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thedrifter
08-13-07, 09:02 AM
Sending troops mail gets more costly
By Karen Jowers - kjowers@militarytimes.com
Posted : December ,

The cost of postage stamps may have increased by two cents, or 5 percent, but rates for packages have gone up a lot more in some cases, say those who support the troops.

Before postal rates increased May 14, Mary Kay Salomone spent $10 to send a 25-pound box to Iraq or Afghanistan. Now it’s $13.90, said the founder of Operation Support Our Troops in North Kingstown, R.I.

“That’s a 39 percent increase. This country is battle weary. Donations are falling off. I’m not getting 39 percent more in donations,” she said.

For every 100 packages she sends, she’s paying $1,390 — $390 more than what her organization paid before.

“The people this is affecting the most are military families with deployed service members and nonprofits that are sending to deployed service members. I expected a 10 percent to 15 percent rate increase. How much more can you do to the military families?” said Salomone, retired Army wife and Army mother.

She wants the U.S. Postal Service or Congress to give a break to those mailing support packages to the troops.

“Congress should allow a 25 percent discount to those mailing to APO and FPO addresses of troops in harm’s way, even if it’s just a temporary discount,” she said. “Some of our troops with the Iraqi forces are still asking for basic things, like toilet paper, shampoo, hand sanitizer and neck coolers. We throw in things to make their lives easier, like a clean towel.”

Across the board, the average increase in postal rates was about 13 percent, said Jimmy Cochrane, manager of package services for the U.S. Postal Service.

Other than an increase in 2006 based on statutory requirements, he said, this is the first increase since 2002 in postal rates.

It is unclear whether the increase in rates has affected the number of packages being sent. Cochrane said business has been flat in terms of package volume, but “there’s a general flatness in the shipping market,” largely because of a slowdown in the economy.

But he said there has been no decrease in military mail, from what they see.

The U.S. Postal Service says there has seen a decrease of about 2.8 percent in priority mail packages in the quarter ending June 30, compared to the same period in the previous year. The rate increase took effect about midway through the quarter.

Priority mail is more expensive than sending items by Parcel Post, which is how Salomone sends her boxes. The number of Parcel Post packages being sent has risen slightly, by less than 1 percent.

In Salomone’s case, the 39 percent increase in costs was three times the average hike. But in some cases, the cost for sending a package went down, postal officials said.

Salomone said her volunteers in San Francisco would now pay $8 less to send a 25-pound box by Parcel Post — down to $27.11 from $35. Cost depends on where the package is coming from, where it’s being shipped and the sizes and shapes of the boxes.

For cost reasons, the San Francisco contingent has been using the Priority Mail Flat Rate box to send items to the troops, which now costs $8.95 to send whatever you can stuff in, regardless of weight. The cost to mail a flat-rate box increased from $8.10.

Cochrane said the flat-rate box is popular for sending items to troops, and from what he sees during mail processing, “about every other box” going to the troops is flat-rate. He advises those mailing overseas to check out that money-saving option.

Ellie