Unless you live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the challenges now facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Thanks to 21st-century conveniences like online bill payment, first class mail–the most profitable service the postal service provides–is down fifty percent from just five years ago, according to Sean Hargadon, a spokesperson for the postal service.
In Northbrook, however, first class mail is apparently holding its own.
While the postal service threatened this summer to close more than 3,000 post offices closing around the country, Northbrook's two post offices were never on the chopping block. According to Hargadon, neither Northbrook’s , nor the Northbrook , are under study for possible closure or consolidation.
The 94 blue letterboxes in Northbrook are also here to stay, it appears. In fact, only one such box, which was located in the parking lot at 1975 Cherry Lane, has been removed in the past three years. According to Hargadon, the removal was done not because of lower mail volume but because the box was on non-residential private property and the property’s owners requested its removal.
As for Northbrook’s other blue mailboxes, the post office tests each one at least once a year, said Hargadon.
“We do density tests,” he said. “We want 25 pieces of mail per day (in each box, minimum.) In Northbrook, they’ve done well on density tests. It appears people are still using those boxes, and that’s a good thing.”
When the number of pieces of mail falls below 25 per day at a given box, according to the mail service, the location where the box resides becomes too expensive to justify maintaining the box’s continued deployment there.
While Northbrook’s post offices and mailboxes appear to be safe for now, things could very well change in the future.
In 2006, USPS handled 213 billion packages and pieces of mail. But last year, that number fell to just 168 billion, according to Hargadon.
If you haven’t already done the math, that’s a difference of 45 billion pieces. And the number continues to fall.
“It’s a big shift in our business model,” said Hargadon, who pointed out that first class mail (otherwise known as mail with a stamp on it) has historically been the service’s bread and butter. It's also where the most precipitous decline in mail volume has occurred.
Add to that the challenge of rising fuel prices, and the postal service’s many challenges may eventually come home to Northbrook to roost.
“Like the airlines, at the same time the postal service has seen a huge drop in consumer demand for its services, it has also been hit with skyrocketing prices for fuel,” said area postal historian Bill Wallace, whose family ran a stamp collecting business in the 1970s and ’80s.
For now, however, residents still have plenty of blue mailboxes—and two post offices—to choose from.