Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
The Postal Service, a government-supervised private operation running billions of dollars in the red, wants to cut costs by closing as many as 3,700 small post offices and replacing some of them with what it calls “village post offices.”
The idea, being tried in Malone, Wash., is to offer the most basic mail services at lower cost by installing minimal post offices inside such places as grocery stores and drugstores.
People in Malone can find their new post office easily: It’s across the street from the old one, which closed Aug. 9. The next day, Red’s Hop N’ Market put a new sign in the window ? “Village Post Office” ? and started selling stamps and flat-rate shipping along with milk and cigarettes. People get their mail in individual mailboxes outside.
The Postal Service will pay Red’s $2,000 a year.
The new setup is “awesome,” says 18-year-old Samuel Mason, because he can get the mail any time of the day or night. The old post office closed at 4:30 p.m.
His mother, though, worries that the locked boxes are not secure because they are outside
Phil Spence, 64, is unhappy that people won’t be able to process money orders or mail irregular-size packages. They’ll have to go to Elma, 5 miles away. That’s tough for someone without a car, he says.
The Malone operation is a pilot project for a system the Postal Service hopes to use to replace what it considers underperforming post offices across the country.
Spokeswoman Sue Brennan says it will be a success if it increases foot traffic ? and satisfies the customers’ postal needs.
Downsizing to village post offices won’t solve all the Postal Service’s financial problems. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Congress last week that he could see a $10 billion loss when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. He is asking for permission to end Saturday mail delivery and recover part of billions of dollars prepaid into future retirees’ benefits.
He will talk more about his proposals at a news conference today.
Meanwhile, some people in Malone say the change is not a big adjustment.
The village post office is nothing new, says Phil Spence’s wife, Maryann Spence, 59. Back when Red’s was called Busby’s, it housed the Malone mail services until the post office opened across the street. They can?t believe that people think this is such a big deal; after all, it’s the way it used to be 40 years ago.


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