Post office backs off e-commerce

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Report of the President's Commission on the United States Postal Service

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Pure e-commerce does not appear to be a high priority for a revamped U.S. Postal Service, but electronic initiatives can help physical mail delivery, officials told Congress this week.

The Postal Service lost $4.5 billion during the last three years because of declining mail volume, while the number of postal addresses to which USPS provided service increased by about 1.8 million each year. At a joint House/Senate hearing this week, lawmakers and postal executives repeated a widely held view in Washington, D.C., that the postal agency cannot survive both trends unless Congress authorizes significant business changes within USPS.

In 2001, USPS was spending $33 million on e-commerce programs that were earning only $2 million, David Fineman, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, testified at the March 23 hearing. Today, Fineman said, the agency spends less than $1 million a year on e-commerce.

Instead, USPS is looking for new ways to strengthen its core business -- the physical delivery of mail and packages. Electronic initiatives can enhance that business, Fineman said. USPS has introduced a new Click-N-Ship service, for example, which lets customers create and print postal-mailing labels on their home computers. Customers can then request that a postal carrier pick up the packages at their homes the next business day

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