“We would like the Postal Service not to punish us just because they are having problems elsewhere.”
So wrote Les Sittler of Fly Creek in response to news that his local post office would be cutting back its hours.
In the grand scheme of things, the changes that will go into effect in Fly Creek (the service window will be open four hours per day instead of eight) are not earth-shattering, and amount to an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe. But they are significant as part of a larger fabric of changes the U.S. Postal Service is implementing throughout the region, and the nation, as it struggles with plunging revenues.
We get it. People rely on mail less and less as electronic communications continue to improve. Today, the tax forms, legal documents, personal communications and birthday greetings that used to form a mainstay of the mail service have largely migrated online. And companies such as FedEx and UPS offer competitive shipping services.
So while we don’t celebrate the cutbacks in Fly Creek and other local post offices, we do understand them.
The postal service is struggling to keep providing services that customers rely on.
Postal Service spokeswoman Maureen Marion said patrons of the Fly Creek post office will still be able to access their postal boxes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. even when there is no window service.
“That’s an important point for people to chew on in this entire process,” Marion said. “People might not mail a letter every day or buy a stamp every day, but they like to check their mail every day.”
This is an important point. But we think the postal service could do better.
As important as it is to be able to receive mail, people also travel to the post office because they have mail they want to send. Sure, USPS has a robust website where people can purchase postage and print out labels — which is great. But there are still a lot of people in the region for whom that’s not a practical solution.
If the postal service needs to cut back on the hours it can staff rural post offices, we’d like to see it do more to provide access to shipping services within these facilities, beyond the vending machines that distribute stamps. Banks have had ATM technology for decades. Why couldn’t USPS offer something similar — a self-serve station where customers could weigh packages and purchase postage?
We realize there would be an initial cost involved with creating this platform. But if the postal service wants to stay viable into the 21st century, it seems like some 20th century technology might be a good place to start.