News about disappearing collection boxes is everywhere these days. Even BBC News ran a story on the decline of the blue collection box in the United States.

The Postal Service argues that picking up mail from collection boxes is expensive. Removing underused boxes is a cost savings move and a reasonable response to the economic crisis. The Postal Service is removing boxes with less than 25 stamped mail pieces per day.

Critics wonder if there is adequate analysis to support the 25-piece minimum and whether one reason for removing collection boxes — in addition to the minimal cost savings — is that the Postal Service does not want to be criticized for poor service. Fewer boxes mean fewer opportunities to miss a collection or to pick up mail too early.

Is the Postal Service thinking too narrowly and missing some of the value of collection boxes? The ubiquitous presence of the boxes is free advertising for the ailing agency. How much would a private sector company pay to be allowed to put a collection box anywhere it wanted to in the country? Millions? Billions?

What do you think? Is removing collection boxes a reasonable cost-cutting move or a strategic mistake that the Postal Service will later regret?

This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments (67)

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  • anon

    they should remove the old blue postal mailboxes npt because of the mail amount but beccause the mailboxes are old and ugly and no one is taking care of them. they are old rusted in need of paint. they should take time out to paint them!!

    May 19, 2016
  • anon

    I can understand eliminating collection boxes where there is less than 25 pieces of mail per day, the rationale being that it is very expensive to dispatch a truck collect mail from these boxes. In my suburban community, with a population in excess of 100,000 people,there are now no collection boxes away from of shopping districts. Thos presents a dilemma for the increasingly aging community where a large number of residents are retired and travel infrequently away from their homes. The customers are most likely to send first class mail, but have least ability to get to the few remaining collection boxes. The practice of giving a municipal letter carrier the use of a vehicle for an entire working day, but not having that carrier collect first class mail from a residential letter drop box when a delivery is being made is wasteful, more wasteful than using distribution bixes and having carriers get to their routes by shuttlebus or private vehicle. This waste could be offset by having cartiers collect mail from individual resident delivery drop boxes.

    Dec 04, 2015
  • anon

    The removal of our local pickup box will be a huge impact on this area where there are disabled and elderly folks who can't otherwise use usps. Sure we can leave mail out for our local carrier. Except she gets here about 7pm and the box is collected sooner. Is she trying to show management how busy she is? And how hard would it be for the local delivery carrier to pick up the contents of the blue box? She drives right by it daily. Does it have to be a dedicated driver that just empties boxes? We live in a mobile home park. Shouldn't each removal be based on need, not just how often it is used in a 7 day period. I am very upset about the removal of our local box. I use it several times a month!

    Sep 30, 2013
  • anon

    Do you seriously think that the USPS owes anyone an apology for removing the old blue collection boxes? You've got to be kidding. When mass numbers of people opted to use Email instead of the USPS, decisions had to be made. Wake up people. Times change and you made your choice.

    Dec 29, 2012
  • anon

    well it looks like they're trying to cut costs, the economy isn't that great.

    Jan 10, 2011
  • anon

    What do you think all of the ole' blue boxes have morphed into???? You know, the one's where the paying customer did 25% of the work that the post office has to do when they don't drop mail in a box. A. High Speed rail track B. River barges? C. Electric Car Charging Stations (Just the Protective Steel Bollards adjacent to them) D. Ship Anchors E. Counterweight for a draw bridge. I simply find it hysterical that someone brings a single first class letter into the window so they'll assure themselves the letter is on it's way!!!! Talk about confidence in a delivery system!!!!!

    Oct 15, 2010
  • anon

    Whee! I'm not at home right now (I'm at uni), and I just tried to mail a letter, which apparently is SEVERELY frowned upon by the USPS, except of course either from home or from a post office (I'm on foot and the closest post office is a mile away). I foolishly thought "well, I have to go to the public library, and they'll have one out front." Nope. Silly me...

    Oct 13, 2010
  • anon
    earl

    you can give a box of rocks the best suggestions in the world but________ Get my drift??????????

    Aug 30, 2010
  • anon

    All I want to know is what do they do with the drop boxes? I seriously would like to purchase an old one maybe from the 40's or 50's. Where can I get one? Does anyone know?

    Aug 29, 2010
  • anon

    I would say this is another stupid move from the postal service. Come on.. how much cost they could save?

    Jun 04, 2010
  • anon

    I may be showing my age, but people of my vintage have much to worry about. We do not put checks in the mail for fear of identity theft, nor do we pay online due to fruad. Now that secure mailboxes are being eliminated, we must venture further afield and waste more time and resources. This was not a good idea for us.

    May 16, 2010
  • anon
    postalsanity

    <a href="http://postalsanity.com" rel="nofollow">Postal Sanity</a> wonders if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing…… We got the following quote from <a href="http://bit.ly/5Y3qkM" rel="nofollow">this article</a>. “Mail theft is a federal crime,” warned Renee Focht, a postal inspector and spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspectors, a crime-fighting unit of the U.S. Postal Service. She advises people to not leave mail — especially negotiable documents such as checks and money orders — in their mailboxes to be picked up by the postal carrier. “Postal collection boxes provide more security because they’re locked,” Focht said.

    Nov 23, 2009
  • anon

    So now that the OIG has seen all these comments------what are you going to do about it? Is this blog a smokescreen, or do you really care?

    Nov 19, 2009
  • anon

    This has been an issue for years. Postal should look at where these boxes are in proximity to an actual Post Office. The goal is to cut costs...maybe they should think about at what cost, costing costs will be...

    Nov 17, 2009
  • anon

    Being a supervisor under a midget general in Georgia, his first objective was to remove all collection boxes in a city of 45,000 and only have one in front of two post office locations. He didn't want any missed and showing up on a report. He cared nothing about the customer complaints, only looking good on reports. What did they do with him? Why, transfer him to another office, of course!

    Nov 15, 2009
  • anon

    Change is inevitable, but this seems an all or nothing approach that has not been well considered. If we are looking to save government wastage, there are more lucrative savings and obvious places than in taking away the lines of communication of so many senior citizens in one fell swoop.

    Nov 14, 2009
  • anon

    My parents are in their 80's and when the USPS removed ALL the collection boxes in their neighborhood, they were left with unpleasant options. The collection boxes that remained were along busy streets downtown and always blocked by parked. They have never paid a bill via the Internet until now. Rather than risk leaving their bill payments in the mailslot for the carrier to pickup, they have starting paying bills via the Internet for the first time. That represents the majority of their outgoing mail. This boneheaded move is more likely to accellerate the demise of First Class mail than cut significant costs.

    Nov 13, 2009
  • anon

    Important clarification My last comment failed to identify the following acronym. It, this age of acronyms afterall... So, the subject collection box identified in my last comment would be made of "clear" PET material, (recycled water bottles) which would visually show what was in the box at all times. Therefore, it would reflect the current Sustainability Initiative as identified in the 2008 Report! Polyethylene terephthalate- PET

    Nov 12, 2009
  • anon
    harry

    in the south ga district as many boxes as possible were removed regardless of volume. boxes near the hospitals in savannah which were overflowing every business day were also removed. when a district level manager was asked why she replied that most zero bundles occurred on the regular carriers day off, the less blue boxes means less zero bundles which means higher potential bonuses just follow the money

    Nov 12, 2009
  • anon

    Two of the stupidest things the USPS has done was removing collection boxes and stamp machines. DUMB DUMB DUMB. The office use is closed when I get off work. I always used the stamp machines.

    Nov 12, 2009
  • anon

    Bravo for finally waking up to this OIG!! My old manager in retail used to say, "boys, I cant sell it, if it's not on the floor"! Duh?!? Most of the Carriers and managers dont actually COUNT the mail in these during test periods, they lie so they can pull them out. My box is full every day, because lazy carriers&amp;supvr.s didnt want the collection boxes anymore. My customers all complain, where are the neighborhood collection boxes?. They used to be on every corner, put them back, put an ad for priority on the side, I don't know, maybe something simple like, it fits it ships???

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    Mail is picked up from every business and houshold, yank the boxes off the street and save the money, gas, time, and help the environment at the same time.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    our town used to have 32 blue collection boxes. the boxes were tapped daily no matter how few letters were in them. now we have about 12 for the whole town.of the 12,4 sit in the alley behind the post office. SERVICE has not diminished,just ask any mgt type at district or above. they are correct in one repect. we still provide the blue box. the problem is finding the _ _ _.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    Lets try posting that website again: http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/108119/the-accidental-hero.html?mod=career-selfemployment

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    Just as lowering taxes HAS PROVEN TIME AND AGAIN to increase economic activity and actually generate more revenue due to higher gains on productivity ("Google" search "The Laffer Curve" to learn more), here's a great example of how lowering prices led to this company increasing sales so much that it has led to massive overtime as well massive profits: http://finance.yahoo.com/career-...- selfemployment The USPS would be wise to follow suit, as it's been proven to work time and again. We've alreadt seen the devastating effects of raising prices here in the USPS, and how doing it loses volume and thus profits. The fact is, we, like that company I illustrated, had and have excess capacity and we're literally paying people in some areas to do nothing. Lowering prices to spur volume that we could basically handle and deliver for nothing, since we have to process and deliver everyday anyway, is the right move. Raising rates and curtailing service (eliminating collection boxes, cutting a delivery day and reducing window hours as examples) is a suicidal business model. Doing the opposite, lowering rates and expanding service is the best way to emerge from this funk.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    I still remember how I found out my local mailbox was gone. I walked down to where it always was, and there were 4 rusty marks on the ground where it was. It seemed my only option was to get in my car, and drive to where there was a mailbox. All the milboxes were in a neighborhood where there were less than 10 houses per block. My street had 50+ houses, but no "significant" citizens. When I looked at the new pick up times, I realized that it wasn't even going to picked up until late the following day. At this point I realized that my mail was a great inconvenience to the Postal Service. As a good citizen, and a considerate person, I chose to make other arrangements, and drove a few more blocks to the letters destination. The following month, I knew that I could just drop the letters off, and this time I didn't have to bother the postal service with printing, or selling me any stamps. If they don't want my mail, If my tranactions cost too much, then I can take a hint.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    Put them back out at major intersections, or at least one on every carriers route. Pick it up once a day when the carrier goes past it, the only pickup of the day. List the location of the nearest boxes with a late pickup, if a customer has something hot. Advertize on the box...click and ship, piority mail, etc... Cost minimal....we have the boxes, 2 -3 minutes for carrier to scan and change out the tub, advertising value, and good will....priceless.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    The decline in the availability and strategic placement of the traditional blue collection box is going to be another bad business decision by the Postal Service. Might has well change the name, because Service is no longer the priority of this business.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    If it was a security related strategy, perhaps they should have replaced the steel boxes with a see through design that would have scanned the customer deposited item with a time stamp, and thus, started the id tracking program for the item. I trust the ole blue boxes are being recycled into a green related Co2 friendly use. So the USPS earn some carbon credits for the fuel use "demerit" penalties they incur. Think of the possibilities. The hypothetical new boxes could be recycled PET, with various cots electronic features. Or simply a multi-use container that could be picked up and whisked away to the high speed sorter. In any event, a green job could have been created for a veteran, or a homeless veteran rather than simply giving them a blanket?

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    People like their corner mailbox. It takes the carrier 2 minutes to tap as he is going by. Another stupid idea to make customers hate us even more.

    Nov 11, 2009
  • anon

    The postal service took out many/most of these collection boxes some years ago. Mostly out of the campus area (high volume traffic of students). Then throughout the city. While delivering mail I took many complaints from students (apt box locations generally dont have outgoing mail slots or boxes) and the university offices said their mail is not ready to go out when the carrier gets there and they utilized the boxes that got picked up later that evening. Business too complained for the same reason as they would drop off their mail at the nearest box on the way home for pick up. Driving to the post office was out of the way. But they (USPS)wanted to cut city delivery hours and get their bonuses at the expense of customer service. And maybe tell the customer to look elsewhere. Now, in part, they worry that business will not come back. What was the real cost.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    There are some really good comments/suggestions on this site. Is ANYONE listening?

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    this definetly hurts service, they want people to think they provide such excellent service and they will go above and beyond but this is clearly not the case. what major expense is involved with these boxes some that have been in place for decades. i had one on my route that had more than 25 pieces daily but somehow i went on vacation and during that time they did the test and removed the box. it is hard to sell customers on the benefits when they do things that undermine their own marketing.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon
    navymikeusn

    USPS has forgotten they are a government service established for the people. it was not created for it to make a profit. whats worse they pay there employees chump change for the work they do. delivering mail is not and easy task lest any one kid themselves. It is time the lazy greedy politician investigate col john potter and his flying fairies of greedy postal board of governor for delaying the mail. And it is time for Americans to put all these government agencies on notice that we the people have the say.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    Removal of collection boxs is another part of the Continuation of the UPSP strategy to not have to deal with American public, Reduced lobby hours and days, reduced locations, elimination of collection boxes, elimination of vending machines, removal of APC’s, USPS only wants to deal with the corporate mailers not the general public, USPS would eliminate home delivery if the thought they could get away with it. Just think where the banking industry would be if they used the half-hearted support for the ATM machine that we put into the APC.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    USPS is desperately trying to advertise services to the public while we take away the blue boxes and make them wait an hour in line. The only logical answer to this is that USPS no long want to deliver older folks' stinking 41 cent envelops. Not much of a profit margin from that kind of mailing. When money is the only concern, service will go out the window and profit taking/making becomes the mission of the organization. Tha't why we push the priority mail while taking away the blue boxes. It's all about money folks. The EXFC scores and the zero bundle theory is another valid point that I had not thought of before...

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    I think that the removal of these boxes impacts the image of the Postal Service second only to the closure of offices. People depend on these boxes and in many areas, this is the only convienient access to Postal Services. There may be only 15 pieces in that box on a given day, but to those customers, they are the most important 15 pieces. We need to look at the Postal Service's image long term.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    I was going to comment, but everyone here made the point. Nation wide we are flushing our service down the toilet. Management, thank you for taking service out of the Postal Service.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    I work for the post office, management does NOT care about customer service. They ONLY careabout time, cutting out time makes their “numbers” look better andgets them a bonus. Bonusesare all they care about, they’d sell their mothers for better numbers. AND they do NOT care what you, the public, think or want. They laugh at you and the workforce as they bully and intimidate and lie to getwhat they want. Our slogan should be, “We are the US Postal Service and you’ll do what we want and like it.”

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    Why pay money for TV commercials and magazine ads, then remove collection boxes? The less visible, the less relevant we become. People might Mail that card if it was convenient, but if they have to go downtown to the Post Office to Mail it they will send an E-mail instead. If we want to build volume we need to make it easier and more convenient to use the mail, not harder. We are throwing out the baby with the bathwater in so many ways it is no longer funny.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    Postal Management does not care about providing SERVICE to the American Public...they are ONLY CONCERNED WITH COST CONTROL as THEY SEE IT. City wide afternoon collections from the "Blue Boxes" represent only COSTS to them, not SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    This is one of the stupider things the USPS has done next to removing stamp machines from the lobbies. I always used drop boxes and stamp machines. Now I have to wait in line just to buy one stamp. When business is bad cutting employees and services is not the answer. I guess upper management within the USPS is still out of touch with reality.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    We are a service organization, stop taking away public services

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    Removing the boxes was a dumb idea. How can you expect the public to use the Postal Service when they make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to mail a letter? Its like a convenience store closing their doors 23 hours a day and then complaining of the lack of customers...

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    ten letters 44 cents each = 4.40 per box we could do this all day and make money

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    earlier pick -up times fewer blue boxes less mail to pick up

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    Ummm...Really? Are you being disingenuous? Surely you know the main reason for removing collection boxes is to drive improvement in the EXFC socres, right? It’s all pure statistics as it affects management’s NPA scores. One less box is one less chance for a Zero Bundle. V e r y simple. Whether its hiding COA cards behind the retail counter, or a customer retail script that hides less expensive mailing options, its just like every other foolish decision in recent years, its “Customers Be Damned, we have strategic goals to meet.” And so, we continue to alienate the few loyal customers we have left. We are actively strangling our own livelihood on the vine…

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    The collection box has secondary advantages USPS is not taking advantage of. Boxes are usually in high visability sights and there has only once been marketing (R2D2 wrapping) on them. If you look at the competition boxes, they are not taking any out. They may move a few. In a downturn or recession, it is a good time to make your presence greater. The cost is usually lower and the benefit coming out is great. Remember, each box taken out tells a group of customers they are not important. Rather then removing a low performing box, reassign it to a nearby area where it will perform. A campaign like "Write a letter to a friend" and "Drop a letter to a friend here" might actually increase mail volume. Or maybe attack the competition by having a grandmother by a computer reading email, turning to open a letter with a card in it--she reads the card, smiles and pins it to the bulletin board above her computer. So near colleges a box might say, "Drop letters home here."

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    The cost of collection from these boxes is de minimus compared to the service, sense of security they provide to customers who use them. Nevermind the potential free advertising they provide to the Postal Service. Why they have not taken advantage of these small billboards on every corner, just think of the products and services that could be posted on the sides of each of these boxes. But once again the Postal Service uses the "Change creates the illusion of progress" line to make it look like it is actually making strides to improve the financial woes of a management heavy organization. Cutting service from a service company is just another step in the current managers mission to destroy the US Postal Service.

    Nov 10, 2009
  • anon

    I had a relay box in a collection box in front of City Hall. I pulled the mail each morning when I got there. Sometimes there was a lot, sometimes not. Sometimes, I dumped my collection mail into it [if I had picked up a heavy mailing]. No one told me that this box did not pass the test until it was a done deal! I'm sure it would have been left if the mail I picked up had been counted [I could have kept it separate]. Any perceived cut in service is bad for business, in my opinion. The more we charge, the more we should be kissing the customers' backside. We have no collection boxes in the downtown area in our town, with the exception of the ones behind the Post Office. How much does it cost for us to pull these boxes when we are out delivering our routes? Just another of the cuts they make to be able to say they did something instead of making the cuts that would matter most [cutting management on ALL levels].

    Nov 10, 2009

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