Post Office Ponders Closing 1 In 10 Retail Outlets

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Postal Service is considering closing more than 1 in 10 of its retail outlets.

The financially-troubled agency announced Tuesday that it will study 3,653 local offices, branches and stations for possible closing. But many of those may be replaced by Village Post Offices in which postal services are offered in local stores, libraries or government offices.

“It’s no secret that the Postal Service is looking to change the way we do a lot of things,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at a briefing. “We do feel that we are still relevant to the American public and the economy, but we have to make some tough choices.”

Currently the post office operates 31,871 retail outlets across the country, down from 38,000 a decade ago, but in recent years business has declined sharply as first-class mail moved to the Internet. In addition, the recession resulted in a decline in advertising mail, and the agency lost $8 billion last year.

Most of the offices that face review are in rural areas and have low volumes of business. As many as 3,000 post offices have only two hours of business a day even though they are open longer, said postal vice president Dean Granholm.

Coming under review doesn’t necessarily mean an office will close. The post office announced in January it was reviewing 1,400 offices for closing. So far 280 have been closed and 200 have finished the review process and will remain open.

Once an office is selected for a review, people served by that office will have 60 days to file their comments. If an office is to be closed, they will be able to appeal to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.

“This is bitter medicine, but changed times call for a changed Postal Service. With mail volumes declining at a dizzying rate, we need a Postal Service that is leaner, more efficient and less expensive,” said Art Sackler, chairman of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a mailing industry group. “The closure of a post office can be difficult, but these avenues must be explored to ensure that the Postal Service and the 8 million private sector jobs that rely on it are able to survive, and that the economy as a whole doesn’t take yet another disruptive blow.”

The vast majority of sales in post offices are stamp purchases, officials said, and that can easily be handled at the new Village Post Offices. In addition, those offices would accept flat-rate packages and some could provide post office box service. For passports or other more complex services customers would have to go to a remaining regular post office.

Already some 70,000 locations such as supermarkets and department stores sell stamps.

Over the last four years the Postal Service, which does not receive tax funds for its operations, has cut its staff by about 130,000 and reduced costs by $12 billion in an effort to cope with the loss of first class mail to the Internet and the decline in advertising mail caused by the recession. For example, about half of all bill payments are made by Internet now, up from 5 percent a decade ago.

Postal officials have also sought permission from Congress to reduce mail delivery to five-days-a-week and to ease the requirement that they pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund to pre-pay future retiree medical benefits.

Without the $5.5 billion annual pre-payment — which is not required of any other government agency — the post office would have made a profit over the past four years. However, because of the complex way federal finances are structured, the payment is counted as income to the government and eliminating it would make the federal deficit appear to be $5.5 billion larger.

The agency has also suspended payments into its pension fund and eliminated bonuses and performance awards for managers and executives.

Of the 1,400 offices announced for review in January, 620 are still in the review process and 300 will move to the new review list.

Click here for a list of the offices being studied in Texas.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. Cole Younger says:

    who cares ……………………….

  2. world wanderer says:

    look at that number – 31,871. i walked part of the appalachain trail with my son this past year. we stopped at post office near Roanoke, VA. well constructed brick building. had a woman manning the station and a deliverer assigned for, yes, deliveries. curious, i asked how large an area they covered. about a five mile radius. huh. who gets the addresses past that? the other offices, each less than five miles in either direction. both with similar buildings and workers. the intuitive inefficient set=up appeared to be a glaring reason why the post office can’t make ends meet. shoulda set up a PORAC when they set up the BRAC in ’05. then, as a side study, figure out why so many TSA agents stand idle during the day. and why an equally vulnerable, albeit less sensational, train station isn’t equally protected.

  3. callen says:

    I lost confidence in the USPS as I kept getting other peoples’ mail in my box almost every day for the over twenty years that I have lived here. Finally, one day I made a strong complaint to the post office about wrong delivery, the next day my mail box was jammed FULL of other peoples’ mail . THAT was my punishment for complaining about the service! Fine. Turn the whole thing over to FedEx. At least FedEx understands and delivers the service that I want.

    1. YRofTexas says:

      LOL. I would have marked each and every package “RETURN TO SENDER. ADDRESS UNKNOWN” and make the postal service do a few loops to get the mail back to it’s original destination. Maybe that is what they wanted…a few extra steps to take care of their idle time.
      … And if a box arrives with broken merchandise? They will ignore your requests and claim that THEY have to open the box in order to justify the insurance replacement cost. What a joke!
      They can crash and burn for all I care!

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