Post Office Used Bad Data To Determine Closures

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The Washington Post reports that the Post Office used bad data, including inaccurate information about profitability and distance when it decided which offices to shutter:
The U.S. Postal Service relied on questionable data to identify more than 3,600 post offices and other retail operations to study for closure, an oversight panel has concluded.

In many cases the selection process ignored whether an alternate post office was nearby and which closures would reduce costs the most and lacked sufficient data and analysis to make the best decisions, the Postal Regulatory Commission said.

While Congressional meddling is responsible for a large share of the current troubles the Post Office faces (thanks, Representative Rehberg!) Congress should pay attention to this report and put more pressure on the Post Office to make good choices about the branches to close and convert into “village” post offices.

The Post Office simply needs to do better than this:

But the oversight commission consulted economists and other experts who concluded that other factors should come into play: How many miles away is the nearest post office? Would closing deny service to large groups of customers, such as seniors, who would have trouble finding alternatives?

The Postal Service also has a poor idea of how much money the closures will save, the commission said. Postal officials combine revenue from retail sales with day-to-day costs of operation. Balance sheets for several stations and branches are lumped together, making it hard to know which facility loses the most money.

“So when you’re deciding, I want to close this station as opposed to that one, it’s not clear which should go, except for the gut feeling of the postmaster,” Goldway said.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Craig Moore
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Craig Moore

While Congressional meddling is responsible for a large share of the current troubles … Only partly true and certainly misleading to fail to mention the other causes: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/who-killed-the-postal-service/249508/ We have discussed this before. Failure to mention the other “drivers” of the PO’s troubles, when you know what they are from those discussions, is rather underwhelming. From the Atlantic: THE INTERNET KILLED IT In the days of yore, sending letters by mail was pretty much the most efficient way to communicate in writing. Then the Internet happened. Although total mail volume stayed relatively steady until 2006, it has dropped an astonishing… Read more »

Ken Mueller
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I wonder if the POs that get closed might be the rural ones that don’t vote correctly anyway. Nah, too political.

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

Kinda like the GOP giving GM dealers, Ken?

Brandice
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I’m not easily irpmessed. . . but that’s impressing me! 🙂

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Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

There is nothing in the constitution about the PO being profitable. It doesn’t have to be. It’s a useful service and a good career for people of ordinary talent. God forbid that ordinary people should have nice lives. So what if we “subsidize” it – I can’t think of anything less important. The Pentagon loses that much money before breakfast just buying toilet seats and swinging missile dicks. Other thing to factor in, beyond Internet competiton and non-union competition (FedEx) is the Postal Accountability Act of 2006, which mandated that they fund their pensions 75 years outg to the tune… Read more »

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

UPS brown shirts are union, Mark.

Mark Tokarski
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That’s why I wrote “(FedEx)”.

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

That’s why the PO should contract with the brown shirts for those rural routes.

You know, some union competition.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

You demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the post office. It is a service entity, like buses, that is part of the commons and operates in the background to enhance commerce. So its costs are known, but the economic value it produces is not quantified, but like buses that bring people to businesses to shop, part of the value of the enterprise is captured in the the income statement of the business, and not for tshe bus line. So it may look like the bus line loses money, but taken as part of the whole of the city… Read more »

Turner
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Turner

An excellent analogy. Thank you.

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

You don’t understand the advancement of technology.

Say, you’ve been around a while. Did you bitch when they closed down your Pony Express Office? Even though those riders were replaced by rail did you keep funding their pensions?

Kramer was ahead of his time.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I don’t know the future of technology, but with each advace has also come great setbacks. Email brought Spam, telephone got us telemarketers, and Internet xommunication of all kinds can easily be intercepted and read by our overseers. So I son’t know where we stand in the “advance” department. I do know I still send out a lot of first class mail, but that the amount of junk I get (subsidized by law by first class mail) constitutes the major bulk of the postman’s duties. I do wish private banks would drop their $10-$15 charges for wire transfers, which are… Read more »

Mart
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Mart

Mt again. Oops.

Cade
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Good to see real expertise on display. Your contribution is most wlcmeoe.

Kristabelle
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I relaly wish there were more articles like this on the web.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Damned IPad!

Kaylynn
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I’m not easily imperssed. . . but that’s impressing me! 🙂

Valjean
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Surpringsily well-written and informative for a free online article.

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

Some would say that a non-commercial post office is in fact essential to securing national unity. A cheap way to send letters from anywhere in the country to anywhere else in the country is important, especially in a country this size. I think it stands to reason. Sometimes the interests of a for-profit entity are not identical to the interests of the country as a whole. This should surprise no one. Now, whether the post office can really be supplanted by technology, if the existence of email makes the postal system obsolete, is another one entirely. Judging from the complaints… Read more »

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

From Denny’s site 11/14. ILLINGS, MT – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today delivered hundreds of comments from around Montana to the United States Postal Service relating to proposals to close more than 90 rural post offices. The comments were sent to Rehberg by Montanans as a part of his innovative “Mail Call Montana” initiative. “The best policy solutions usually come from places like Montana,” said Rehberg. “Mail Call Montana is a way for us to get some of those Made-in-Montana ideas into the decision making bureaucracy in Washington, DC. The response to this effort has been overwhelming. I think it… Read more »

pogie
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pogie

Too bad Rehberg isn’t pushing for the bipartisan legislation that will address the pension issue, especially given his vote to create the problem.

Mark Tokarski
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Amen, Pogie. Ingy’s post is classic words over substance.

Linda
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I am forever indebted to you for this ifornmtaion.

Ingemar Johannson
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Ingemar Johannson

The PO was on a path of self destruction long before Denny was sleeping on his couch.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Men sleep on their couch by choice and not necessity. Is that so he can get shitfaced every night? And your statement that PO was on a path of self destruction is false. It’s been around for 219 years. Can Enron say the same? Lehman? Bear Sterns? Hart Albin? Those businesses self destructed. Did you see it coming, oh wise one? Didn’t think so.

Taimi
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Hey, you’re the goto exeprt. Thanks for hanging out here.

James Conner
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I’ve read the postal commission’s report. What struck me is how poorly the USPS tracks and separates the costs of its operations. At this point, it doesn’t have good enough information to determine whether, let alone how, it can consolidate services and still fulfill its legal mandates, or even whether is can save very much money. One legal mandate that should and could be lifted is the pension funding requirement, which makes no sense from a policy standpoint. I think it’s an attempt to break the USPS’s financial back, an attempt to create conditions arguing for privatizing the post office.… Read more »

Pogie
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Pogie

Congress is absolutely trying to break the Post Office, certainly an interesting position for those who loudly bray their support for the Founders at every turn.

While I am thankful that options like UPS and FedEx exist, it’s madness to believe they can provide the services that the USPS does. It remains a vital, affordable link between distant parts of the country and world.

Craig Moore
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Craig Moore

Happy New Year to everyone! May our country endure and prosper. James, I think the recommendations that the report criticizes were a “down and dirty” amputation to staunch the financial bleeding and stop the disease. The twin evils the PO faces at this time is the continued hemorrhaging and time. The study approach has no sensitivity for those evils. As to the pensions, that’s debatable because it does not address the underlying problem drivers. Short term fix at best with the long term problem of not having funded future pension liabilities. Any approach other than the one proposed by the… Read more »

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