The U.S. Postal Service is facing big losses, and management is looking for new ways to cut costs, but a move to close 3,600 smaller facilities is no longer an option. Wednesday, the service announced a new strategy that would keep those smaller offices open, yet achieve cost savings as part of plan to get back on a firm financial footing.
The plan offered, which will be reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission, would keep the existing Post Office in place but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and the P.O. Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town's ZIP code and community would be retained in this new plan.
Rural customers were quite vocal about the proposed closings and Congress reacted to the idea in response. That put pressure on the Post Office to look at alternatives. The agency, which has 31,000 operating locations - which compares to 13,000 for McDonald's and 4,300 for Walmart, is looking for ways to beat down costs.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says "meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demand and reducing the cost to serve. With that said, we've listened to our customers in rural America and we've heard them loud and clear - they want to keep their Post Office open."
The service offers a four-point strategy for cutting costs.
Maintain the Post Office with reduced retail window service hours to match customer need.
Deliver using either rural carriers or highway contract routes.
Engage a local establishment within the community to establish a Village Post Office.
Merge with a nearby Post Office and provide service from that location.
Essentially the Post Office in a local community will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. We will not close any of these rural Post Offices without having provided a viable solution.
The press statement quoted research from Opinion Research Corporation conducted in February that showed 54% of rural customers would prefer the new solution to maintain a local Post Office. The remaining 46% prefer one of the other solutions (20% prefer the Village Post office, 15% prefer working with a nearby Post Office, 11% prefer expanded rural delivery).
The Post Office has seen a 27% drop in customer retail visits in the last 6 years and already provides alternative access through 70,000 locations.