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opinion Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The U.S. Postal Service has made the strategic decision to charge you more in 2012 for a first class stamp and then no longer guarantee next-day service for that letter.

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Now that is one example of a business plan improving customer service. Note we didn't say it was a good plan.

Currently 40 percent of first-class mail is delivered the next day. In 2012, don't expect that bill you mail today to get across town by tomorrow.

Life is full change and it is often for the better. However, after 200 years of service improvements, the Postal Service change does not appear to be better, especially for rural west central Minnesota.

According to the Postal Service, it must reduce expenses by closing 437 sorting centers, which will eliminate 28,000 jobs, and close 3,700 of the nation's post offices.

At the same time, all of west central Minnesota's mail along with the rest of Minnesota's mail will be all shipped to the Twin Cities for sorting and then ship back for delivery.

There are very good reasons for change in the Postal Service -- it lost $5.1 billion last year.

Change is hard, but Americans will adjust and likely find better and quicker alternatives to the Postal Service. Frankly, they already have with email, instant messaging and texting.

Some of the Postal Service's best customers -- businesses -- will have to adjust. Netflix and others depending on speedy Postal Service delivery may have to change delivery strategies. Magazine and newspaper publishers likely will be forced to change as well. Others -- like credit card and mobile phone companies -- are encouraging customers to move to digital billing and electronic payments. All of this will just decrease the Postal Service's revenue even further.

The change will be hardest on the Postal Service's employees. Many are going to lose their jobs, here in Willmar, St. Cloud, Bemidji, Duluth and Rochester, where sorting centers have or will be closed. Their dedicated and excellent work will be missed, and their communities will lose those salaries.

Some post offices will be closed, eliminating a community gathering spot as well as service access for many rural residents.

This current Postal Service is not same as it was even a decade ago. It is facing a bleak future unless it reinvents itself and its strategy.

America and Congress need to decide whether the Postal Service has just become a service dinosaur that needs systematic consolidation or whether it needs to be remade as a public service and critical asset which promotes economic development throughout the country.

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