Frugal Living 
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11 Sure-Fire Ways to Save on Shipping

Post Office in Mooresville, ALBack in college, I used to sell all sorts of products on eBay and thus developed keen understanding for how the post office worked. I didn’t do a tremendous amount of selling but as a lazy and poor college student, I did my best to make my shipping as efficient as possible. Many of the tips below come from that experience and are very much USPS centric since my packages were often very light, but many of those tips apply to any shipping service.

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 Personal Finance 
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2011 Post Office Closure List: USPS to Shutter 3653 Locations

It was only a matter of time before the USPS was going to have to change the way it did business. There was talk of canceling Saturday delivery, which had the potential to save $2 billion. Earlier this year, the Post Office announced that it would close “thousands” of locations and now that has come to fruition. Postmaster General Patrick Donohue listed the list earlier today as part of the announcement of their “expanded access” program – which would put more locations in businesses, town halls, grocery stores, and community centers.

No post office will be closed, just “branches” and “stations,” which are supposedly smaller and have no mail processing facilities (and sometimes no carriers). The full list of “affected areas” can be found here. Not all the locations listed are slated for closure, they’re just going to be “investigated.”

While I feel bad for the staff of the post offices being closed, it’s hard to argue against the ones they chose. Over three thousand of them generated less than $27,500 in annual revenue, which equates to fewer than two hours of workload a day. That’s a clear indicator that those post office locations are probably not critical, if they generate fewer than $27,500 a year. Another 385 will be closed not because they didn’t make enough money, but because there were too many “locations” nearby (at least five within 2 miles). Now, locations include stamp kiosks but those 385 generated less than $600,000 in annual revenue. Finally, 188 had less than a million in revenue and 5+ locations within half a mile.

The bigger question is whether it’ll work.


 Personal Finance 
46
comments

A Postal Service Bail Out Coming?

United States Postal ServiceThis latest WSJ article about The Coming Postal Bailout is yet another reminder of how poorly managed our nation’s postal service is. I find this absolutely astounding considering how many shipping companies, not to mention UPS and FedEx, continue to exist while our nation’s oldest has been essentially insolvent. The $15 billion line of credit the government extended to the USPS… that’ll run out at the end of the year and we’ll probably never see it again.

I don’t keep very close tabs on the USPS’s activity but the Postmaster General concedes there have been unprecedented volume declines since 2006 (that’s five years ago) and yet appears, publicly, to do very little about it. In fact, they recently negotiated an agreement with the American Postal Workers Union that would give them a 3.5% raise over 3 years (which isn’t that great, but still), cost of living wage hikes after 2012, and make it harder for the USPS to lay people off. That’s not exactly a lights out deal but you don’t continue to take cruise reservations on the Titanic after it has hit the iceberg.

The post office is run as if it has access to an unlimited bank account… mostly because it has access to an unlimited bank account. This year, they’ve lost $2.6 billion through the first two quarters of the fiscal year. Last year, they lost $8.5 billion over the course of the fiscal year. For fiscal year 2009, they lost $3.7 billion after a year in which they lost $2.8 billion. They project losses of $42 billion over the next four years. It’s mind boggling!

By comparison? UPS and FedEx have turned a profit each of those years.

It’s tragic. It’s so tragic that I feel like I’m taking crazy pills… anyone else feel the same way? If you think you’re completely wrong, let me know!

(Photo: jstephenconn)


 NEWS 
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Commission Denies Postage Rate Hike Request by Post Office

News alert: The United States Post Office is hemorrhaging money.

It’s estimated that the USPS will lose a staggering $7 billion in 2010 after losing nearly $4 billion last year. If you’re wondering why you get so much junk mail, it’s because “business mail” is one of the few profitable parts of the existing mail volume. According to Postmaster General John E. Potter, 90% of the revenue comes from business mail. Media mail, which I’m a big fan of, is unprofitable. Magazines are unprofitable.

When the Postal Regulatory Commission decided last week that the Post Office couldn’t raise the price of postage, I thought it was a great idea. This forces the USPS to address it’s structural problems… unfortunately everything they do requires Congressional approval, which takes forever. The USPS had requested an increase of 5.6% (averaged across all mailing methods). Normally, rate hikes are capped at inflation but with the recession, retiree benefits, and other demands, they are permitted to request an increase.

Postal Service denied rate hike [CNN Money]


 NEWS 
30
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USPS Considering Stamp Price Increase

Post OfficeThe United States Postal Service proposed an increase to the current stamp price by two cents, to 46 cents. The USPS would also increase, correspondingly, the prices of all other shipping like Priority and Express mail service. All told, the increase is estimated to only generate an additional $3 billion in the next fiscal year, not even half of the estimated $7 billion deficit they are projected to run.

It’s unfortunate what’s become of the USPS as they try to get back into the black. There’s very little by way of innovation and most people hate going to the post office, like they hate going to the DMV. The lines are always long, there are never as many tellers as there are windows, and you’re always stuck behind someone who hasn’t even packed what they intend to ship.

The suggestions only hasten the demise of the USPS. Shutting off Saturday service will save them money, but you don’t get more business by offering fewer services. Increasing stamps will only shift purchasing (buying more Forever Stamps) or give people another reason to not mail something. Email is free.

The Postal Regulatory Commission oversees the Postal Service and they need to approve the latest price increase, which would be scheduled to go into effect January 2nd.

(Photo: nhoulihan)


 Personal Finance 
45
comments

How to Save Time & Money at the Post Office (By Avoiding It!)

Post Office in Mooresville, ALYou don’t have to ask too many of my friends, or my wife, to learn that I am not a fan of waiting. I hate sitting in traffic, especially if it’s just “congestion,” and I really hate waiting at the post office, where it seems as if there are always twice as many counters as there are people staffing the counters.

So that’s why, over the years, I’ve developed a few simple strategies to help me avoid waiting at the post office. The overall strategy is to deconstruct the post office experience and try to avoid needing counter service whenever possible. Here are some tips to help you reduce the time it takes to get your packages on their way.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Is Five Days of Mail Delivery OK?

USPS Mail TrucksDid you know that that the United States Postal Service is slated to lose $6 billion or more this year? It lost $2.8 billion last year.

With all the outrage over lending billions to financial institutions, you’d think more people would be fired up about running an operation that lost $2.8 billion last year and could lose $6 billion this year. No one is sending packages on credit for people without jobs. There aren’t multi-million dollar bonuses for anyone at the post office. It’s just a business that is spending more than it earns because mail volume is dropping.

In reading more about it, some people argue that delivery days is a red herring and that the USPS can save money in other areas. While I can appreciate that to a degree, sometimes it comes down to an argument of “less filling” or “great taste.” The reality is that the post office is losing money and we’re paying for it, with taxes and with higher postage stamp prices, and they need to stop arguing and start fixing.

I am perfectly fine with getting mail five days a week.

What do you think?

(Photo by icanchangethisright)


 Frugal Living 
24
comments

Print Postage Online

Post Office in Mooresville, ALI hate going to the post office. It doesn’t matter what day I go or what time of day I go, there is always a line and there’s always only one or two tellers working. I’ve gone to post offices that serve a large residential zip code and post offices that serve a smaller residential zip code, there is always a line and never enough tellers. If we’re near a holiday, forget it, I’ll be waiting in line for at least half an hour. If you visit the PO with any regularity, I bet you understand my pain.

The worst part is watching people struggle through a process that is otherwise fairly straightforward. People show up with packages they haven’t even finished packing! I understand not knowing how much postage is needed but to not have your package taped up and ready to go is inexcusable.

So, that’s why I try to do as much as I can at home so I can shorten the time I’m stuck in the post office. Recently, with all the shipping I’ve been doing related to contests and auction winners in the Bargaineering Bucks store, I’ve been considering printing my postage online. Here’s what I’ve found.

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