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No, there’s no ‘business case’ for the USPS move out of Reno

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus

Imagine Amazon deciding it would ship goods from its warehouse in Northern Nevada to a sorting facility in Sacramento, before finally putting it on a truck for final delivery somewhere in Reno. 

If such a shipping route seems unnecessarily complex, absurdly inefficient and patently illogical, that’s because it’s all of those things — which is precisely why Amazon doesn’t do it that way. The federal government, on the other hand, seems to believe a similar route for domestic mail processing is somehow a winning business strategy. 

Last week, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced it would move forward with its plan to relocate Reno’s mail processing operations to Sacramento — meaning mail in northern Nevada will first have to be trucked across Donner Pass and sorted in California before coming back to Reno for final delivery. 

The move has rightly drawn bipartisan outrage from elected officials, with the entire Nevada delegation criticizing the agency for the plethora of problems it could pose to Silver State residents.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) rightly argued in a recent Senate hearing that the move is going to wreak havoc on delivery times for local mail. As Rosen pointed out, the USPS is already struggling to meet its goal of a two-day delivery window. Adding unpredictable weather patterns along Interstate 80 to the mix probably won’t do much to improve matters. 

For mailing letters locally in Reno, the added time of sending parcels to Sacramento and back during adverse weather conditions will merely be an inconvenience. However, for other items routinely sent by the USPS — such as medications, jury notices and election ballots — the consequences could be far more severe. 

And politically, we should brace ourselves for that first election after mail starts getting rerouted to Sacramento. If you think there’s an overabundance of electoral conspiracy theories floating around the state right now, just wait until mail ballots up north have to make a trek to some processing facility in California before being delivered to local authorities for tabulation in Nevada. 

The mere possibility of a USPS truck full of ballots jackknifing on I-80 is enough to make even reasonable voters worry — imagine what opportunists on the conspiratorial fringe would do with such events.  

Unfortunately, the concerns of Nevada’s elected officials have fallen on deaf ears. Despite unanimous and bipartisan objections from our politicians, the agency claims the “business case” for the move is simply too strong to keep operations in Reno — regardless of how the relocation will impact those who depend on the USPS in Northern Nevada. 

However, one has to wonder what exactly the USPS means by the term “business case.” After all, while the agency is preparing to move out of the region, actual businesses have been doing the exact opposite for years. 

Northern Nevada has become a logistical “hotspot” with companies, distributors and manufacturers flocking to the area in an effort to better serve their customers and shareholders. How could it be that the agency’s “business case” is so at odds with so many actual businesses that have found Nevada to be a highly convenient place to set up operations? 

Well, for starters, the USPS is desperate to save money in any way it can, and because much of the mail processed in Reno is destined for other regions — such as California — moving operations will likely result in some marginal savings. Despite the absurd inefficiency of sending local Reno parcels all the way to Sacramento for processing, the move is expected to save the agency between $3 million to $4 million the first year.

That potential savings is, apparently, the only thing that matters to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s cadre of D.C. bureaucrats. As fellow columnist David Colborne recently wrote, DeJoy is “trying to run the Postal Service as a business” and cutting costs to get the balance sheet back in the black appears to be his primary focus.

However, cutting costs isn’t the only concern for a profitable business — logistical efficiency, customer satisfaction and public relations all matter as well. Amazon, for example, could probably cut costs by consolidating its distribution centers and gutting its Prime delivery guarantees for a great many customers. On a simple spreadsheet, shuttering a few warehouses or laying off a few thousand drivers would represent an immediate “savings” for the business to boost profits. 

In the real world, however, things aren’t so simple. Such layoffs and closures would obviously have an adverse impact on how well the company can serve its customers — which isn’t a winning strategy for long term profitability. Indeed, most businesses are similarly concerned with addressing the needs of their customer bases, if for no other reason than that’s where profits are generated. 

The Washington D.C. bureaucrats running the USPS, on the other hand, seemingly have no interest in the concerns of Northern Nevada’s “customer base.” DeJoy couldn’t even be bothered to pronounce the name of our state correctly a couple weeks ago. 

And the reason for this disinterest in the concerns of postal “customers” is simple: The USPS isn’t a real business — it’s a government agency with a monopoly over the service it offers. As a result, its “business” concerns are dramatically different from those of private distributors, manufacturers or logistical companies operating throughout the exact same region. 

That’s why Amazon will have no problem continuing to get us goods directly from its warehouse in one day or less — but getting a letter from one end of Reno to the other will soon take days or even weeks every time I-80 shuts down. Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at or on Twitter at @schausmichael.


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