U.S. Postal Service eyes alcohol deliveries

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WASHINGTON -- Special delivery from the post office: beer, wine and spirits, if Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has his way.

Donahoe, in an interview with The Associated Press, said yesterday delivery of alcoholic beverages is on his wish list as the agency, after losing $16 billion last year, considers new ways to raise revenue and save money. He said he endorses ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries to help stabilize the service's finances.

Delivering alcohol has the potential to raise as much as $50 million a year, Donahoe said. He mentioned how customers might, for example, want to mail bottles of wine home when they tour vineyards. Donahoe said his agency has looked at the possibility of using special boxes and ship for a flat rate anywhere in the country. "There's a lot of money to be made in shipping beer, wine and spirits," he said. "We'd like to be in that business."

Currently, the Postal Service says, mailing alcoholic beverages is restricted by law. Customers are even told to cover any logos or labels if they use alcoholic beverage boxes for shipments.

The Senate passed a postal reform bill last year that included a provision allowing the agency to deliver alcohol. It would require that such shipments comply with any state laws where the shipment originated and was delivered.

The measure also said the recipient would have to be at least 21 years old and would need to provide valid, government-issued photo identification upon delivery.

The service's losses are largely due to a decline in mail volume and a congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. About $11.1 billion of last year's losses were due to the health care payments.

Donahoe said the volume at his agency's trademark blue boxes has dropped 60 percent over the past decade. "That's our most profitable mail," he said. "That will continue to drop off because people pay bills online. And we understand . . . we have to continue to make changes."

On a bright note, Donahoe said the volume of packages handled has grown considerably in recent years, a trend he expects to continue.

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