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Postal-rate increase draws mixed reaction in Hagerstown

May 03, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- The latest round of price increases at the U.S. Postal Service doesn't sit well with John Grady.

"It's baloney," he said Thursday as he left the Hagerstown branch on West Franklin Street. "How much more money do they need? Go back to the horses -- the Pony Express."

Postal costs will rise May 12.

A handful of other people interviewed Thursday at the post office weren't upset. Some said they wouldn't be affected much or at all and weren't concerned.

The price of a first-class stamp for a 1-ounce letter will go up from 41 cents to 42 cents.

For a 2-ounce letter, a stamp will cost 59 cents, up from 58 cents.

The cost of a postcard, certified mail and international letters will inch higher, too.

"The Postal Service is a business and, like all other businesses, must raise its prices to cover expenses," spokeswoman Freda Sauter wrote in an e-mail statement. "It's also important to note that 80 percent of our expenses are labor. As the second largest civilian employer, with nearly 700,000 career employees, we also have to pay increasing costs for salaries and benefits."

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The rate changes will bring savings in some areas, according to a summary on the Postal Service's Web site. For example, Express Mail will switch to zone-based pricing, with lower prices for closer destinations.

This is the third rate increase in three years. The price of a first-class stamp went up 2 cents in January 2006 and 2 more cents in May 2007.

At the time of last year's increase, the Postal Service said, "The costs of doing business -- for things like fuel, transportation, utilities, and health care benefits -- have continued to increase. Without an increase to keep up with costs, we face significant losses.

"Many people do not know that postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars. We rely on the sale of postal products and services to cover our operating costs."

In April 2007, the Postal Service introduced a "Forever Stamp," a 41-cent stamp that can be used even if the rate increases again.

The Postal Service says it has sold 5 billion Forever Stamps, and plans to have 5 billion more to meet the demand before the coming price change.

"We have a good bit in stock," Ray Walker, a carrier supervisor in Hagerstown, said Thursday.

Darlene Dutrow stopped at the post office for 1-cent stamps.

She bought 200.

Dutrow said she'll keep 100 for herself and give a bunch to her church, Valley Assembly of God in Halfway, where she is the treasurer.

Richard Moyer, the owner of Antietam Coin Exchange in Hagerstown, said the increase will mean more to his customers through eBay than it will mean to him.

"Usually, the buyer pays the shipping," he said.

Alex Smith of Hagerstown, another eBay merchant, agreed -- although he's both a seller and a buyer. He said he's interested in antiques and Civil War items.

He shrugged off the new rates.

With the economy faltering and so many other costs going up, "I don't think I'll be worried about the price increase of a stamp," Smith said.

"I don't mail that much," Pam Brunner of Hagerstown said. "I usually do everything electronically."

But Grady was angry. He said he has two books of Forever Stamps that he'll make last so he doesn't pay any increases.

"They want their money, they'll have to come to my house and get it," he said.




Postal increases



The U.S. Postal Service is raising the cost of several services starting May 12. Some changes, though, will lead to savings, according to the Postal Service.

The increases include:

Current price/New price

First-class stamp (1 oz.) 41 cents/42 cents

First-class stamp (2 oz.) 58 cents/59 cents

Postcard 26 cents/27 cents

Certified mail $2.65/$2.70

First-class (1 oz. to Canada or Mexico) 69 cents/72 cents

First-class (1 oz. to other countries) 90 cents/94 cents

Source: U.S. Postal Service

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