Post office closures may be bad for business

With competition on all sides from the internet and private companies like UPS and FedEx, The U.S. Postal service (USPS) finds itself adjusting to the needs of the 21st Century.

The USPS announced this week that it will be studying 3,700 of its 32,000 retail stores to determine customer needs and possibly introduce a “retail-replacement option for affected communities around the nation.”

The USPS receives no federal tax dollars and operates using the services that it offers. But the USPS has lost 4.1 billion pieces of mail from lack of use and lost $2 billion in revenue because of the decline in post office usage.

“The Post Office is in trouble,” said Joe Bergan, of Manayunk.

Retail locations to be reviewed include Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls.

Reaction to the possible closures was mixed in the community, as seen on Philadelphia Speaks, a local online forum.

“People aren’t using the post office as they once did,” said USPS spokesperson, Cathy Yarosky, who also cautions customers to stay calm.

“Being on the list does not mean that your post office is going to close.”

According to Yarosky, Tuesday was the first day of the study that will eventually select closures. She said that final decisions will not be made on any location until there is a public meeting on the issue.

These meetings have no set date yet but Yarosky assures customers that they will be well publicized.

“We will be putting them out to the media, sending letters and having signs at the offices,” said Yarosky.

Neighborhood impact 

This is not the first time these post offices were under threat of closure. Yarosky said that like any business, USPS makes periodic adjustments to his retail networks.

“It’s just unusual because it is such a large scale operation. We have more retail networks than McDonalds or WalMart,” she adds.

One gentleman spent almost 10 minutes expressing his dissatisfaction at the possible closure of post offices. When asked what he would do if they closed, he responded, “Will they bring back the Pony Express?”

Talking with customers on the street, the Manayunk Station receives very good reviews while comments about the Roxborough and East Falls locations are lukewarm at best.

The news about the possible closures did cause some concern, though, for small businesses.

“Small businesses need the Post Office,” said Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation. “The Post Office in Roxborough is always busy. There are always 20 people in line at any time of the day. What they should do is add more staff and not close it.”

Businesses in Manayunk share the same sentiment. Many of the small eclectic shops on Main Street use the post office to send their products to customers.

“The Manayunk Post Office has a small town feel to it,” said Ann Tetreault of Manayunk and owner of The Spiral Bookcase. “They are always helpful. I don’t know where I would go if they closed. It would be hard for me to go somewhere else.”

Keeping up with the times 

According to a press release from USPS, for communities currently without a postal retail office and for communities affected by these retail optimization efforts, the Postal Service introduced the Village Post Office as a potential replacement option.

Village Post Offices would be operated by local businesses, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other appropriate retailers, and would offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.

“Today, more than 35-percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, in a press release.

“Our customers’ habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business. The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive and it will continue to drive commerce, serve communities and deliver value.”

In an ever-changing world, others are not so concerned by the changes in the postal system. Many have pointed out that the younger generation no longer uses the post office to pay bills or send correspondence.

“The idea of using other existing structures as post offices intrigues me. The ‘village post office’ will save lots of money; and if Wawa had any brains they would immediately attempt to get a contract with the government,” said Ian Wallace, East Falls. “Snail mail is dead.”

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