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To save the post office, send beer?

One provision of the latest effort to shore up the flagging U.S. Postal Service would allow you to receive alcohol in the mail.

By Giselle Smith Apr 30, 2012 4:55PM

Image: Beer (© Corbis)In addition to opening the door to ending Saturday mail delivery in two years, the latest proposal to save the post office includes a provision that would let the U.S. Postal Service begin shipping alcohol across the country.


The ban on shipping beer and wine via the U.S. mail dates back to 1909, 10 years before Prohibition.


The law grew from statutes that prohibited the Postal Service from shipping "poisons, explosives, harmful items, and 'all spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind,'" Josh Sanburn wrote at Time, citing Section 217 of 18 U.S.C. 1716(f) of the Act of March 4, 1909, ch. 321, 35 Stat. 1131.


Private carriers have been shipping beer and wine for years, but the Postal Service hasn't been able to get in on that action thanks to the federal law. Note: Individuals are not legally allowed to ship alcohol to one another via either UPS or FedEx (so no sending one of your favorite wines to Mom for Mother's Day). Those who are licensed to ship wine can apply to either carrier to send it to individuals or businesses, but beer can be sent only between licensed companies, not to individuals -- and shipment of all alcohol is subject to state laws, which vary widely. (Post continues below video.)

Getting into the alcohol shipping business could prove lucrative for the post office, once it's able to establish procedures to ensure that alcohol is not shipped to anyone younger than 21 (requiring a signature for delivery, for example) or to any of the states that prohibit alcohol shipments from out-of-state retailers.


"With the onslaught of e-commerce, as long as (beer and wine) ship legally in terms of states that we're allowed to ship, I think you're going to see it take off," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Time.


According to Time:

Donahoe says he doesn't believe that getting a federal agency like the post office involved in shipping alcohol across state lines is in any way disreputable. In fact, he already has some shipping ideas if it passes: 2-, 4- and 6-bottle wine boxes for one flat rate that would ship anywhere in the country.

The bill including the beer and wine provision passed the Senate last week.

The issue now moves to the House, which is considering its own bill, and Donahoe has given Congress a May 15 deadline before he says the U.S. Postal Service will pursue its own plan, which includes closing some postal service facilities and possibly hundreds of rural post offices.


More from MSN Money:

Apr 30, 2012 10:42PM

Simple way to save the U.S. Post Office is to make it the EXCLUSIVE mailing service for all STATE and FEDERAL MAIL.  No FEDEX or UPS for government business. 


Plus, change the law so they are not FORCED to fund the retirement fund 75 YEARS IN ADVANCE.


Also, remove anyone from office that voted for that bill.


Electing MORONS hurts all of us.

Apr 30, 2012 9:44PM
Fixing the postal service is easy. Congress needs to reverse the legislation that requires the USPS to pre-fund benefits 75 years into the future. Congress broke it - Congress can fix it. And on that topic, it the USPS isn't funded by the federal government, why on earth does the federal government get to tell them how much to charge and when to deliver?
Apr 30, 2012 6:53PM

Why not?..I belong to a wine club and the shipping costs are a big deal. If the Post office can ship cheaper, i




i am all for it!!

Apr 30, 2012 6:57PM

Stopping mail on Saturdays is just one more step to get rid of the Post Office.  On the other hand, allowing the Post Office to deliver booze would be a smart move.


Hope Congress gets its act together concerning the Post Office, we really do need the service and a lot of non-postal jobs could be lost if the Post Office is knocked off.  That Free Market bull about getting better service for less instead of having the Post Office is just that BULL.

Apr 30, 2012 10:21PM

I can't wait until my out of shape 300-lb mailman has to start rolling kegs of German beer to my front porch. 

Apr 30, 2012 7:04PM
Anything that lets the USPS have a better chance at covering their costs is a good thing.
May 1, 2012 1:29AM
Do you really believe ups or fedx can deliver a letter for 50 cents anywhere  in the US?  Dream on! Be careful what you wish for !  One dollar stamps are a reality with ups and feds  - USPS is a public service just like police, fire dept. and other  "public" services.  Wake up America... there's is significantly more government waste needing our attention than the usps.
Apr 30, 2012 7:22PM
Easy solution, get rid of that stupid bill that was passed in 2006, that requires USPS to pay for pensions for the next 75yrs, problem solved!
May 1, 2012 6:51AM

Triple the rate on junk mail I get it every day


May 1, 2012 1:52AM



They shot themselves in the foot when they banned the shipment of cigarettes through the mail only because they raised taxes and the government wanted to get every penny.  So, why not send beer and wine - bet taxes on those items go up so our greedy government officials can give themselves more money.  Agree or not agree - vote now.














Apr 30, 2012 6:49PM
The Post Office should just close on Saturdays, that will save them money. Most jobs are Monday thur Friday, not a big deal, they will save on overtime pay. So its not a big deal with most customers. They should start in in less than 2 years think of the money they will save.
You got that right Bluegirl. Having to Fund benefits for someone that won`t even be born yet for 50 years is the most ludicrous thing i`ve EVER heard of.
Apr 30, 2012 7:10PM

Post office is not ran by taxes from the  people. USPS Sarcastic pay their own bills!! look it up.

May 1, 2012 6:41AM
I hate to see the Postal Service having so much trouble.  They clearly offer the last of the true bargains available in our Society.  If an alien showed up and you told him that for 44 cents you can have an envelope picked up at your home in Key West, Florida and delivered to another home in Seattle, Washington he would say you were crazy.  That is an incredible bargain if you think of what else you can buy for 44 cents.  I don't know what the answer is, but if We allow OUR Postal Service to die, then We are fools.   
Apr 30, 2012 10:33PM
It makes no difference what the government does , everything they touch turns to $HIT !
May 1, 2012 7:10AM
Get rid of the stupid legislation from 2006 that mandates they fully fund the pensions for 75 years in advance, no one else has to. Repeal and the Post Office is fine.
May 1, 2012 1:51AM
The US Postal Service was not organized to be a money making unit of the US Government. Just let the USPS do the job they do and take care of the rest of the country the way congress should. The competition cannot deliver for the same money.
Apr 30, 2012 10:16PM

How about the Postal system exchanging foreign money in high tourist areas and cities to generate new revenues.


'Or how about having the postal system administer the new US Saving Bond program the US Treasury is setting up on the internet.  Considering that only half of the people in this country have access to the internet, they are losing half their potential customers.  This could also generate revenues for the postal system.

May 1, 2012 9:18AM
I've been employed by the postal service at a mail sorting facility for about a year now and have seen some interesting things from within that feed the argument why the postal service is having so many problems.  For one, I am not union; there is a difference.  Many of the "regulars" happen to be in the union and they form a corporate culture that is more like a mafia.  At entry level, my contract directs that I can reasonably expect to work up to 36 hours a week.  Recently, our supervisor chastized us for working past the 36 hour window, citing the issue of paying overtime for entry-level employees, even though we had to get the mail out.  Yet, many of the "regulars" that are insulated by the union frequently pull 12 hour shifts on the clock at $30+ an hour (especially on the holidays- double time and a half).  When the mail is dispatched at the end of the evening we clock out and go home; not so for the "regulars" who enjoy bleeding the clock in the breakroom or napping in their vehicle until they satisfy their "hours".  The post office talks about loosing money.... Indeed, an orgainzational development intervention should investigate the corporate culture and go from there.  
May 1, 2012 9:25AM

The U. S. Post Office has been, and remains, too good a bargain.  There are 3 problems.  One, Congress raided the Post Office revenues to avoid raising general taxes.  Two, postal rates are too low (junk mail rates are set by junk mailers bribing Congressment, first class mail rates are about half what they are in Europe, Canada).  And, Congress (again!) prevents the closing of un-needed, superflous post offices.  The pay rates at the USPO were adjusted years ago to make them more reasonable.


What needs to be done is to remove the direct meddling of Congress and private influence peddlars.  Rates should be raised, especially on junk (unsolicited) mail, as well as first class.  Postal revenues should be used only by the post office and superfluous facilities be closed.


The reason UPS/FEDEX use the U.S. Post Office for "last mile" deliveries, as well as deliveries to remote areas, is that the USPS is both more efficient and covers more of the country.  It also does not need to make a profit, like FEDEX and UPS.  Doing away with the USPS will simply make the United States a more expensive place to do business and a more expensive place to live.  


Good examples of this would be Sierra Leone where the Post Office no longer delivers mail to most places.  Sending a few sheets of paper for home delivery there (via DHL) costs about $200 US for one letter!  To send the same letter to Canada costs (DHL) about $30, or the Canadian post office 88 cents.  In the U.S., it is currently 44 cents USPS.

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