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Postal Service Changes May Leave Some Customers Stranded

It won’t be a 20th-century post office for long.

The United States Postal Service is in the process of revising its procedures for sorting and delivering mail. The USPS has launched an initiative that over the next decade will see the creation of centralized Sorting and Delivery Centers (S&DCs) which will theoretically streamline its distribution process. And, sources say, those changes will be felt in the Delaware Valley.

“The goal of this initiative is to make significant improvements to the delivery network to better serve the American public and our business customers more efficiently and effectively,” said USPS spokesperson Paul Smith. “As part of this plan, carrier operations will shift, where feasible, to new S&DCs. These S&DCs will be optimized and configurable based on local market conditions – with many new S&DCs to be co-located in existing plants.

“These larger centers will have better infrastructure and adequate space, docks, conveyors, and material handling equipment to enable more efficient operations while modernizing and leveraging currently underutilized and vacant postal facilities around the nation.”

Sara Pilling resides in Radnor in Delaware County but receives her mail from the Lower Merion post office in Montgomery County. With the current changes she has seen, she is not hopeful the Postal Service changes will be an improvement.

“I wonder if there aren’t going to be further delays with the mail getting mixed up?” she said. “And it gets sent to the wrong place. I’ve gotten some very strange mail in a former name or a dead daughter’s mail or my son’s mail? Is it going to continue to be reliable or is all going to be broken up?

Over the next decade, the USPS expects to establish around 100 S&DCs that will serve as the hubs of the mail distribution system. Smith insists no existing post offices will be closed.

“The creation of S&DCs will not change the locations of the Postal Service’s retail units, including PO Box service (where applicable), and will enable the Postal Service to maintain reliable and efficient delivery services for all customers,” Smith said, “while also improving the Postal Service’s ability appeal to both small and large shippers because it will enhance our ability to reach a much broader range of businesses and consumers under our new USPS Connect suite of products.”

While no post officers are set to be closed, the new protocols will likely increase demands on letter carriers in terms of time and travel. Carriers may find themselves traveling a distance to pick up and sort their mail at a regional site as opposed to doing so at their local post office.

The USPS describes the moves as a way to cut costs and increase efficiency. But consumers are wondering whether the consolidation will further delay deliveries. That concern is particularly acute among those who pay their bills by mail and not on line.

Pilling points out not everyone has access to a computer and many people still pay bills by check or money order through the mail while hoping their check arrives in time to avoid a fee.

“That can be a big factor,” she said. “Not only for people of lesser means but there are some people who have always done it that way. They don’t use Venmo or PayPal.”

Pilling also cited the number of people who satisfy their tax obligations by mail.

“Not everybody is doing it online,” she said. “So they have to (use certified mail) go to the Post Office to pay their taxes.”

Kristen Liebsch resides in Abington Township, but she and her family receive their mail at the Glenside post office. In her role as the executive director for a golf organization, Liebsch is called on to order merchandise to hand out at golf events. She will now have to be more diligent about allowing enough time for the merchandise to arrive.

“We’ll have to be aware of how much we order and when we order it,” she said.

She pays the majority of her bills online but pays her mortgage and real estate taxes through the mail. She says the changes that are coming will require her to allow more lead time for her checks to get to their destinations.

“I don’t see any alternative,” she said. “What choice do we have?”

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