Sunday, September 18, 2011

The new face of the U.S. post office: Broke, small, and mini-mall-ish

The post office in the tiny Washington town of Malone sells beer and cigarettes. Live worms for fishing, too. The boxes for fixed-rate shipping are wedged between racks of beef jerky and $6.99 sunglasses.

The Malone location is what the U.S. Postal Service has dubbed a "village" post office. It's inside Red's Hop N' Market, the town mini-mart where locals like to buy lottery tickets and a case of beer before the weekend.

It's the only village post office in the country, but soon a similar hybrid may be coming to a town near you.

As the Postal Service buckles under a $9 billion debt, the mail agency has looked for ways to slash operating costs.

"The primary thing we look at is how much revenue they (post offices) generate (and) has that revenue been going down," said Ernie Swanson, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Seattle.

"(At) a lot of these offices, there's a postmaster and no other employee. So do they have an hour or two of work a day, and we are paying them for eight hours?" more