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Postal Service fact of the day

Joe Davidson reports from a hearing on the future of the Postal Service:

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, noted that Postmaster General Jack Potter, who wasn't at the hearing, likes to point out that the agency has more retail outlets than McDonald's, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 6, 2009; 10:02 AM ET
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...and those companies are posting profits (well, maybe not Starbucks in this recession). And his point, about a quasi-governmental business that runs a deficit annually, is, exactly...?

Posted by: liz953 | November 6, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

His point is that it's very hard for the USPS to turn a profit when they have to maintain offices that are easily accessible to every single person in the United States. Also, they are required to deliver and pick up mail, even if it's one piece, to and from every address across the entire United States. Both of these factors make it difficult for USPS to earn a profit.

For example, I know that in Talkeetna, AK (winter population ~700), they drop mail off at the Post Office and make people come into town to pick it up. There's no FedEx or UPS office there though--they can choose to not open an office in rural Alaska. If you want to go to UPS, you have to drive about 50+ miles to Palmer, AK or Wasilla. FedEx actually has a pick-up in Talkeetna (who would have guessed), but not an actual office. Even then, I believe that in some places, FedEx and UPS just pay USPS to make their deliveries because it's cheaper for them to do that than to run a truck to an isolated delivery.

So the point is that if FedExKinkos or UPS had to send someone to every address, or keep offices open everywhere, even places it doesn't make economic sense, they would probably not be making profits.

Posted by: bucky_katt | November 6, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

With that headline, I half expected a piece of Ben Gibbard trivia.

Posted by: shanehuang | November 6, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

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