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Postal Service eyes alcohol deliveries

By Andrew Miga

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:21 a.m. HST, Aug 01, 2013

WASHINGTON » Allowing the Postal Service to deliver beer, wine and spirits is high on his wish list for raising cash for his financially ailing agency, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said today.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Donahoe also endorsed ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries as cost-saving measures for his agency, which lost $16 billion last year.

Donahoe said delivering alcohol has the potential to raise as much as $50 million a year. He mentioned how customers might want to, for example, mail bottles of wine home when they tour vineyards. Donahoe said his agency has looked at the possibility of using special boxes that would hold two, four or six bottles and ship for a flat-rate to anywhere in the country.

"There's a lot of money to be made in beer, wine and spirits," Donahoe said. "We'd like to be in that business."

The Postal Service says mailing alcoholic beverages is currently restricted by law. Customers are even told to cover any logos or labels if they use alcoholic beverage boxes for shipments.

The agency is also urging changes in how it delivers the mail. A House committee has passed legislation to stabilize the Postal Service's ailing finances that would cut letter deliveries to five days and phase out door-to-door deliveries over 10 years. The bill does not include a provision to allow the agency to deliver alcohol.

The Senate passed a postal reform bill last year that included a provision allowing the agency to deliver alcohol. The bill required that such shipments would have to comply with any state laws from where the shipment was originated and delivered. The measure also said the recipient had to be at least 21 years old and would need to provide a valid government-issued photo identification upon delivery.

The agency lost $16 billion last year and is working toward restructuring its retail, delivery and mail processing operations.

The service's losses are largely due to a decline in mail volume and a congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. About $11.1 billion of last year's losses were due to payments it must make for future retiree health costs.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently approved a plan for the service to gradually shift from door delivery to cluster box and curbside delivery, which includes mailboxes at the end of driveways. The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s.

About 1 in 3 mail customers has door-to-door delivery. Some lawmakers have complained that ending door delivery in many densely developed urban areas would be difficult.

"We'd work with the communities," Donahoe said, adding there would be special hardship exemptions for those physically unable to get their mail at centralized locations. "We want to figure out how to do it so people don't get mad."

Some 30 million residential addresses receive delivery to boxes at the door or a mail slot. Another 87 million residential addresses receive curbside or cluster box delivery.

Door-to-door delivery costs the agency about $350 per year, on average. Curbside delivery costs average $224 per year for each address, while cluster box delivery averages $160.

The service earlier this year backpedaled on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery after running into opposition in Congress. It has tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully over the past several years to persuade Congress to approve ending Saturday mail delivery.

The National Association of Letter Carriers has said ending Saturday delivery would in particular hurt rural residents and the elderly who depend more heavily on the mail for prescription drugs and other goods.

The Senate last year passed a bill that would have stopped the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday service for at least two years and required it to try two years of cost-cutting instead. The House didn't pass a bill.

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cojef wrote:
Eliminate franking privileges enjoyed by the Government, especially the Congressional memembership, and all advertising mail to 1st class. It certainly would cut down on the amount of junk mail one recieves in the mail.
on August 1,2013 | 09:38AM
tiki886 wrote:
But junk mail is one of USPS biggest revenue generator.

Ending Saturday mail should still be considered for all except those that require medicine. And if anyone or businesses need Saturday service it should come at a 'Special Delivery Fee".

on August 1,2013 | 09:54AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
This is an old law that should have been repealed a long time ago.
on August 1,2013 | 10:03AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
How is the recipient of the mailed alcohol going to prove their age if there is NO door-to-door delivery?
on August 1,2013 | 10:12AM
olos73 wrote:
Recipient probably have to pick it up at a Post Office, then show ID.
on August 1,2013 | 12:09PM
kahuku01 wrote:
GooglyMoogly: Hopefully, service would still be rendered by the mail carriers in attempting a delivery of a parcel or a signature required item. No door delivery for letters and magazines unless the parcel is too large for the curbside box or the parcel locker at the cluster boxes, or a signature is required at the time of delivery, than the carrier should attempt at the door.
on August 1,2013 | 04:34PM
Slow wrote:
This is a fine idea. I, for one, would love to be able to order beers unavailable here. Ideally this would be a way to create a market for our local retailers for a wider selection. I'd prefer shopping locally but for a change of pace...
on August 1,2013 | 11:02AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Imagine at one time the Feds chased bootleggers all over the country and spawned the likes of Richard Petty and stock car racing. Are we someday going to have the Postal Service 500 where dare devils race postal delivery vans around the oval?
on August 1,2013 | 12:56PM
awahana wrote:
They doing it all wrong. But that is the standard for government agencies. US govt agencies. Other countries are smarter. I have seen it.
on August 1,2013 | 02:40PM
kahuku01 wrote:
awahana: How about sharing other countries smarter standards if you have seen ti. It might be something that our government might be able to implement since they're doing it all wrong.
on August 1,2013 | 04:39PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
The USPS Postmaster General has requested that Saturday letter delivery be discontinued yet our government is denying him from doing what is fiscally responsible. Typical government wasteful spending.
on August 1,2013 | 03:03PM
Larry01 wrote:
Geez, wish this article had defined door-to-door up front. I thought all mail delivery was pretty much door-to-door until nearly the end of the article!
on August 1,2013 | 03:36PM
kahuku01 wrote:
awahana: You've said, "they're doing it all wrong." By having "door to door" deliveries, that would require a carrier to park the vehicle, and walk from house to house (20 houses as an example) and loop the street and walk back to the vehicle. Than move the vehicle to the next street and continue to do the same thing. Whereas, the Postal Service will eventually do away with the "door to door" deliveries by installing cluster boxes, which means, the carrier won't be walking "door to door" but stopping at every cluster boxes and servicing the 20 customers at one stop and move on to the next cluster boxes. This method of delivery should certainly save time and would enable the carrier to delivery to more customers within a work day and reduce the number of routes, thus eliminating manpower and save money. Is this what you consider, "they're doing it all wrong?"
on August 1,2013 | 05:06PM
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