Post office undecided on replacements for area stamp machines

Saturday, October 27, 2007
People who use the Automated Postal Center in Carbondale, Ill., say it is fast and convenient, but most said they prefer to talk to a real person or use the old stamp machine, which will be removed by the end of the month. The APC has been in Carbondale since 2004. (Lindy Bavolek)

There is no timetable to when, if at all, the stamp machines removed from county post offices this month will be replaced by Automated Postal Centers.

"We pulled seven machines in the area. We haven't determined whether any will be going to service stations," said Richard Watkins, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman.

Besides selling stamps, APCs can weigh packages and print postage for customers. Most machines are in the lobbies of post offices, so they are available at all hours. Once postage is printed, customers can pay by credit or debit card and leave their package in a drop box next to the machine.

Those who use the machine in Carbondale, Ill., say it is fast and convenient, but not many are using them. During an hour visit to Carbondale, Ill., which has the APC closest to Cape Girardeau, only one person used the machine and had to get help to do so.

Once postal worker Richard Thompson walked Jasmin Dover through the process, she said she plans on always using the machine in the future.

"It was faster, easier. You don't have to grab a number and wait in line," Dover said.

However, Lena Dierks said they are no replacement for humans. "It's easier to go up there and tell a worker exactly what you need," she said.

"I enjoy communication. I don't like to talk to machines," Gladys Grigsby said.

There are 2,500 APCs in the U.S.

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service earned $29 million nationally from the machines. Repairs on aging stamp machines cost the U.S. Postal Service $66 million last year.

In Cape Girardeau, stamps are still available for sale at Food Giant and Schnucks through customer service or at select ATMs.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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