Editorial: The real facts and figures behind the Postal Service

Editorial in Federal Times by Mark Strong, President, National League of Postmasters

Myths about the U.S. Postal Service fly fast and far these days. For instance, you have may have heard that there are 36,000 post offices in the U.S., which is more retail outlets than Wal-Mart, Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. In addition, many of these post offices are labeled “money losers.”

These statements, made more to shock than inform, are not accurate. Let’s look at the facts.

First, a post office is more than a retail outlet. While they have some retail function, they are also the final distribution point from which the Postal Service’s carrier force operates, and postmasters spend most of their time managing carriers, not retail employees.

Thus, one can’t close down the delivery functions of a post office without modifying the delivery system, unless you want the delivery system to grind to a halt. Many critics don’t take this into account when they talk about how much post offices cost and push for closing post offices.

Second, there are 27,000 post offices, and many of those are in rural areas. With 3.5 million square miles in the U.S. to cover, that is one distribution point for every 131 square miles. Is that really excessive?

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