Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So you think you've got it hard?

The USPS is losing money at the astounding rate of about $23.3 million a day. A Day!

And this humungous loss comes after it encouraged employees to take early retirement...retired the once-ubiquitous blue curb-side mail boxes...closed about 7% of the post office locations around the country just two years ago...merged under-utilized facilities...hiked postage rates repeatedly...and begged (so far unsuccessfully) for 5-day-a-week delivery.

Whew. What's a beleaguered but beloved institution to do but whack even more?

Undertaking a task that even Tony Soprano would find gargantuan, the USPS is on the prowl for targets of opportunity to whack. And they are everywhere. Or so it seems.

Not only are there about 32,000 retail post offices in the US, but there are more than 70,000 "Approved Postal Providers" selling stamps and services. That's more than 100,000 postal facilities nationwide, or one for every 3100 Americans.

The USPS reports that more than 35% of the USPS retail revenue comes from expanded access locations-those "Approved Postal Providers"-such as grocery and drug stores, office supply and retail chains, self-serve kiosks, ATMs and-of course-the USPS's own website,

Think about it. When you can buy your steaks and your stamps at the Safeway, the post office across the parking lot is rendered obsolete.

And that is where the USPS sits today: with a lot of obsolete but still neighborhood-centric facilities. These "unprofitable" facilities are the first obvious volunteers for elimination. The post office is looking for 3700 worthy candidates to deep six in the first wave of closures.

But like Tony Soprano, post office management is not without a heart. They understand that the post office is a place for neighbors to meet and catch up on juicy gossip. So in lieu of eliminating a local postal facility totally, they are creating "The Village Post Office" a scaled-down version of the late lamented real thing, as an alternative. The Village Post Offices would operate inside a local retailer, much like banks inside many newer grocery stores.

A USPS spokesperson explained "By working with third-party retailers, we're creating easier, more convenient access to our products and services when and where our customers want them. The Village Post Office will offer another way for us to meet our customers' needs."

I guess that's progress. Of a sort.

I'm still troubled by the idea of getting my antifreeze oil and prescriptions at the same store I get my antipasto and pretzels. I'll get used to the idea, I suppose. Eventually.

Marketing Take-Away

The world is changing. It isn't coming to an end. Don't panic. Keep reading this blog every week to see what the latest and greatest news is about the USPS.

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