Coin-operated stamp machines have been removed from the lobbies of Valley post offices, replaced at many locations with automated postal centers that can dispense stamps if you have a credit or debit card.
The new kiosks also weigh letters or packages and provide postage stickers.
The change is part of a national program to junk the old stamp machines, which could accept coins or bills and dispense even one or two stamps, said Peter Haas, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Arizona district.
The stand-alone vending machines offered a dozen combination of stamps and could return $1 Susan B. Anthony coins in change.
“The equipment is obsolete, and that makes it difficult and impossible to repair,” he said. “The machines are aging, and the parts are just not available.”
Some machines also got too little use to keep and maintain, he said.
The Postal Service has shifted stamp sales to supermarket customer counters, banks, convenience stores and drugstores as well as numerous retail outlets that have been designated “contract postal units.”
Clerks perform all postal functions at the locations, except collect on delivery. The U.S. Postal Service contracts with businesses and pays them for providing the service, Haas said.
When Tempe’s main station removed its stamp machines last month, nearby Doc Watson’s Nutrition Center, 1804 E. Southern Ave., Tempe., noticed a modest increase in people coming to buy stamps, said Larry Payne, the postal clerk at the shop.
“It’s added convenience for customers,” Payne said. “It makes it a lot more convenient for people in the neighborhoods, and for local businesses that might be in a real hurry. Normally, there is no big line, so it is fairly quick.”
But many of the retail outlets keep shorter postal hours, typically 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., than the post office’s regular counter hours. Many are closed on Sunday.
Patrons who walk into the Dobson Post Office, 2415 W. Broadway Road in Mesa, discover a bare lobby, except for mail slots and a stack of cards with instructions to customers of where they can get full retail services elsewhere, including most supermarkets, many banks and sites like the Mesa Community College bookstore.
Until recently, it had a kiosk for self-service mailing, but that is gone. Haas said its removal is likely because it generated too little trade.
Automated postal centers have been installed in all but one of Scottsdale’s post offices, Haas said, making self-service mailing and stamp-buying possible around the clock, using a debit or credit card.
At Tempe’s main post office, 233 E. Southern Ave., a sign on the door informs customers of three retail outlets offering neighborhood postal service, but one of them, Sunflower Florist, closed its doors several months ago.
Haas said the public has learned fast that they can buy stamps in a lot of places, including ordering them online or by phone and having them mailed to their homes: www.usps.com or (800) 782-6724.
“It’s probably easier than ever to find a place to purchase stamps,” he said.