WASHINGTON (AP) -- Special delivery from the post office -- beer, wine and
spirits, if Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has his way.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Donahoe said Thursday delivery of
alcoholic beverages is on his wish list as the agency considers ways to
raise revenue and save money after losing $16 billion last year. He also
said he endorses ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries as a
way to help stabilize the service’s finances.
Donahoe said delivering alcohol has the potential to raise as much as $50
million a year. He mentioned how customers might want to, for example, mail
bottles of wine home when they tour vineyards. Donahoe said his agency has
looked at the possibility of using special boxes that would hold two, four
or six bottles and ship for a flat-rate anywhere in the country.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in shipping beer, wine and spirits,”
Donahoe said. “We’d like to be in that business.”
The Postal Service says mailing alcoholic beverages is currently restricted
by law. Customers are even told to cover any logos or labels if they use
alcoholic beverage boxes for shipments.
The agency is also urging changes in how it delivers the mail. A House
committee has passed legislation to stabilize the Postal Service’s ailing
finances that would cut letter deliveries to five days and phase out
door-to-door deliveries over 10 years.
The bill does not include a provision to allow the agency to deliver
The Senate passed a postal reform bill last year that included a provision
allowing the agency to deliver alcohol. The bill would require that such
shipments would have to comply with any state laws where the shipment
originated and was delivered. The measure also said the recipient would have
to be at least 21 years old and would need to provide valid,
government-issued photo identification upon delivery.
The agency faces $15 billion in losses this year and is working toward
restructuring its retail, delivery and mail processing operations.
“We don’t want to take any more debt on,” Donahoe said. “We want to be able
to get profitable, pay it down, just like any other business would, so that
you stay strong for the future.”
The service’s losses are largely due to a decline in mail volume and a
congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected
health care costs for future retirees. About $11.1 billion of last year’s
losses were due to the health care payments.
On a bright note, Donahoe said the volume of packages the service handles
has grown considerably in recent years, a trend he expects to continue.
About 1 in 3 mail customers has door-to-door delivery. Some lawmakers have
complained that ending home delivery in many densely developed urban areas
would be difficult and pose hardships for many people, including the elderly
and places where the weather can be harsh.
“We’d work with the communities,” Donahoe said, adding there would be
special hardship exemptions for those physically unable to get their mail at
centralized locations. “We want to figure out how to do it so people don’t
Donahoe said there are ways to install centralized mail boxes that fit in
well with the neighborhood and also don’t cause a lot of hardship for
Some 30 million residential addresses receive delivery to boxes at the door
or a mail slot. Another 87 million residential addresses receive curbside or
cluster box delivery.
Door-to-door delivery costs the agency about $350 per year, on average.
Curbside delivery costs average $224 per year for each address, while
cluster box delivery averages $160.
The service earlier this year backpedaled on its plan to end Saturday mail
delivery after running into opposition in Congress. It has tried repeatedly
and unsuccessfully over the past several years to persuade Congress to
approve ending Saturday mail delivery.
The National Association of Letter Carriers has said ending Saturday
delivery would in particular hurt rural residents and the elderly who depend
more heavily on the mail for prescription drugs and other goods. Donahoe
said there would be a six-month implementation period to help smooth out any
problems and that medicines would still be delivered on Saturdays.
The Senate last year passed a bill that would have stopped the Postal
Service from eliminating Saturday service for at least two years and
required it to try two years of cost-cutting instead. The House didn’t pass