Friday, July 26, 2013
There are small communities scattered all over Southeast Alaska. Sitka, where we have lived for the past several years, would be considered small to many folks, with a population of less than ten thousand. Wrangell is even smaller with about 2500 people. Contrast this with places like Point Baker with about 20 people, or Meyers Chuck with a year-round population of 6, and Sitka looks huge by comparison. The somewhat odd thing about these tiny communities is that they each have a post office. If anyone wondered why the postal service can't seem to operate within budget, think of these places. A 50 pound bag of dog food ordered from Amazon.com probably costs Amazon $20 in shipping. From their warehouse it is put in a truck, shipped to Seattle, put on an Alaska Airlines plane, flown to Alaska, then transferred to a float plane and flown out to the small community, all paid for by the postal service. Float planes charge the post office by the pound, and float plane is the only mail service most of the communities receive. It is amazing to me that postal service can be offered in these places, but the community would not exist without it. When we visited Point Baker on our way from Wrangell to Craig, I had a talk with one of the locals there and he was telling me about the 20 propane tanks he had just received from Amazon. They were clearance priced and eligible for free shipping, so he bought all they had in stock. He didn't need any, but the best price he had seen for these at the chain stores in Juneau was about $50 each, and he got them delivered to the middle of no where for $18 a piece, so he couldn't pass up the deal. It was just a couple days after they had arrived and he had already sold several to his neighbors. Entrepreneurship is alive and well in the backwoods of Alaska.