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By Amy Wilson
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
A new report by the USPS Office of Inspector General titled “21st Century Post Office: Non-Postal Products and Services” presents an excellent summary of some of the things that the Postal Service could do to bring in new revenue and revitalize brick-and-mortar post offices. And the Save the Post Office blog, champion of salvaging every rural postal outpost, is thrilled.
“The OIG looked at foreign postal systems, took suggestions from postmasters, and reviewed its own previously published reports on the subject. The new OIG report is packed with interesting possibilities,” the blog reads.
“Here’s a list of just some of them, in no particular order (and elaborated slightly): Public internet access services (like wi-fi and computer kiosks); government services on behalf of federal agencies; government services on behalf of state and local agencies, like paying traffic fines, acquiring fishing and hunting licenses; banking services, such as savings accounts, check cashing, foreign money orders, electronic money transfers, and prepaid cards; other financial services, like retirement planning and insurance; e-bill paying for utility, medical and credit card; job services; selling packing materials and offer packing services; cell phone products and services; fax and photocopy services; notary services; greeting cards, toys, calendars and stationary; ATMs,” it continued.
“The OIG also mentions having the Postal Service get into leasing and warehouse services. Rather than ‘shedding excess capacity,’ as the Postal Service puts it, why not do something with the space? Many of the post offices being closed and sold are right in the middle of busy downtowns. The space in the back where the carriers used to work (they’ve been relocated to an annex on the outskirts) could be rented out to all sorts of retail businesses, offices for professionals, and government and social services agencies. Some could be turned into wi-fi equipped cafes, the way bookstores have done — and the way the post offices do it in Uganda!”
So, what, pray tell, is holding things back? “Congress and private corporations, of course,” it answers. “For decades, the private sector has lobbied Congress, complained to the PRC, and done everything it could to make sure the post office didn’t cut into its profits.” (Read more.) You can read the entire USPS report here.
This story was republished from The Rural Blog, a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues, and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.