Today is the busiest day for mailing holiday packages at the post office, and the increasing number of people ordering Christmas presents online means that the crush is greater than ever for the U.S. Postal Service.
“The parcel service is really through the roof,” Scott White, acting manager of the downtown Wichita post office, said Thursday. “You can tell the difference even from last year.”
It’s a piece of good news for the Postal Service, which also today is expected to default on a $5.5 billion payment to the Treasury and is forecast to lose a record $14.1 billion next year. The cash-strapped agency has proposed closing 3,700 post offices, though that plan is on hold until May while Congress tries to work out some relief.
In Wichita, a fire at the Munger post office at 13th and Oliver in June gave the Postal Service an opportunity to close that station. And that option was considered, said Wichita postmaster Evie Tan-Todd. But the size of the office – it’s a midsize one for Wichita – and an outpouring of support for it weighed in favor of keeping it open. Now work that had been delayed because the contractor had underestimated some elements of it has begun, and the post office could reopen by March or April, Tan-Todd said.
It’s better late than never for as many as 1,800 people who had post office boxes at the Munger station. For half a year, they have had to drive to the downtown station at Second and Waco and often wait in line while clerks fetched their mail. The displaced Munger mail has added to the press at the downtown office.
“With 24 more city routes in here, which have their own increased volume, it’s crowded in here,” White said.
Maybe because the Postal Service has proposed so many post office closings across the country, many of the Munger customers are trying to look at the bright side of what they hope will be only a temporary inconvenience.
“Sometimes it’s good to get out of the office,” said Chris Lee, who works near the downtown post office and picks up his mail from there. “It serves its purpose. You adapt.”
The Munger station covers an area as far north as the western edge of Bel Aire, and driving downtown is quite a distance in comparison.
“It’s a long way over here,” said Patti Frese, who drives over from the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation east of Oliver on 21st Street. But she said an upside has been getting to know the clerks from Munger, who also have moved downtown to pull the mail for the post-office-box customers. They’re working hard, she said, and want their post office to reopen, too. “I’ve gotten a chance to talk and interact with the employees every day instead of just opening a lock box,” she said.
The community aspect of the post office is alive in urban post offices just as it is rural areas. It’s a place where people see their neighbors and friends.
“I miss my people. You don’t see the people,” said James Douglas. He kept a post office box at Munger even after he moved out of the neighborhood to Riverside. But “I’m a talker,” he said, and he makes new friends at the downtown post office.
Tan-Todd thinks that people who live in the Munger neighborhood and don’t have a post office box are spreading out to different post offices to buy stamps and mail packages, including at the busy Corporate Woods station near Webb Road and Kellogg.
Customers shouldn’t worry about approaching the downtown post office to do business the rest of the holiday season, manager White said. The busiest day of the year to mail cards and letters will be Tuesday.
“We have more staff this year,” White said, filling the positions of some people who had retired last year. And White even sees a leveling off of the loss of some of the mail that the Postal Service has been experiencing for years.
“We’re busy,” he said. “And it’s good to be busy.”
Contributing: Associated Press