Expenses for several Boston businesses may go up next year because the United States Postal Service proposed plans on Sept. 25 to increase in the price of a first-class stamp from 46 cents to 49 cents.
The change is estimated to create $2 billion in additional annual revenue, and, if approved, the new rates would go into effect Jan. 26, 2014. This revenue would go towards improving mailing services quality and combating increasing financial loss, according to a Sept. 25 press release from USPS.
“Despite aggressive measures under current law to reduce expenses, the Postal Service is limited in the ways it can adapt to a changing marketplace,” said Melissa Lohnes, spokeswoman for the USPS Greater Boston District, in an email. “A decision to raise prices is never one that the Governors take lightly, and this is particularly true in the current environment where volumes are declining.”
Lohnes said stamp prices change according to inflation, but this increase surpasses that and requires approval by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
In a letter to USPS’s customers on Sept. 25, USPS Board of Governors Chairman Mickey Barnett explained the agency’s troubling financial situation as a result of competing mail companies and online mail services.
“Under the current laws, the Postal Service simply lacks the authority to fully pursue financially responsible and appropriate strategies for controlling costs and generating new revenue that are far preferable to price increases,” he said. “We are hopeful that legislation [for a better solution] can be enacted this year.”
Several Boston businesses said they did not use the Postal Service and had replaced most of the shipping concerns with online services, but those that rely on physical shipping said they were concerned.
Bill Johnston, manager of Commonwealth Books in Downtown Crossing, said shipping was crucial for getting online sales to customers.
“We have a fixed shipping rate for online orders,” he said. “We would have to increase shipping rates [if the price change goes through] and possibly lose business or keep rates the same and lose money.”
Michael Lemanski, manager of Trident Bookstore and Café on Newbury Street, said his store does not rely as much on online shipping, but still has uses for mail that could potentially be impacted by an increase in first class prices.
“Most of our shipping that we do is in store,” he said. “[However,] sometimes people buy books if they travel and we ship to them. We also ship when getting book deliveries or book returns to publishers.”
Several citizens said they were unhappy with the prospect of higher prices, but recognized the need for more revenue.
Jill Elliss, 58, a resident of Boston, said she noticed more people are turning to online mailing options for banking and bills, but that physical mail is still important.
“The Postal Service has been around forever and people are still going to need it,” she said. “Not everyone has a computer or knows how to use one.”
Aisha Ayyakad, 22, a resident of Framingham, said the three-cent price increase is reasonable as opposed to a more extreme hike.
“We still need that service,” she said. “It has use in sending physical things, but not so much for letters … [USPS will most likely] become like FedEx [Federal Express] just to send packages and confidential documents.”
Eb Bartels, 25, a resident of Winchester, said that despite all the problems USPS, he would still pay more to send letters if necessary.
“I would prefer to have the Postal Service exist with higher prices than not to exist at all,” she said. “It is for nostalgic people like me who still like to write letters.”