Postal Service struggling to stay afloat in digital world
January 25, 2013
Hours at the Henefer post office will soon be reduced from eight hours a day to six, despite an increase in usage, according to Henefer post office officer-in-charge Susan Richins. The hours will remain the same on Saturday.
"To me, mail has increased instead of decreased, especially the incoming packages," said Richins, who has worked in the post office for 16 years.
Throughout the nation, however, United States Postal Service (USPS) first-class mail has dropped 25 percent over the last six years, with a loss of $15.9 billion in 2012, according to USPS regional spokesman Brian Sperry.
"Business as usual is no longer an option," he said. "The Postal Service is facing historic challenges. We’re not supported by taxpayer dollars. And like any business, we need to match the work with the workload."
The Postal Service is proposing reducing the hours of over 13,000 post offices across the country, with a projected savings of $500 million annually.
"The Postal Service originally proposed possibly closing 3,700 post offices to cut costs," Sperry said. "But at the community meetings, our customers told us not to close post offices, but instead reduce the hours. So based on feedback, the plan is to keep post offices across the country open by realigning the retail window hours based on customer use."
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Over the next year, the Postal Service will send out surveys and conduct meetings to determine whether customers would prefer to keep their post office open with reduced hours; close the post office and receive curbside delivery; use a "village post office," which offers popular post office products and mailing services within an established business or close the post office and use a nearby one.
"I have yet to hear of a case where they have selected something other than reduced hours," Sperry said.
Henefer customers opted for reduced hours over the other options.
"All-in-all they were positive about it," Richins said. "They were concerned about losing our post office, so when [the Postal Service] said they were going to keep it but reduce the hours, they were fine with that. They just didn’t want to have to lose the post office and have to go to Coalville or Morgan for their mail."
About 94 percent of those in Henefer surveyed said they did not want rural route delivery.
"The affected post offices will remain open with realigned hours unless a community has a strong preference, more than 60 percent, for one of the other options," Sperry said. "This strategy preserves rural post offices while enabling the Postal Service to cut costs and return the organization to financial stability."
While online conveniences, such as e-mail and online bill payments have cut into the Postal Service’s revenues, digital technology has also made products and services more convenient and accessible than ever before, he added.
"You can go onto http://www.usps.com and buy stamps at up to 16 percent off post office prices, print out labels and order free package pick up and your carrier can come the next day and pick it up. The hours may be reduced but the website is open 24/7," he said.
Sperry acknowledged, however, that the reduced hours will not alone "save the Postal Service," but is one of many strategies being implemented to ensure the organization remains viable.
Part of that plan includes consolidating mail-processing locations, mail routes and transportation.
The Postal Service is also offering early retirement to some employees, since it has more employees than is now necessary.
The Postal Service has reduced the number of employees by 250,000 since 2000, either through attrition or early retirement.
"We’re looking at all aspects of our operation to become more efficient," Sperry said. "But while the Postal Service is doing everything it can to cut costs, it needs Congress to pass legislation that will give the Postal Service the flexibility it needs to operate effectively and be able to have control over decisions."
For example, the Postal Service has been requesting the ability to deliver mail five days a week instead of six.
It is also struggling with a law passed in 2006 that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its retiree health benefits.
"That’s something no organization or business is asked to do," Sperry said. "It’s $5.5 billion a year. I don’t know many businesses that can handle that kind of load, especially when we’re having declining mail volume."
Sperry added the Postal Service is not trying to get out of paying the benefits, but rather pay less each year over a longer period of time.
The Postal Service has also requested Congress refund an overpayment of $6 to $12 billion made by the Postal Service into the federal employees retirement system.
"But all these things require Congress’ approval," Sperry said. "It’s very urgent they pass this legislation that gives us the flexibility to be able to operate and get the Postal Service back on a firm financial footing, because we’re losing $25 million a day."
Henefer’s post office hours, as of Feb. 9 will be 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and will remain 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.