2011 February 07 Monday
Why Not Limited Hours Post Offices For Rural Areas?

The US Postal Service has experienced a 20% drop in mail volume in the last 5 years due to more online banking, utility billing, and other shifts to the web. As a result, half the nation's post offices are operating at a deficit and the Postal Service is thinking about closing over 16,000 out of 32,000. In 2010 the US Postal Service ran an $8.5 billion deficit. So little post offices like the one in Star Tannery West Virginia are on the chopping block.

It's all about the bottom line, Voorhees said. The Postal Service pays only $300 a month for its office in Star Tannery and a minimum of $33,000 a year for a postmaster, but revenue has fallen - from $37,316 in 2008 to $31,341 last year.

I've got a few modest proposals:

  • Let post offices open fewer days of the week. If everyone in some rural hamlet knew the post office was only open on Monday they could do their mailing on Monday.
  • Let post offices operate for reduced hours. If a post office was only open from 8 AM to 10 AM on Monday and noon to 2 PM on Thursday it would provide a large portion its current usefulness to rural towns. So one would have to wait a day or two before picking up or mailing a package. People would have to plan ahead more. But it would work.
  • In any rural area where the US government has field offices assign the occasional mail handling to people who do other things for the US government. For example, the US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, and US National Park Service have people all scattered about in rural areas. Some of them could be dual trained to do light postal service work.
  • Contract out postal service provision to Wal-Mart. They've got stores in lots of rural areas.
  • Contract with UPS to accept and deliver mail in areas where the USPS does not have enough business to sustain it.

BTW, if you haven't already moved your utilities and other bill handling online I highly recommend it. The total work load goes down when you no longer have to collect and open so much mail and when you can set up automated payments. The banks vary considerably in the quality of online service they provide. You might want to have one online bank and a separate bricks-and-mortar bank.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 February 07 05:33 PM  Economics Creative Destruction


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