The United States Postal Service is stamping out vending machines, and the Thomson branch has already been affected. Last month, the machine that made stamps and postal supplies available 24 hours every day was removed from the lobby, leaving a noticeable void along the wall in its place.
Tina Freeberg, the South Georgia District Public Relations representative of the USPS, said the removal is taking place nationwide between now and 2010. Ms. Freeberg said the USPS will remove 5,900 machines each year, totaling 23,000 nationwide.
"It sounds like a lot," the spokeswoman said. "But the way customers purchase and buy stamps now is changing. The vending machine is almost the last place they go."
Popularity, or the lack thereof, isn't the only reason for the evacuation. Ms. Freeberg said the machines were getting old and replacement parts are no longer available. And the machines do not recognize the new dollar bills introduced by the national treasury to combat counterfeiters. Also, the machines were not fitted with reading mechanisms for debit and credit card users.
"It is either impossible or cost prohibitive to make them useable," Ms. Freeberg said.
But that doesn't mean customers are limited to shopping at the local branch during business hours. The USPS has many ways for customers to conduct their business, including ordering stamps by mail, online or by phone.
Ms. Freeberg said the post office has stamps by mail order forms in the lobby. The customer fills out the form, mails it in with a check enclosed, and receives their stamps by mail. An additional order form will accompany the delivery, so repeating the process is easy.
Online, stamps can be purchased and printed on a PC by visiting www.stamps.com. And any postal business, including changing addresses or purchasing stamps can be taken care of at www.usps.com.
"We find that people do use the Internet a lot, now, for their postal business," Ms. Freeberg said.
For the technically challenged, stamps can be purchased by calling 1-800-STAMP24, or 1-800-782-6724.
For customers who live on rural delivery routes, the rural carrier operates a post office on wheels.
Ms. Freeberg said customers can meet the carrier and purchase stamps immediately, or leave a note with payment for the carrier to leave the stamps with the mail.
In Thomson, stamps are available from the cashiers at both CVS locations - Hill Street and Washington Road, and at Bi-Lo. And they're still available the traditional way from the post office.
The Thomson Post Office, located on Jackson Street, is open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.