Sunday, October 23, 2011

First They Came for the Mailboxes...

It was four years ago when citizens of the areas immediately surrounding downtown Silver Spring noticed that the once-ubiquitous blue mailboxes were disappearing from their neighborhoods without warning. Then, earlier this year, the main downtown Silver Spring post office on Second Avenue was sold to developers, who have plans to construct apartments on the site. Now, the Postal Service has mailed out surveys to local residents to help determine the feasibility of closing the tiny "finance center" post office hidden in the bowels of the office building at 8455 Colesville Rd.

I recognize that the Postal Service is presently in dire financial straights, but if they are going to continue to operate post offices at all, it makes absolutely no sense for them to completely forsake a major metropolitan area like downtown Silver Spring. Closing this last downtown outpost would leave the Four Corners/Woodmoor location as the post office closest to downtown. Has whatever bureaucrat at Postal Service headquarters making this determination ever BEEN to the Four Corners post office? For starters, traffic around there is a nightmare. You can only access the post office from one direction, and the parking lot has maybe eight spots. Even if you do get a spot, there's a good chance someone will park perpendicularly behind you, making it extremely difficult to back out. You can try and be sneaky and park in the neighborhood street that dead ends right behind the building, but during the week that is a neighborhood permit only street, so you are technically breaking the law. This is the post office they suggest will serve all of the 20901 and 20910 ZIP codes? What about customers that don't own a car? Are they going to have to take a bus for miles to mail a package? What are they thinking?

Granted, it's fairly easy to print shipping labels using the USPS' online service, but it forces you to purchase premium services you don't need like Priority and Express Mail by not allowing you to print first class or media mail labels. (A service they could very easily provide, because they let you do it if you do it as an eBay/PayPal seller.) Plus, you need to own a postal scale to properly calculate shipping costs using their website. It's probably a very small minority of Postal Service customers who actually use this service at present.

I generally find ways to avoid going, but based on the fact that there always seems to be a line, clearly a lot of people need the Post Office. Why the Postal Service would completely abandon downtown Silver Spring is beyond me.



33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even if you use the online service, you still have to drop off the package at a physical location, if you don't have a safe place to leave it for the carrier.

David said...

Could be a lot worse: http://datelinedecatur.com/2011/10/13/dead-letter-office-decatur/

Anonymous said...

The Takoma Park Post Office?

Anonymous said...

I'm not one who normally professes doomsday scenarios. However, I do think we are witnessing the end of the US Postal Service. Not that we don't need post offices and the ability to mail things. I just think things will be done very differently in the very near future. I think the USPS is about to become a completely private entreprise. Post offices will soon be places like the local grocery store, convenience store, or office supply store. FedEx, UPS, or whatever private mailer will soon be doing all deliveries.

Kay said...

It seems like a good alternative would be to have a post office service counter somewhere in Silver Spring. This is something you see more often in rural areas - a counter where you can buy stamps and mail packages that's within another store. It's often staffed by someone who works at the store, and is much cheaper than paying rent and having a full time employee. I've also seen mobile post offices recently - they look like a cross between a food truck and a delivery truck, and they can be moved to different locations.

In the meantime, you can use paypal to ship packages even if you aren't using eBay, including media mail and first class. It's not the easiest thing to find on the paypal site (it's called MultiOrder shipping even though you can use it for just one item) and I think there's a small fee, but it's very convenient.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Did you see the part of that letter from the Post Office that says if you have a P.O. Box at the Finance Center branch and will have trouble getting to another branch once the Finance Center closes, you can apply for Rural Delivery. In Silver Spring.

Mr Wang said...

A mobile post office truck would be great for DTSS. Any why not sell a half smoke with your stamp order? This could be a whole new revenue model for these guys.

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I find this post particularly timely given that I have been trying to track down a package that was "delivered" to me on Friday. I hope the troubles at the post office won't result in more mail being lost.

Justafed said...

So the big irony here to me is that no rational person I know thinks the Four Corners post office will survive even a mild redevelopment effort in the area. It is just...in the way. But the USPS is indeed not going to survive as we know it. Believe me, Silver Spring is not really being picked on in this regard.

Anonymous said...

I recently had to send a CD of data to the Dept of Justice and was instructed to send it FedEx or UPS. Their reasoning was that USPS irradiates everything going to them and data on electronic media can be destroyed. That may be true (who knows) but this is the US Govt telling me not to use the USPS, right?

Pete said...

I wouldn't read too broadly into that.

USPS irradiates mail addressed to U.S. Govt offices, not all mail in general.

I use USPS a decent amount for shipping eBay sales and USPS priority is by far the best bang for the buck for domestic parcel shipping. Plus, for all we complain about the service at USPS locations, the service at UPS and Fedex stores is not exactly the finest. Really a shame to see POs disappearing--it's not the decline in use of POs that's closing them, it's the massive decline of normal first-class mail over the last decade plus. Going to be quite a scene at the Four Corners location on April 15!

Anonymous said...

There are people in the world who still mail in tax returns?

Anonymous said...

So, DTSS is getting a Smart Toys store in the Borders space:

"The toy store, like the Halloween store, is temporarily in the space, remaining there through the beginning of January. If sales are high, Purifico said, the store will seek to remain in the Downtown Silver Spring anchor space."

Anonymous said...

That toy store info is from the following Gazette article:

http://www.gazette.net/article/20111102/NEWS/711029545/1081/1081/toy-store-makes-a-play-in-downtown-silver-spring&template=gazette

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the toys R us express last year - around for the christmas season. Makes sense, doubt it'll stay after the season (at least I hope not).

Isayaah Parker said...

I just finished reading about that Smart Toys deal. I wish this blog site would update itself on a regular basis as I have to get these developments from other sources like the Gazette. Singular seems a bit lethargic. I expected there to be another temporary space after the Halloween store, this toys store is appropriate for the Holiday toy buying season.

Sligo said...

I wish this blog would update itself, too! So much work lately, but will get back on it next week.

Liz Brent said...

Sligo, I for one really appreciate all the and effort you put into the blog. I live in fear that you will quit one day. It's very entertaining, very well written and very informative.

Justafed said...

I think Sligo has been eaten by zombies. The coverup is most likely a huge government conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Justafed is spot on, yet again.

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