A Ruralinfo.net Editorial
In July 2011, the Postal Service announced that nearly 3700 post office’s would be studied for closure. There was major public outcry, especially from small rural communities who did not want to lose their post office. Public meetings were held, and from the feedback received at these public meetings, the USPS developed a “New” strategy.
Enter the Post Plan..
The Post Plan was touted as the way to keep rural post office’s open.. Under the plan, Post Offices may be transitioned to 2-hour, 4-hour or 6-hour periods of operation each day. I work in a rural community and my office just went through the Post Plan process. First surveys were sent out and a community meeting was scheduled. The surveys sent out gave customers an option of reduced hours, shutting down the post office, or getting their postal services through a VPO – Village Post Office.
So of course with those options, most of the responders chose reduced window hours. An interesting note is that only approximately 350 customers even responded to the survey. Most people usually do not spend a lot of time thinking about their local community post office, unless they have problems with their mail.
The community meeting took place and only 20 people in the community showed up. Those that showed up were customers that have been paying attention to media stories about the Postal Service and they did ask hard questions, but in the end their questions really did not make any difference.
Ok, now we fast forward to actual implementation of the Post Plan. Our post office hours were set from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm, with a 30 minute lunch from 11:00 to 11:30. Previous window hours kept us open until 4:00 pm. My town is centered around a community school that serves 3 different small towns. Prior to the Post Plan implementation, the busiest time of day where we did the most business was between 3:00 and 4:00 pm because it was right after the end of the school day. Most people would stop by the post office to mail their letters and parcels after they picked up their children from school.
So now, all of a sudden, the community is paying attention. They are all upset because we are now closed when they need to do business. Why they did not pay attention to the surveys or attend the community meeting, I do not know.. But they are paying attention now and they are not very happy, but they will learn to live with it.
Now comes the part that really matters. All offices put under the Post Plan will get reevaluated yearly, and if they generate less business than the year before then their operation hours can be reduced even more. If you paid attention to when our busiest time of the day is in an earlier paragraph, you will see that my district chose to close our office during our busiest time of the day. It is inevitable that we will generate less income and it is inevitable that our window hours will be reduced even more until my post office will be gone. Carriers will be moved to another post office and customers will have to travel to get postal services.
So basically, in my opinion, the Post Plan is just the slow road to extinction for a rural post office. Customers are upset right now because of reduced hours, but they will eventually get used to it. But, they have no idea that the Post Plan has put their community post office on a slow-moving train to being eliminated. My small community post office has been set up to fail and there is nothing anyone can do about it now.
What was touted as a plan to keep rural post offices open is really only a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing working its way towards extinction.