We can save the post office

Published 9:56 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2014

By Rev. Charles D. Leavell

On Dec. 20, I headed to the post office at 600 Church Street perform my presidential duties for the Norfolk Local Branch of The American Postal Workers Union. I was swarmed by customers with packages in their hands.

They must have been thinking that if any post office in Suffolk were open it would be the main one. To their dismay, it was closed. I was bombarded with questions about where they could mail something.

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Three weeks earlier, a woman from Suffolk had driven to the main post office in Norfolk, only to find it closed and with no self-service options for the simple purchase of stamps. I gave her about 10 — all I had — and she thanked me, while promising to complain for better service options.

These customers and others like them work Monday through Friday and look to Saturday to conduct business at the post office, but struggle to find one open. The situation could get worse under a plan this year for further postal consolidation.

Your chance to voice your opposition to such a move is running out.

Observing these frustrated customers and hearing their concerns prompted some thoughts about the business where I’ve spent the last 29 years working.

There are three major issues our business needs to address going forward if we want to be successful.

First, every customer counts.

Customers should not have to drive 30 miles to mail a package or purchase products from our business. However with plant consolidations such as the one Norfolk is going through, this would become commonplace. Our customers would be forced to consider other options thus shrinking our loyal customer base and further hurting out bottom line.

Contrary to popular opinion, all business is not done on the Internet. Considering the recent fiasco with Target, it might be worth taking a second look at using the mail for many business transactions.

Second, the economy is thriving again according to economy experts.

The upswing of the small business and major corporations will return much-needed business to the post office, which is still the most economical, reliable and time-proven way to reach every household in the nation and world. We are the most dependable, too, as the Christmas-delivery debacle at Fed-Ex and UPS demonstrated.

Most businesses are expanding to capture more revenue from the bustling economy. If we are forced to shrink, we will give our opportunity to grow to our competitors.

Third, we must price our products competitively but not give away the house.

The mailing business is still a profitable market, and people want a piece of it. Maybe Congress is so silent on passing a bill that would help the post office regain its footing and be successful again because they want privatization.

The future of your post office is in your hands. Congress listens to the voice of the people. Call your legislators and tell them to support SB 316 and HR 630. Every business throughout Hampton Roads will lose if the Norfolk Processing and Distribution Center is closed. Every household loses. Our local economy loses.

The potential losses of our area and the role you can play in averting them will be discussed during a “Save The Post Office Rally” on Feb. 17, 2014 at 10 a.m. at Greater Metropolitan AME Zion Church, 822 E. Brambleton Ave., Norfolk, across from the post office we are fighting for.

Together we can save our post office.

The Rev. Charles D. Leavell is pastor and founder of Open Hands Christian Fellowship in Suffolk and president of American Postal Workers Union Local 262 in Norfolk. Email him at charlesleavell2@gmail.com.