Because of Cost Cutting, 1 in 10 Post Offices May Be Licked

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All that time you spend hanging out at your local U.S. Postal Service retail outlet may have to be spent elsewhere. Oh, wait. You aren’t visiting your local post office much — and that’s partly why the Postal Service has announced it may close about 10% of all 31,000 post offices nationwide.

As the Postal Service continues to lose money—$8 billion lost in 2010 alone—the agency needs to start doing more to slash costs. Already, the USPS has requested to cut Saturday mail delivery and trimmed staff significantly. And now it has announced it may close more than one in 10 retail outlets.

While the total of 31,000 nationwide outlets is actually down from 38,000 a year ago, the USPS put 3,600 post offices on a list Tuesday to study for possible closure. Many of the offices ultimately closed currently serve small, rural communities with a lack of foot traffic.

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In January, after the announcement of 1,400 offices undergoing review for closure, only 280 were shuttered, so far, and another 200 will remain open. The review process continues for the remainder of offices on the unfortunate list. And, in some cases, even while an office closes, services may simply move into a local business or community center or consolidate into another nearby office. Either way, the mail still gets delivered.

While Benjamin Franklin may never have envisioned the dire circumstances for the post office when he ran the new department in 1775, he certainly didn’t anticipate the agency becoming one of the nation’s largest employers, up there with the likes of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, easily stung by a tough economy and the rise of digital communication.

But look on the bright side of all of this closure news: With more offices closing and the possible consolidation of services, maybe a handful of those 170,000 nifty mail trucks will hit the open market.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.