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Advisor

Are you marginal yet?

Living where we do, six miles from any store or post office in any direction, I had sort of been accustomed to having to drive a ways to do anything that cannot be done via computer.  That in itself has been a great way to save miles...ordering and having things delivered, especially from amazon. 

I've always enjoyed books immensely, which is what got me started e-shopping in the first place.  Nearest bookstore closed shortly after we moved here, and it's at least an hour to a decent one now.  Online prices are cheaper most times, and with a minimum order, shipping has been free...plus, no sales tax for mailorder into NC from out of state.  Saving the sales tax alone is almost 8% off. 

A few months ago, I half-jokingly told Mike I was going to look for some grocery items I coudn't find in town on amazon.  Lo and behold, there they were!  No more 60 to 90 minute drives for some of our favorites, just type them in, and wait for them to show up at our door.  I buy whole cases of stuff this way. 

I had always noticed that small packages that arrived via free S&H were in the mailbox, whereas larger parcels usually came UPS, and got dropped inside the office door.  Sometime last year, our regular UPS driver disappeared, and we started getting a rotating cast of characters who dropped packages in the driveway, in vehicles, on the back of parked golf carts, etc.  Mike caught one of them one day, and was told that the route was on some sort of a lottery system or something like that...no regular driver anymore.  

Now, our packages that are coming from amazon, often with non-perishable food items, or whatever books or music we want that order, are evidently coming most of the way UPS.  Then I get an e-mail that says they 'tried to deliver, but were unable to do so," so the package was dropped with the post office for final delivery. 

We know no attempt to deliver had been made, since either Mike or I was here, or both of us were home, and no truck came down the lane.  The mailman will show up with the delivery the next day, and bring it into the office and leave it for us. 

We have concluded that the cost of fuel has made our sparsely-populated route marginal for UPS.  FedEx still comes here, but UPS mostly does not appear to consider our location cost-effective to serve anymore.  Heavy packages with higher shipping cost may get delivered, but nothing small or lightweight. 

I'm not looking the gift horse of free delivery in the mouth, and none of this stuff is crucial to have today instead of tomorrow, but it does sort of make you think.  If it's UPS that stops serving us today, what will be next? 

I have long read that areas with lower population density will lose services first, and remote ones will get served last at that.  We are right on a major state highway that bisects our county, but apparently far enough from enough people that it is not worthwhile to bring us at least some of our packages anymore. 

I am quite sure this is driven by fuel prices...that UPS can pay the post office cheaper than it can drive them here itself...can anyone confirm this or set me straight? 

Has anyone else noticed this change where you live? Have you become marginal, too? 

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17 Replies
Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

In our area, UPS and the PO have had an agreement for several years. I believe it is for those addresses they can't find. We have friends who drive on contract for Fed Ex and they tell many tales of trying to find addresses and people.

I have heard that the PO will announce some changes at the end of the month. We have many tiny PO here that should be closed and combined with other ones. That and stopping Sat delivery should save millions.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

No, we're on a Class A road so no problem.  We did have a FEDX driver for a while that was afraid of our dog and wouldn't get out of the truck.  He was a very agressive behaving dog, but at that time  had never bitten anything except tires.  We put him down when he started biting people when he got older and was losing his sight and hearing.

 

I've heard that the PO may close some offices.  I'm sure in some areas that will create great inconvenience for some people.   I think about the small PO my grandma had in eastern Colorado.  The only reason she was open years ago was Loretta Lynn's fan club was originally based out of her PO.  Now it's an additional 14 miles to the nearest town on top of what everyone drove to get to that PO.  And I really suppose that town is small enough it could be on the list to close.  So it would be almost 40 miles the opposite direction to the next town.   If you haven't been in the wide open west it's hard to conceive the distances between stuff.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

There will be some routes moved to different offices and even some offices closed. How are some that PO boxes going to get their mail without traveling long distances. These changes are part of passing on the costs to the US citizen. If you believe that taxes or stamp prices are going to go down, don't hold your breath. What possible tax reduction we may see will be more than made up by the increase in our individual costs associated with the service. We really don't realize how much our "free" services are subsidized by the wealthy, the large landowners, and the large mailers. So I wouldn't kick these gift horses in the mouth.

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

Most of the package services are distributed by which is the cheapest for the retailer. Some have contracts with certain companies, such as Dell with UPS. I've had several WalMart packages delivered by FedEx, so that may true for them in this area too. If the packages are above a certain weight, UPS will take it to your door because the freight will pay for the "last mile." When it doesn't, USPS will get it because we have "universal service." That is, delivering to every mailbox 6 days a week.

Maybe you can ask your local PO carrier or postmaster what is going on in your neck of the woods with routes and the possibility of route changes on your delivery? I know there is a whole lot of change going on in our region. Some routes have moved to different offices and affecting delivery times.

Doesn't NC have a section on their income tax return where you include sales tax on internet purchases? There have been many articles in the newspaper talking about the Dept of Revenue cracking down hard on those who evade these taxes. It makes it a mess to figure it out, but don't want to wear an orange jumpsuit if I didn't either.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

The PO has a policy of not getting out if a dog looks unfriendly too. Dog bites are a big problem for people in this business.

You're right that post offices will be closed when the Postmaster retires or the lease is up on the building. Check on it even if you think you're safe. Costs are being slashed everywhere where the USPS can't control: leases and fuel. There are some places in NE that you have to drive over 30 miles to get to your PO box and that is a small office so who knows what the distance will be after this latest round of cuts. Maybe Sandhills can tell us more about this subject in her area of NE. They're really concentrating on offices with less than 9 routes. Who doesn't this cover? First moving routes, then closing the window service and PO box delivery. We patrons will either have a change in delivery times or drive further to pick up our mail at a different USPS office. Change is a coming!

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Honored Advisor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

I would think that a dozen routes could cover our whole county...scary!
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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

How do you come up with that number? Miles and density are the main factors. One other factor is the distance from the processing plant. Do you know where your distribution plant is?

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Honored Advisor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

I may be wrong, but I think it is Rocky Mount, which is roughly one hour from county cneter in driving time. How would I find that out? 

Our county is pretty big by Eastern standards, geographically, but only about 22,000 people.  I am halfway between two POs, and there are several more not but 10-12 miles away. 

Postmaster at the one in the county seat, which is on my usual path of travel but which is not "our" post office told me maybe two years ago that sevearl in the conty ought to be closed.  She said it di not make sense to stay open and pay someone $50K per year to sell a dollar's worth or less of stamps a day. 

I  know one that was closest to the farm, three miles away, was closed maybe ten years ago, when the postmaster retired.  It oould not have done more than that, I think.  Maybe that will be how this situation falls out...as postmasters with a lot of seniority leave the force, they will take their offices with them? 

I think we ahd a heaeted discussion about whether or nto we'd miss the mail if it didn't come every day, and I said I could do without Tuesdays, since not much goes out on Saturdays, and that is our lightest day in the mailbox most weeks.  Lawyers love to mail out crap to upset you so it winds up in your box late on Fridays.  There ought to be a law against that....

I do liek that all of my stamps are forever ones now.  No more counting up supply to buy one-centers every few months. 

I am just seeing this handwriting on the wall in small, subtle ways.  Our school system even talked about foru days a week classes a couple fo years back.  So few kids, so many miles by bus.  I guess they'd have tp make them much longer days to get in the hours of instruction.  As a former early childhood teacher, I cannot imagine trying to keep a roomful of six-year-olds on task from eight in thr morning until five p.m. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are you marginal yet?

USPS has tried to centralize plants so it takes less machines and building space to do the same thing. Rocky Mount is one of them (you may have a major retailer that has the volume), but the major processing plant would more likely be in Raleigh. You can google USPS processing and get most of this info. Takes a bit of time to input some additional info, but it is interesting to know. If you have a good relationship with your postmaster, try asking him or her where you mail is processed in case you hear of a processing plant fire in the state. Fires can occur, especially with the amount of flamable material in the building.

There are schools that run 4 days a week and have for quite a few years here. It is not only saving money on busing but on HVAC costs on the school. May have an extra hour or so each day, but for 3 days no additional heat is necessary. There has been some talk about year-round schooling, but haven't heard much of it since stock market crash. Don't know if it would save money since some schooling during the summer months. I've heard of a few ranchers that have sent their kids to parochial boarding schools in this state. Don't know if a central school like that would work in the Sandhills or not. In some places, you see more cows than cars.

 

 

 

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