The July 5, 2010 issue of Linnís Stamp News mentions a study done by Anthony Yezer, economic professor at George Washington University. The results of the study were not surprising. His analysis concluded that of the 32,000 post offices in the US, only 6000 of them bring in more revenue than expenses. The other 26,000 post offices operate at a loss. Urban offices are by far the most profitable and smaller, rural post offices operate at a loss.
Under federal law, the USPS cannot close a post office for solely economic reasons. In my opinion, that law needs to change.
I understand all of the arguments about closing small, rural post offices. They are the lifeblood of many small communities. I grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania and I fully understand the importance of having a local post office.
There has got to be a compromise position. Yes, these post offices are small and in the big picture of the USPS, their combined losses are trivial to the overall loss the USPS suffers year after year. But a loss is a loss. Private businesses avoid losses of any kind. Yet, the USPS is prohibited from doing just that.
Conversely, the USPS should not be able to arbitrarily close 26,000 post offices. That would just lead to further losses by the USPS. Small communities would suffer greatly.
A recent event in my own area may be the start of a trend in the USPS. The nearby Export, PA post office closed two years ago. Why? The lease ran out in the building the USPS occupied. The owner wanted to convert the building into something else. The USPS moved the mail to the Murrysville, PA post office, just a few miles down the road from where the Export post office was at.
Local officials howled at the decision. There was public outcry. Conveniently, the USPS was unable to find another suitable location for the Export post office. I donít think the Export post office officially closed. But the USPS doesnít seem to be actively looking for a new location. Export, PA just faded into oblivion and its status is in limbo. Maybe the USPS will officially take it off the records in a couple years when public opinion fades away and no one notices the formal notice.
Could this be the fate of other smaller post offices? The postmaster retires or the lease is up on the building. It gives the USPS an excuse for what it cannot legally do right now.
Iím sure the people in Export miss their post office. But in all honesty, the Murrysville post office is just down the road. One hundred years ago you had to take a long ride on your horse to get to the post office. No more. For the majority of people, a post office is a few minutes away.
What are small post offices used for? They are used for the collection and distribution of mail. Ninety-nine percent of the stamp sales are for first class stamps, usually the Forever stamps. Occasionally someone has a large package to mail. And a couple of transactions are for delivery confirmation, insured, or certified mail. And itís not a full time job. Most of these smaller post offices could get away with a few hours of operation per day to sort and deliver the mail and to transact sales. No one is mailing to overseas addresses that involve customs forms and complex postage rates. Express mail is not used. And other advanced services just arenít needed in these small post offices.
Maybe the USPS could close small post offices and contract the typical work out to the local grocery store, hardware store, etc. like they did many years ago. And the USPS could set up a traveling van that goes to a local community once or twice a week for special stamp sales (like commemorative stamps) and other special services.
Blindly closing thousands of post offices would be suicide. However, the USPS can't keep operating thousands of offices that are losing money. Itís time to find a compromise. The USPS must stop losing money. Local residents need a reasonably convenient level of service.