000$ a day, damm right they'll update the lists and STOP sending junk mail to those who do not want it.

This way, when the USPO closes more offices, they can do so saying that the volume of mail has gone done and they simply dont need the additional facilities to handle the volume of mail. Im sure alot of small businesses rely on this cheap form of advertising, but were talking about using tax money to make it cheaper for small and large companies to further bombard you with ads.
Posted by Kinison on January 24, 2011 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Rotten666 10
Automate the service and trim delivery days to three days a week. Get rid of all the bullshit bulk advertisements and phase out two thirds of the workforce and offices over the next decade. The USPS operates like it is still 1950.
Posted by Rotten666 on January 24, 2011 at 1:33 PM · Report this
I love USPS, use it all the time to mail stuff, and haven't set foot in an actual post office in years. All their shipping tools are online, easy to use, and you actually get discounts for printing out shipping labels instead of using stamps. They're cheaper than FedEx or UPS, and in my experience, both faster and more reliable. My god--a recent Netflix envelope left my Seattle porch and made it to a center in Florida in less than 18 hours. And, thanks to corporate budget cuts I would guess, I get packages daily from companies that now ship via USPS instead of the private companies.
I don't understand at all how closing some offices would "cut them into irrelevancy."
Posted by alight on January 24, 2011 at 1:34 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 12
And the offices that get closed will be the ones that are needed the most -- in rural areas where people already have to drive miles to get to the post office.

@7 and 8,

The mail carriers' union would never stand for it.

It's really too bad, because UPS and FedEx have horrendous service, for exactly the same reasons that make USPS great -- they can't get into apartment buildings to drop off packages if the recipient isn't home and their pick-up locations are a pain in the ass to get to, especially if you don't have a car. Why I can't get my local UPS Store or Fed Ex/Kinko's to hold a package is beyond me. I'd even be willing to pay a fee for the privilege.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 24, 2011 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Vince 13
Here we go. The rural areas that hate the gubmint are the ones screaming when the gubmint shuts them down.
Posted by Vince on January 24, 2011 at 1:44 PM · Report this
@Kinison Many smaller communities (I mean communities of 20,000 and smaller, and sometimes larger) do not have a Kinko's or a UPS store, only drop boxes. This would leave hundreds of thousands of people would have no reasonable access to mail service in their community.
Posted by Mobsy on January 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Fnarf 15
@12 is correct. The very reason the PO is not profitable is because they are MANDATED BY LAW to provide RFD -- rural free delivery, without which America as we know wouldn't exist. Not everything in the universe has to be "profitable".
Posted by Fnarf on January 24, 2011 at 2:05 PM · Report this
in-frequent 16
i like my neighborhood post office. i hope we don't lose that. i don't think they need to make a a profit, but i'm all for a little bit of automatizing the process. while not all of USPS's problem come from slow-moving lines, the service there can drive you crazy. just show me my options! how many key-presses are necessary to show the least expensive???
Posted by in-frequent on January 24, 2011 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 17
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 24, 2011 at 2:23 PM · Report this
@10: If you eliminate bulk mail you'll put the post office in a further hole. Bliv it or not bulk mail is a profit center for the post office.
Posted by Weekilter on January 24, 2011 at 2:37 PM · Report this
I can understand why the postal service is in such sad shape. In the past year I can't count on one hand the times I've actually sent a letter or bill since I do everything with email and do electronic banking so I don't need to write but one check a month for rent (my apartment building is still in the 20th century.)
Posted by Weekilter on January 24, 2011 at 2:38 PM · Report this
@19: Wow, fucking brilliant! Why didn't anyone else think of that?
Posted by bigyaz on January 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Dougsf 21
@12 - you actually can have your Fedex or UPS packaged routed to one of their storefronts for pickup—it's a service they advertise, anyhow. Problem is, IT WILL NEVER FUCKING HAPPEN. Last time I attempted to use the service, it cost me about 5 phone calls, 3 extra days, a handful of wasted trips, and a small fee.

I think USPS is fine to operate at a loss. They provide an important service and are part of our country's information infrastructure. But they could certainly use more automation with the intention of closing redundant, not rural, branches (there's 4 branches within a short walk of my office.)
Posted by Dougsf on January 24, 2011 at 4:26 PM · Report this
balderdash 22
This is desperately stupid. The USPS provides services none of the big private carriers do, and they also carry (occasional surly and inefficient post office clerks aside) a cachet of reliability and dignity that people need.

Applying a standard of "profitability" to an institution whose goals don't include the making of money is wrongheaded and counterproductive.

And as far as "redundant" branches go, I imagine people who are yammering about that issue have never had to stand in line at one of the existing offices for over an hour to get a money order or pick up a package because staff budgets have already been cut so deeply. I don't even like to think how ugly the lines will get if even more urban post offices close.
Posted by balderdash on January 24, 2011 at 4:33 PM · Report this
doesurmindglow 23
New idea to meet the Constitutional mandate for the Post Office: Turn it into a free public-access ISP. Or maybe just a cheap one.

Heh? Heh?

Nah, Constitutional conservatives probably won't like that.
Posted by doesurmindglow on January 25, 2011 at 2:37 AM · Report this
gttim 24
The USPS is unprofitable because of the universal delivery mandate. If somebody mails a post card from California to small town West Virginia, it has to be delivered for 28 cents. No private company would ever touch that. There is no way for the post office to be run profitably now. Just get over it and run it at a loss.
Posted by gttim on January 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM · Report this

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