Mail processing

The U.S. Postal Service has seen its bread and butter grow ever thinner in the last five years, with the compounding negatives of electronic communication-related diminishing mail volume and a debilitating recession. Add to that a congressionally mandated retiree health-care investment of $5.5 billion each year, and the post office faces a growing challenge in remaining both functional and solvent. In such a context, the agency must find ways to cut costs, and consolidating its sorting centers is one such method and Durango’s mail will now be processed well south of the state line in Albuquerque. It should neither be a shock nor cause for alarm.

The move is part of an agency-wide plan to save $20 billion by 2017 and has been thus far addressed with a combination of rate increases and office closures. That necessary pain has been spread across the country and felt more acutely in smaller communities where postal service has been limited or curtailed. By moving Durango’s mail-processing function to Albuquerque, the Postal Service aims to consolidate the function, saving money but not affecting service. The agency says the change will not affect length of delivery and that local mail will still arrive overnight as it always has. Some pickup times will be moved up, though, so customers will have a minor adjustment to the change.

None of the changes are unexpected, and the Postal Service’s assurance that they will result in minimal service disruption should provide some comfort. Nevertheless, the mail and shipping climate has shifted notably in the last decade, and the post office is taking the brunt of the attendant medicine. Email and online bill paying options have taken a big bite out of the USPS’ first-class mail operation, and competing shipping retailers share a big percentage of the parcel pie. That leaves the Postal Service hungry for the things people least want to see in their mailboxes: bulk mail. Presorted mailers and other advertising are increasingly important to the Postal Service’s bottom line as they are diminishingly welcomed by their recipients. The combined effect is not a formula for growth, and the result is a post office in a pickle.

All told, moving Durango’s mail processing service to Albuquerque is an easy pill to swallow given the larger and growing challenges the Postal Service is facing. It is hardly unexpected that the agency will have to make significant changes to stay relevant and solvent as the way people communicate and conduct their business continues to shift. For now, the adjustment looks to have little practical effect on mailing and receiving letters and parcels in Durango and given the magnitude of the Postal Service’s challenge, that is very good news.

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