Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

What If The Local Post Office Wasn't There?

U.S., Quality of Life, Political

What if you went to the local post office…and it wasn’t open anymore?

It probably seems as though I pick on the postal service, but the situation involving our post offices is a most interesting dilemma and I can’t help but wonder about solutions as financial losses continue to grow.

There are some 32,000 post offices around the country.  The U.S. Postal Service is studying closing up to 16,000 of those locations.  BUT, it has some real issues since it is currently trying to shut down just 491 of the least-used facilities and it is encountering much wailing and hand-wringing…from both patrons and, of course, elected officials.

Our postal service lost $8.5 Billion in 2010; and that was on the heels of other significant losses in prior years.  There is a problem, and it has to be resolved.  We simply cannot continue to see these kinds of results and turn our faces away. 

In most cases, a closure results in simply shutting down the facility.  The people who have union positions are simply transferred to another facility.  I recognize that transfers, even, can be very disruptive for the people involved, and I don’t mean to diminish the problems of a transfer to a different facility.  I do mean to call into question just how it is we are expecting to save a bunch of money if we aren’t closing facilities and retiring people.  People costs have to a very significant part of the $8.5 Billion loss; probably the largest part of that loss.

We know that the Internet is causing significant shifts in what used to be a solid dependence upon the U.S. Postal Service.  That is going to do nothing but increase as a source of problems.  The German postal system has incorporated secure electronic letter delivery at the price of a first class snail mail letter into its bag of tricks; maybe something like that can be incorporated to help but the private sector will swiftly undercut that market as it usually does with new marketplaces.

There are tons of tiny post office facilities all across rural America and some of those are the bigger problems since there are no near community alternative post offices available.  What about identifying several areas across the country and establishing for-profit test tubes based upon bids from companies that believe they could provide answers?  Maybe a full service post office on wheels could be made to work and make money if the U.S. Postal Service would create favorable rates for the company that recognized part of the savings realized.  We can print postage from the Internet.  Why could we not create some free-market solutions as test beds?

Such alternatives would answer the needs of the people in those outlying areas, and it would permit the postal service to let people retire without hiring replacements thus reducing the human cost involved.

We might find this would work as we phase out of the current model and into the fully electronic model that promises to be the future.

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