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Postal Service sets up shop at Office Depot stores

From the Washington Post

By Ed O’Keefe

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Despite widespread opposition to closing post offices, the U.S. Postal Service is moving ahead with plans to expand its retail footprint into thousands of Office Depot stores.

The nation’s second-largest retailer of office supplies has started selling postal products and services at almost 1,100 locations, offering Priority Mail and Express Mail services, Priority Mail flat-rate boxes, and postage stamps. The deal, in the works for more than a year, is the mail agency’s first attempt to sell more than postage stamps under someone else’s roof.

Susan Plonkey, a USPS senior vice president, said the deal will allow customers to compare prices between USPS and United Parcel Service products and services, which are also sold at Office Depot. “We’re excited to extend some of the best shipping values in the country to Office Depot customers at a time and place that’s convenient to them,” she said.

The Postal Service provided Office Depot with training materials for its employees, USPS officials said. The partnership is open-ended, and no money changed hands.

USPS operates the nation’s largest retail network, with about 36,000 post offices and stations. It is expected to post about $7 billion in losses for the fiscal year that ends next month, and it wants permission from Congress to close locations and open smaller retail outlets in supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers such as Wal-Mart.

But 64 percent of Americans oppose closing post offices, according to a Washington Post poll conducted in March. Closing post offices is part of a broad postal reform plan that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are expected to consider elements of the proposals when they return from summer recess, aides said.

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