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Closing Post Offices Could Be The Best Thing For Postal Service

07/27/2011

The U.S. Postal Service, which has been losing billions of dollars as more people communicate online, said Tuesday that it is considering closing 12 percent of its post office locations and working with local businesses to fill the void.

The 3,700 post offices under review for closure include urban centers such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as small towns from Plymouth, Mass., to Wallula, Wash. The Postal Service is calling them “low activity,” defined by low foot traffic, average sales of less than $50 per day and less than two hours of work per day. Most are located within five miles of another post office location.

In place of a dedicated post office, the Postal Service is proposing that pharmacies and other retailers sell stamps, flat-rate packaging and other products, a concept it’s calling the “Village Post Office.”

“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. “Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.” Brilliant!

The point Donahoe misses is the below-average customer service at his facilities has driven customers to alternatives. Over the past few months I’ve made approximately six trips to the local post office. Each time I’ve spent a minimum of 10 minutes in line (and sometimes 15 minutes) to conduct a 60-second transaction. Who has that kind of time?

In my post, “Got Any Spare Change For The Post Office” on 03/02/2011 I pointed out other glaring shortcomings such as technology is absent, merchandising is abysmal, marketing is tone deaf…what’s the difference between “Express” and “Priority”? Seems like the rest of the world has figured out the difference between overnight and second day.

The state of the USPS is a far cry from the late 1990’s and the “Fly Like An Eagle” marketing campaign.Loren Smith became the chief of postal marketing for USPS in 1994 and turned to Steve Miller’s song of the same name with agency Foote Cone and Belding to launch “Fly Like An Eagle”.Postal Service enjoyed revenues of $60.1 billion and a surplus of $550 million in 1998. It was the first time the agency had experienced four consecutive years of positive net income.

In an age where the government is hemorrhaging money I see the USPS as an easy casualty. Who wouldn’t like to see junk mail a thing of the past?

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