Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2013

Hearings are being held all across Vermont regarding the need to decrease costs for the United States Postal Service.

The historical highlights of the USPS go something like this:

Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General  in 1770-something and people were able to pick up their mail at post offices. Around the beginning of the Civil War, mail delivery was started in cities where revenue from stamp sales was sufficient to pay for the service. Along the way, post roads were established, which included, eventually, waterways, railroads, and air service. Throw in the pony express on top of stagecoaches, paddle wheelers, rail cars, trucks, and planes, and by the beginning of the 20th century the number of physical post offices topped off at 76,945.

In Vermont, there are currently 262 post offices and 141 of them are slated for reduced services.

One of the solutions the USPS came up with in 2011 is the Village Post Office or VPO. On the USPS website, there is a list of VPOs that includes one in Vermont: East Hartford. There is a press release announcing the 100th VPO opening in December 2012 in Indiana, bringing the number of Indiana VPOs to 22. 

Indiana gets 22 VPOs?

According to the list, if you add Kentucky and Michigan to Indiana, those three states host 55 VPOs. That seemed weird to me, so I counted all the VPOs by state and I came up with 102, not 100. What’s with that? The more I read about VPOs, the more I wanted to know. If a business were interested in hosting a VPO, it can inquire.

How does it inquire? By pressing a button on the website, and magically, an email form opens up. 

Is that kind of a tell as to why the USPS is looking for ways to trim its sails — sales — whatever?

Here are a couple of other things of concern about mail stuff. Stamps. Folks love them, collect them, trade them, used to lick them. So how did the Europeans ever come up with a way for each stamp-producing member of the ECU to keep its own stamp deals going and equalize all the accounts between sending and delivering postal authorities? 

Here’s one method. Used to be, you could use airline tickets from different carriers to get around. Presumably, all the fares got reconciled somehow. Like American and USAir had lots of flights between Buffalo and Albany. All airlines oversold, so if the 10:20 flight was full on American, you could hotfoot it over to the USAir 11:15 and the airlines would sort out money later between themselves.

Years ago, my brother, a captain with USAir, told me they couldn’t sort it out so they just sampled a few flights in the system and settled on the samples at the end of the month. 

Is that how the Europeans figure how to balance stamps sold in one country for mail delivered in another? After all, selling and collecting is easier than sorting and delivering, I’d say.