Your P.O. Box Just Got More Expensive

U.S. Postal Service employee Arturo Lugo delivers an Express Mail package during his morning route on February 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
July 9, 2014, 11:20 a.m.

Awash in red ink, the U.S. Postal Ser­vice is rais­ing the rent­al fees for post-of­fice boxes in 1,625 areas na­tion­wide.

The in­creases will av­er­age about 20 per­cent for each box — which are typ­ic­ally offered in a range of sizes, from 3 inches by 5.5 inches to 22.5 inches by 12 inches, ac­cord­ing to a no­tice pos­ted Wed­nes­day in the Fed­er­al Re­gister.

More than 6,900 loc­a­tions have been char­ging the high­er fees since 2011. Start­ing on Aug. 27, those in­creases will hit boxes loc­ated in a wide range of ad­di­tion­al zip codes, from parts of the Bronx to Wasilla, Alaska.

The Fed­er­al Re­gister no­tice in­cludes a list of the af­fected loc­ales and their zip codes.

The com­mon de­nom­in­at­or for be­ing pegged for the pri­cing changes is that each of these areas are be­ing moved from a “mar­ket-dom­in­ant fee group” to “com­pet­it­ive fee group.” In oth­er words, the Postal Ser­vice has de­term­ined it no longer holds a post-of­fice box mono­poly in those loc­al­it­ies — and so it now faces com­pet­i­tion from private com­pan­ies.

The Postal Ser­vice says it is re­spond­ing by provid­ing “com­pet­it­ive ser­vice” that in­cludes “sev­er­al en­hance­ments.” The no­tice says that in­cludes such things as elec­tron­ic no­ti­fic­a­tion of the re­ceipt of mail, sig­na­ture already on file for de­liv­ery of cer­tain ac­count­able mail, and ad­di­tion­al hours of ac­cess and/or earli­er avail­ab­il­ity of mail in some loc­a­tions.

Na­tion­wide, the Postal Ser­vice man­ages more than 21 mil­lion post-of­fice boxes. Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 USPS Of­fice of In­spect­or Gen­er­al Re­port, these boxes ac­coun­ted for $836 mil­lion in fee rev­en­ue in fisc­al year 2012. The Fed­er­al Re­gister no­tice does not provide a pro­jec­tion of how much more will be raised by the move.

Spe­cif­ic new charges for each size of box dif­fer among vari­ous zip codes across the coun­try.

But Dav­id Ru­bin, an at­tor­ney for the U.S. Postal Ser­vice, said the 20 per­cent price hike, for in­stance, would mean a cus­tom­er now rent­ing a small box for $53 every six months would in­stead have to shell out about $64 every six months. The largest box would go from about $440 for six months to about $528.

Boxes can be ren­ted for as short a peri­od as three months.

Aside from the Fed­er­al Re­gister, the price hike has not at­trac­ted wide at­ten­tion amid the out­cry over the Postal Ser­vice’s push to close or downs­ize more than 80 mail-pro­cessing fa­cil­it­ies na­tion­wide after Janu­ary.

In May, the Postal Ser­vice an­nounced it had ended the second quarter of its 2014 fisc­al year with a net loss of $1.9 bil­lion — des­pite an ac­tu­al in­crease in op­er­at­ing rev­en­ue of $379 mil­lion. The bulk of the agency’s fin­an­cial prob­lems stem from the fed­er­ally man­dated an­nu­al pay­ments to cov­er ex­pec­ted health care costs for fu­ture re­tir­ees.

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