Wednesday, August 12, 2009

USPS: It Doesn't Care, It Doesn't Have To

WASHINGTON POST -- Postage stamps can be purchased by mail, at the supermarket, even from many bank cash machines. But there's one place you won't be able to get them in a few years - vending machines at the post office. The U.S. Postal Service plans to eliminate its 23,000 vending machines by 2010, the agency said in a recent internal memo.

"The heart of the matter is a lot of these machines are up to 20 years old," she said, meaning breakdowns are increasing and replacement parts are costly or impossible to get. The removals are expected to begin next year with about 5,900 machines eliminated annually.

MP: The stamp vending machine at the downtown Flint Post Office no longer sells stamps, it sits there empty. Right next to the dark, empty vending machine for stamps sit two fully operational, bright and shiny vending machines, one for soft drinks and one for snacks, presumably owned and operated by a private, for-profit vending machine company (see photo above).

Old machines, breakdowns, and replacement parts apparently are not overwhelming problems for a for-profit vending machine company, so couldn't the Post Office outsource its stamp vending machines to the private company that is providing soft drinks and snacks in the Post Office lobby?
Originally posted at Carpe Diem.

19 Comments:

At 8/12/2009 8:57 AM, Blogger BlogDog said...

I routinely buy my stamps at Costco which actually sells them with a small discount. And with 100 at a time (it's Costco, yaknow) I rarely run out.

 
At 8/12/2009 8:57 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

I can't wait to go to the Post Office for my heart attack.

 
At 8/12/2009 9:33 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Obamacare [for the unwashed masses] will go something like this:

"Your heart surgery will be in 1 to 3 days. Call us if no one shows up in 4 days."

Fedex-care [for U.S. Congressmen and other public officials deemed to important to fail] would go something like this:

"Your heart surgery will be tomorrow at 7:00am. Here's a tracking code that will allow your family to follow your surgery on-line."

 
At 8/12/2009 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, hire more post office employees. I'd imagine that's one reason for eliminating the machines.

 
At 8/12/2009 10:04 AM, Blogger Michael said...

But don't old people break down and replacement parts become harder to get too?

 
At 8/12/2009 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The USPS is completely beholden to for-profit corporations and special interests. Junk mail constitutes 55% and volume and 75% of revenues. The only way to get the evil for-profit industry out of postal service would be to have Americans forget their 47 cent stamps and start ponying up the $235 per year (per residence) to cover USPS costs.

 
At 8/12/2009 10:42 AM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

The USPS would screw up the out-sourcing. They would set the wholesale prices at the wrong level and after complaints from their constituents they would change the price too much. The vendors would be at the peril of government, just like the fellow who is old and not worth giving a heart bypass.

 
At 8/12/2009 11:48 AM, Blogger Angela said...

It's asinine. The 2nd generation postage machines checked addresses, printed labels, weighed and postmarked packages. They were amazing.

Tom Daschle's book espoused the benefits of avoiding advances in technology.

See the similarity?

 
At 8/12/2009 12:05 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Why can't the Postal Service have competition for stamp machines that work? Do the top bosses think that people will simply buy stamps from a cheerless clerk instead? They are wrong.

 
At 8/12/2009 1:17 PM, Anonymous geoih said...

Quote from Anonymous: "The USPS is completely beholden to for-profit corporations and special interests."

So, the government plays politics with the postal rates, through the favors they give out in return for lobbying money. I guess I don't see how this is an argument in favor of more, or even the same amount of government. I love this lame excuse, that the government is only corrupt because of the lobbying of capitalists and business.

If the government didn't have all of these favors to deal out, then there wouldn't be anything to lobby for. But instead of eliminating the real problem, government favors, we're supposed to believe that more government favors is the solution.

 
At 8/12/2009 3:31 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

I had to wait in line for about 7 minutes just to buy a single stamp on friday ( i had to mail a letter and forgot my stamp book at home ). I saw the sign on the stamp machine and was very sad.

 
At 8/12/2009 5:56 PM, Blogger SBVOR said...

Our Post Office vending machine was removed about a year ago.

Now, we have to wait in line during Post Office hours to buy stamps. Okay, there are other options. But, frankly, they are even less convenient and even less desirable (to me).

The vending machine was available 24/7 and I never waited in line.

Shades of things to come with health care, eh? Or not!

Is it time to borrow a phrase from the gun control fight? Something like this:

"from my cold, dead hands [you will take my private health insurance]"

 
At 8/13/2009 4:01 PM, Blogger Mark Schellman said...

I work for the Postal Service. The reason stamp vending machines are being taken out of service is the design of the new $5, $10, and $20 bills. The cost of retrofitting all of the USPS vending machines to accept the new bills is prohibitive. Regular food and drink vending machines only take $1 bills, which have remained the same (thanks to lobbying of the vending industry) for many years. Since books of stamps cost much more, the higher denomination bills must be used. The Treasury Department is the cause of the Postal Vending Machines disappearing!!!

 
At 8/13/2009 7:30 PM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Mark, you are talking about details rather than reason. Private enterprise would have invested capital to upgrade, producing results at the lowest total cost. Since mail volume is declining at a very rapid pace and since this rate of decline is accelerating, the highly inefficient practice of driving mail around is doomed for extinction. Had the AT&T Monopoly not been broken in 1984, electronic mail would not be taking over, but it is. Once per week delivery or high priced package delivery will be all that is left of the Post Office in a few years. Under these circumstances, it actually makes sense not to upgrade the machines.

 
At 8/14/2009 3:50 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

Anyone heard of making the machines work with Credit Cards? Its been the 21st century for 9 years...

 
At 8/14/2009 4:06 PM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Why would we spend money on stamp machines when the need for stamps is dying?

 
At 8/21/2009 2:07 PM, Blogger jens said...

Actually, there are (or at least WERE) postal vending machines out there that take/took credit and debit cards - I worked on a pilot project successfully drove financial transactions through some machines in California post offices.

Our company did not, however, get the bid for rolling this out nationally. Not sure what happened with the project after we were no longer involved.

 
At 12/01/2009 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One great benefit of the post office machines was that they accepted $2 bills, $1 coins, and pennies. I have not seen a "private enterprise" vending machine that converted these problematic types of money into something useful. To assume the superiority of private enterprise solutions is political dogma. Private or government solutions may be best in various instances. To claim somehow that this teaches for instance about health insurance is grossly disingenuous.

 
At 12/14/2009 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If USPS were truly private, it would have gone under long time ago, much like our Wall Street, Insurance, S&L, auto industry, and health care. Because it is not entirely private, we at least have a guarantee that a citizen can freely communicate with anyone else in this country.

 

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