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The Postal Service's 'get well' plan? Greeting cards.

By Ed O'Keefe



A customer checks the greeting card options at the U.S. Postal Service's flagship post office at its L'Enfant Plaza headquarters in Washington. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service)

Next time you visit the post office for stamps, you might also be able to buy (and send) your brother his belated birthday card.

The U.S. Postal Service has started selling Hallmark greeting cards at some post offices, a one-year experiment that may lead the nation's 34,000 postal outlets to eventually sell other goods and services, including banking, insurance and cellphones.

About 1,500 postal branches started selling birthday and "get well soon" cards two weeks ago. District residents can buy cards only at the Postal Service's flagship location at L'Enfant Plaza, and another 29 spots in Maryland and Virginia also have them.

Unlike the mail, greeting cards remain a popular and profitable line of business, with 7 billion sold annually for more than $7.5 billion in sales, according to the Greeting Card Association. (Yes, there is one.) People receive more than 20 greeting cards each year, one-third of them for birthdays.

Of those 7 billion cards, roughly 4 billion are sent through the mail, accounting for about 2 percent of total mail volume, said Robert F. Bernstock, president of mailing and shipping services for the Postal Service.

“If we can get some energy behind greeting cards, which are incredibly linked to the mail, what better place to sell them and merchandise them than at our post offices?" Bernstock said.

A Postal Service study confirmed that customers think selling greeting cards at post offices is appropriate and that they would buy them if offered, Bernstock said. The goal is for the cards to help boost postal retail sales by 30 to 40 percent.

A 2006 law allows the Postal Service to sell various mailing and packaging products and other mail-related items, including cards. Officials awarded the one-year deal to Hallmark's Sunrise Greeting card line, with the option to extend the deal for two more years.

“I think we’re going into it with a little optimism that we’ll be able to expand to a greater number of retail outlets. The early data is encouraging," Bernstock said.

Most European and Asian postal services sell financial or insurance services or prepaid cellphones, and American postal officials want Congress to give them permission to at least explore the possibility of doing something similar.

"I think we're going to have to rationalize," Postmaster General John E. Potter said recently. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we're not going to sell the same number of stamps going forward."

The Postal Service suffered its biggest losses ever during the fiscal year that ended in September, has offered buyouts to 30,000 employees and may close hundreds of postal branches early next year. Postal officials also want to end Saturday mail delivery.

So perhaps the best way for the Postal Service to get well soon is for you to buy a "get well soon" card from them.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 28, 2009; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

Putting a self licking stamp on a self licking ice cream cone.

Posted by: whocares666 | October 28, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

What right does a federally-subsidized company (which just got a $2 billion bailout) have to start up businesses designed to drive privately-run card shops out of business? These shops barely make a profit, and cannot stand up to this onslaught by a federally-backed monopoly like the Post Office.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | October 28, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

USPS is a self-sustaining entity and selling greeting cards at its facilities is an excellent idea. I look forward to using this convenient service.

Posted by: gsross | October 28, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

The post office needs to rethink its marketing strategy. How can they have traditional 9-5 business hours in a 24 hr society? I never go to the post office, precisely because its hours are the same that I work. I go to a grocery store with USPS services instead.

Add to that the attitudes of some of the postal workers--highlights from over the years have included a postal worker making rude comments about a wedding invitation, instructions to address my envelopes in all caps without punctuation, and conflicting advice on special package rates...well, why would anyone want to go there?

Posted by: myemail100 | October 28, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Well as long as the first word in the greeting is "Belated" then I see no problem with this idea.

Posted by: MoodyBlue1 | October 28, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

just another sign the usps is getting desperate. they have cut clerk hours so who is going to maintain the display? unless the display is locked daily, it will have to be moved inside daily. another debaucle like the stamp machine which was a good idea. remember it is only a good idea in the USPS if it originates at the top.

Posted by: earlgeorge1 | October 28, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse


If their greeting cards are of the same quality as their management, then Hallmark has nothing to worry about.

The USPS has been run into the ground by a lack of vision, promotion by quota and typical government employee bad attitude.

Posted by: chicago77 | October 28, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

What right does a federally-subsidized company (which just got a $2 billion bailout) have to start up businesses designed to drive privately-run card shops out of business? These shops barely make a profit, and cannot stand up to this onslaught by a federally-backed monopoly like the Post Office.

===

Reconcile this train of thought with the anti-healthcare wingnuts that seem to think the government can't run anything.

Posted by: Crucialitis | October 28, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The USPS should have been privatized years ago, when the government could have sold it for a decent amount of money. It is a classic failing business model, not helped by a Congress that will not let it reform. For that we have the postal unions to blame -- they pump money into the campaign coffers of the mugs who sit on the postal oversight committees.

Posted by: strongerthandirt | October 28, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if the USPS concentrated on doing its basic job of delivering mail and packages in a timely and cost-effective manner, it wouldn't have to resort to commercial sales.

Parcel Post can take up to THREE WEEKS before it is delivered. Last in line on trucks, etc.

One package from southwest Utah took 10 days - another took 3 days. Driving time is 4 hours. You figure it out - I can't.

Posted by: Utahreb | October 28, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if the USPS concentrated on doing its basic job of delivering mail and packages in a timely and cost-effective manner, it wouldn't have to resort to commercial sales.

Parcel Post can take up to THREE WEEKS before it is delivered. Last in line on trucks, etc.

One package from southwest Utah took 10 days - another took 3 days. Driving time is 4 hours. You figure it out - I can't.

Good post.

This is just another in a long line of misguided ideas from USPS. How many of you have walked into a post office and seen the stuffed animals and other trinkets for sale? More to the point, have you ever seen anyone buy any of this stuff? I have not.

It probably goes into a landfill someone and the post office has incurred unncessary expense for items no one wants to purchase. How much does this stuff contribute to the cost of first class postage?

Posted by: noups | October 28, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I am physically handicapped and I buy postage stamps on line. I would love to buy greeting cards online too. I'd be willing to pay a premium for that service.

Posted by: georgettec28 | October 28, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

edwardallen54 The USPS is NOT subsidized by the government. In fact the USPS as contributed 10's of billions of dollars to the governments general fund over the last few decades. I think the actual number is over 50 billion. Since the USPS is not allowed, by law, to make a profit, all excess revenue it generates goes to Congress to be spent on whatever Congress wants to.

That $2 billion dollar bailout, as you called it, was Congress saying the USPS didn't have to pay into it's future employees health fund. Something that no other company or government agency is required to do. In fact there is no "fund" at all. It's just like the Social Security fund, Congress spends it. Congress came up with that idea several years ago as a way of getting more money to spend on their pork projects.

Posted by: RCinOK | October 29, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

strongerthandirt Yet another person making comments without any real knowledge of the facts. The USPS was never privatized, and never will be, because nobody would want it's job. It's not profitable to deliver to every address in this country 6 days a week. That's why neither Fedex nor UPS does that. It's a little know fact that the USPS delivers 10's of millions of parcels for both of those companies to places that they will not deliver to.

And the people on the Postal regulatory commission are all, except for one or two, Bush appointees. The people contributing all that money to Congress are the junk mail companies. Like the one owned by Karl Rove.

Posted by: RCinOK | October 29, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

First of all who in their right mind would even trust the post office to handle banking, there are bigger thieves than AIG and BOA put to gether, especially Ponzy Potter. Secondly the best scanerio is to utilize the carriers to collect the garbage from peoples homes that they delivered the garbage to in the first place. Sell off all the Post Offices excavate a deep hole and dump the collected postal feces into the hole and use the site as a landfill. Then change the logo on the PO Trucks instead of a Eagle use a Sea Gull. Then merge with Waste Management and BFI . The big question is why is every person on a postal stamp a dead drug addict? Maybe they can sell Edsels, Stage Coaches, and Covered Wagons in the parking lots of their newly created land fills. Face some reality.

Posted by: jivemano12068 | October 29, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

First of all who in their right mind would even trust the post office to handle banking, there are bigger thieves than AIG and BOA put to gether, especially Ponzy Potter. Secondly the best scanerio is to utilize the carriers to collect the garbage from peoples homes that they delivered the garbage to in the first place. Sell off all the Post Offices excavate a deep hole and dump the collected postal feces into the hole and use the site as a landfill. Then change the logo on the PO Trucks instead of a Eagle use a Sea Gull. Then merge with Waste Management and BFI . The big question is why is every person on a postal stamp a dead drug addict? Maybe they can sell Edsels, Stage Coaches, and Covered Wagons in the parking lots of their newly created land fills. Face some reality.

Posted by: jivemano12068 | October 29, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

you can tell that is a bogus photo of the lobby at Elephant Plaza, first off there should be at least Next Window Please Signs at the counter, the line of disgruntled customers should be out the door. and if only one customer is looking at greeting cards,(OBTW) i recognize her, she is a relative of one of the over paid Postal VP's employed at Elephant Plaza, And... you think the post office would have been smart enough to stage a photo of a very busy lobby with masses of people looking at the greeting cards. But then again stupid is as stupid does. Sad but true, Postal Service is a contradiction of terms

Posted by: jivemano12068 | October 29, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes I have to do business at the closest branch Post Office. I do not enjoy it. If people enjoy their cards they will not be allowed to buy the one they like. It will be like stamps. You can not buy the one you like. You have to buy 20. If you only want one you will have your choice between yuck and yuck. If it's after 5 or the weekend I can go somewhere else to buy a card and a book of 20 stamps. At Christmas time they will try to sell boxes of Christmas cards. The cards will be twice as much and marked down 50-75% after Christmas and none of the cards will have Christmas themes because the Postal Service does not believe in Christmas. They believe in all the other clowns. Christmas? They are not even Christians. Not even close.

Posted by: hrabillbuiltonbillingtaxesandfeesandpenalities | November 2, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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