Are Blue Boxes a Thing of the Past?

September 1, 2017

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(This article first appeared in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The familiar blue collection boxes are vanishing from our streets. A recent USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report charges that the Postal Service is not taking into account community need and service when removing the signature mail boxes. In the Eastern Area alone, the Postal Service did not follow proper procedure for 75 percent of the removed collection boxes between Oct. 1, 2014 and Feb. 29, 2016 (322 out of 432).  

According to the report, titled Where Have All the Mailboxes Gone?, in the past five years the number of collection boxes fell by more than 7 percent, from 166,461 at the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 to 153,999 when FY 2015 began. That is over 12,000 collection boxes across the country.

The OIG found the methods the Postal Service used to eliminate the boxes were not effective and will cost the Postal Service more money in the long run.
The convenience of collection boxes located throughout communities, along with centrally located post offices, goes hand-in-hand with the Postal Service’s mandate to provide universal service. Customers are complaining that the USPS went too far by removing the majority of collection boxes on the street, leaving them with no convenient, around-the-clock place to drop off mail.

Dedicated to Service?

The Postal Service’s main responsibility is to provide the best possible service for all. Yet management continues to make decisions that prevent postal customers from getting fast, reliable, convenient service.

The Postal Service is part of a community’s fabric. Those familiar blue boxes sprinkled throughout communities not only keep the USPS brand visible and reliable, they make life easier.

How does the USPS decide to remove a box? It does a “density check” to identify the under-performing collection boxes.

In this process, an employee counts and takes note of how many pieces of mail are put into a particular collection box each day, over a period of two weeks. However, it is required to post a 30-day notice on the box before it is taken away, inviting customers to comment. The report found in addition to the procedure not being effective, the USPS rarely distributed the required notification of removal or chance to comment. 

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