By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 18, 2006; 2:12 PM
WASHINGTON -- Postage stamps can be purchased by mail, at the supermarket, even from many bank cash machines. But there's one place you won't be able to get them in a few years _ vending machines at the post office. The U.S. Postal Service plans to eliminate its 23,000 vending machines by 2010, the agency said in a recent internal memo.
Postal spokeswoman Yvonne Yoerger on Wednesday confirmed the decision, first reported by Linn's Stamp News.
"The heart of the matter is a lot of these machines are up to 20 years old," she said, meaning breakdowns are increasing and replacement parts are costly or impossible to get.
In the meantime there are lots of other options to buy stamps that fit into people's lifestyles better, Yoerger said, noting that people can get stamps by mail, through phone orders, at many convenience stores and from rural letter carriers.
Yoerger also noted that recent Treasury Department changes in currency designed to make it harder to counterfeit have required costly changes in vending machines so they can handle the new bills.
The removals are expected to begin next year with about 5,900 machines eliminated annually.
The vending machines aren't the only changes under way.
The post office is also removing many of those freestanding blue boxes where people can mail letters.
That's a result of a decline in first-class mail, Yoerger said, with fewer items being placed in the boxes.
The post office counts those boxes among "collection points," which also include the green relay boxes, where carriers store mail during delivery, and mail slots at post offices.
As of the end of last year the post office had 295,052 collection points, down from 337,230 at the end of 1999.
Vending machine removals will not target a specific area, she said. Broken machines and those that do little business will go first. If a machine still works well but makes few sales it will be moved to a busier area to replace broken or damaged machines.
Customers will still be able to buy stamps from postal clerks and the agency is increasing its use of automated postal centers which print postage on demand and also can sell some stamps.
On the Net:
U.S. Postal Service: http://www.usps.com