The process of buying stamps is changing.
The U.S. Postal Service is phasing out vending machines because they break down and are costly to repair, tri-city area postal officials said.
"The cost of keeping these machines up is too high," Reid Schilling, postmaster for Prescott and Prescott Valley, adding, "It's hard to get parts."
Schilling said postal officials this past week removed vending machines from the Prescott Gateway Mall and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a smaller stamp machine at the Bob Stump Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He added the phase-out, which is taking place nationwide, will conclude by the end of February.
The Dewey and Humboldt post offices removed the machines during the summer and the Chino Valley Post Office removed its two small vending machines in October, postal officials said.
"They were old machines, not the new advanced type," Dave Hyslip, postmaster in charge in Chino Valley, said. "You could only use a $10 bill. It was very limited. And we had a single-stamp machine (that took) under a dollar."
Postal officials advise area customers to seek other means to buy stamps, besides waiting in line.
For instance, Prescott's main post office on Miller Valley Road has an Automated Postal Center where customers may use credit cards to buy sheets of 41-cent stamps and weigh and mail packages, Schilling said.
"It's been around for a couple of years now," Schilling said. He added postal officials plan to install an APC in a few months in Prescott Valley.
Postal customers also may buy stamps from supermarkets and online at usps.com and stamps.com, Schilling said.
He said consumers also may obtain Stamps by Mail envelopes from carriers, which enables customers to make out checks for stamps and mail the envelopes or return them to the carriers.
However, a letter carrier in Prescott who asked to remain anonymous because he fears retaliation said Postal Service managers did not notify him about providing the envelopes to consumers.
"The ones we have in stock are not for current postage," the letter carrier said.
The pending loss of the postage machines will not inconvenience some customers of the downtown Prescott location.
"I've used the machines occasionally since I have to come to the post office for work," Diane Brock, a bookkeeper who lives in Prescott Valley, said Monday after she left the building on Cortez and Goodwin streets. "I just buy (stamps) at the counter."
Brock added that she cuts down on postage by paying bills online.
Michael Haywood, a land surveyor who lives in Prescott, said he never uses the vending machines.
Haywood said he goes to the counter because he likes the "personal touch" of buying stamps at the counter.
The counter also is the main venue for Karen Ludwig, a Prescott Valley resident who works in insurance customer service. She said she buys stamps for her office using her company's credit card.
"While at the counter, I purchase postage for myself," Ludwig said. "People at the counter are always very accommodating."
The counter can be busier at the Prescott Valley Post Office off Robert Road, where two customers from Prescott Valley said the machines provide convenience.
"The machines are handy," said Bob Rickey, a retired drywall finisher. "I've used them before."
With the machines becoming extinct, Rickey said he plans to buy stamps at supermarkets.
Retired maintenance worker Helen Clinton said the machines have offered her the convenience of buying stamps after hours.
"I have a computer at home, but I have not (bought stamps) online," Clinton said. "I don't like giving out my credit card or check (number) online."
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