• on Oct 31st, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 12 comments
    When mailing a letter that weighs about one ounce, the U.S. Postal Service’s 44 cents is one of lowest First Class postage rates. Whether you are mailing a letter locally or sending a greeting card across country, it still only costs 44 cents now, but will increase to 45 cents in January. The graph below compares the U.S. Postal Service’s postage rate with other countries. As you can see, Norway charges the highest rate, which is nearly four times the cost U.S. rate.

     

    Source: 2011 Office of Inspector General analysis of Universal Postal Union data

    Some might feel it is reasonable for the Postal Service to increase rates and charge a fee comparable to those in other countries. On the contrary, others might say the Postal Service’s rate must remain at an affordable level, especially for people with lower incomes. They might also say raising the rate to a level found elsewhere would drive customers away even faster. When you think about prices paid for other goods and services, just how far does 44, 50, or even 75 cents go? By comparison, a small cup of coffee at McDonalds costs a dollar, a gallon of gasoline is over $3, and a gallon of milk is about $4. Share your thoughts below. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • on Oct 24th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 28 comments
    A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment, such as supermarkets, card and gift shops, pharmacies, and colleges. CPUs are operated by the retailer's employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office. The Village Post Office (VPO) concept was introduced earlier this year and is similar to the CPU in that they are retail postal facilities operated by community businesses. However, they provide limited postal products and services. CPUs and VPOs lower U.S. Postal Service expenses, primarily because they use already existing retail stores. The Postal Service does not have to rent its own store and hire dedicated staff. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, CPUs accounted for 8 percent of the Postal Service’s total retail network. In comparison, Canada has private dealer – operated outlets, which are similar to CPUs and account for more than 39 percent of Canada Posts® retail outlets; Australia has Licensed Post Offices and Community Postal Agencies, which are also similar to CPUs and account for 81 percent of Australia Posts® retail network. Expanding the use of CPUs and VPOs could assist the Postal Service in reducing its physical footprint, lowering expenses, providing more outlets for products and services, and potentially increasing access hours. What do you think? Would a system of CPU and VPOs better serve the current market? Do you have any concerns with the concept? Please share your thoughts and ideas. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Control Directorate.
  • on Oct 17th, 2011 in OIG | 3 comments
    Pushing the Envelope is entering its fourth year! So on this annual observance of our birthday, let’s look back at some of the successes of our third year and consider where we hope to take this blog in the next year. We published our first blog in October 2008, and since that time, Pushing the Envelope has tried to highlight a number of important postal issues for the benefit of postal stakeholders and the public at large. In the last year alone, 1046 comments have been posted in response to topics on our blog. In the 2011 fiscal year, we posted 55 new blog topics on a range of subjects. Our most viewed topics from the last year included: 1) Is 5-Day Delivery in the Future? 2) The Postal Service Workers Compensation Program 3) Is “Coopetition” a Good Thing for the Postal Service? 4) The OIG Wants Your Help on Audits 5) What’s Next for the Postal Service in 2011? As you can see, our blogs covered a wide range topics including prominent public policy issues, Postal Service business practices, and the core functions of the OIG’s office. Also, many of our older, favorite blogs continued to generate views and discussion on the comment boards. Our top 5 blogs of all time are: 1) The OIG Wants to Know How You Feel about Sick Leave 2) Silly Rules 3) Brainstorm Ideas to Help the Postal Service 4) Nationwide Wage Uniformity: Is It a Good Idea for the Postal Service? 5) 5-Day Delivery, What about 3-Day? Most of the blogs published in 2011 were written with the Postal Service’s financial condition as the backdrop. We tried to use Pushing the Envelope as a discussion forum to get feedback on new and unique ideas for insuring the Postal Service’s future including developing a comprehensive postal digital strategy, adding new mail products like carbon neutral delivery, and updating older non-postal products like money orders with electronic pre-paid cards. Whether or not these ideas become a reality, we hope to facilitate an open, honest discussion about their pros and cons. This year we also focused on helping our readers understand the core functions of the OIG with blogs about how our Office of Audit works and the ways that the OIG detects and combats contract fraud. Additionally, you, the Pushing the Envelope readers, helped the OIG detect waste, fraud, and abuse by posting 17 comments that were referred to our investigation hotline. This next year should be an important and memorable year for the Postal Service, and we plan to continue focusing on crucial postal policy issues as well as identifying fraud and waste. So, what topics would you like to see covered on the OIG blog in 2012? Are there any things you think we should change? Let us know in the comments section below. Most importantly, thanks for visiting us for the last three years and keep commenting!

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