Appleton’s stamp vending machines disappear

APPLETON — The days of buying postage by stuffing money in machines are gone here, outdated as a 29-cent first-class stamp.

The final 13 coin-operated stamp vending machines in the service area of the Appleton post office, which serves addresses in the zip codes 54911 through 54915, were “decommissioned” by the start of the year, Appleton Postmaster Diane LeVeque said.

About seven other Appleton-area vending machines were removed, earlier victims of a U.S. Postal Service plan unveiled in 2006.

It means Postal Service customers who relied on the vending machines soon will be getting their stamps elsewhere, regardless of where they live.

The stamp vending machine at Copps Food Center at 2400 W. Wisconsin Ave. is still in place even though it completed its last transaction about a month ago, store manager Andrew Reimer said.

“We sell books of stamps at our service desks now, so that makes up for it,” Reimer said Wednesday. “The vending machine used to sell specialty stamps and things like that, which we don’t do, but I don’t know that they sold that many of them.”

The demise of the store’s vending machine spawned no small amount of confusion, but it wasn’t the worst of the news recently delivered by the local post office, he said.

“What was more of an inconvenience for us, actually, was that we had a postal mailbox out at the front of the store,” Reimer said. “They took that away … right around the first of the year.”

The remaining vending machines in Appleton are, for now, reminders of an era when most people used credit cards sparingly. They became easy targets as the Postal Service, a large share of its first-class mail volume already replaced by e-mail, sees its shipping business threatened by private competitors including FedEx and UPS.

“The stamps have been removed from the machines and the machines will be taken out, but we have to get the proper equipment to remove them first,” LeVeque said.

The Postal Service described its plan to eliminate its 23,000 coin-operated stamp machines in an internal memo issued in 2006. The Postal Service spokeswoman who confirmed the plan in an interview with the Associated Press cited the cost of maintaining machines up to 20 years old. The spokeswoman also said the Postal Service would trim its inventory of blue, free-standing mail collection boxes in response to declining first-class mail use.

The Postal Service originally announced it wanted the vending machines gone by 2010. LeVeque’s office beat that deadline by more than a year.

“What’s been happening is that we’ve been having mechanical breakdowns of the aging machines and the replacement parts are no longer manufactured,” LeVeque said, noting the first of the vending machines were installed in 1964.

LeVeque said the Postal Service provides ample alternatives for customers to purchase stamps, including seven Postal Service shipping centers in and near Appleton. Stamps also are available at 21 Appleton-area bank outlets and retail stores.


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