on Jun 28th, 2013 | 21 comments
 

Postal customers often choose to stand in line at the counter of their local Post Office, even as an open self-service kiosk sits nearby. In some cases, customers might prefer to interact with a window clerk, perhaps to make sure they purchase the right service or because they want to buy a specialty service not available from the automated kiosk.

But some customers might be unaware that they can get many of the same services at a kiosk that they get from the window. For example, they can buy postage; weigh and send packages; use the ZIP Code lookup feature; and obtain fairly large quantities of First-Class Mail stamps (up to 100 self-adhesive packets). With about 2,500 kiosks in 2,300 retail locations and many of them accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, kiosks are convenient and fairly simple to use.

Consumers have grown so accustomed to using self-service kiosks, including automated teller machines and airline ticketing kiosks, that many people barely remember a time before them. In grocery stores across the country, customers are now choosing to scan and bag their own groceries at self-service checkouts, even though it saves them no money to do it themselves. Yet, consumer backlash against completely automated customer service is growing, especially in some industries such as banking. For example, TD Bank now promotes itself as a bank with “humanity,” using the catch phrase “bank human again.” It seems customers want choice: automation when it’s convenient and human interaction when it is needed.

Does the Postal Service have the right balance of automated options and the human touch? Should it consider expanding the use of self-service kiosks to retail locations that will be operating at reduced hours (less than 8 hours per day)? What could the Postal Service do to increase public awareness and use of self-service kiosks units? Or do you think the public prefers working directly with a person at the window?

If you have been to a Post Office with a kiosk, but opted to wait for a clerk instead, what was the basis for your decision?

21 Comments


I personally prefer to work with a person, but then I’m of that demographic that grew up without a cell phone and remembers when bank clerks knew your name.

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Both, Clerk and Kiosks. Yes! I feel that the automated options and the human touch thats-the-equally-right-balance.

I much prefer the kiosk. Many employees at my local post office locations are much slower than the computer. I like to save the line for complicated shipments.

I like that the automated postal centers are open in the lobby of my post office after hours. It allows me to run in and take care of my postal needs on off hours. The one downside is that if you are shipping a package that is bigger than what fits in the opening of the kiosk, it requires you to stand in line or at least hand off the package to a clerk. Another nearby post office had a kiosk at one time, but then removed it. I’m not sure why and it is disappointing as that PO had more parking available. But with only one clerk working on many days, it almost always has a long line.

I found the kiosks difficult to use, and SLOW. In many cases, it’s actually faster to go through the line. Also, the interface looks about ten years old, and uses postal terms that I’m unfamiliar with. If the kiosk worked more like the self-checkout systems, I might use it.

I collect hand-cancellation postmarks at every post office I visit. I can’t get those at a kiosk!

I’m actually a big fan of using the online click n’ ship over clerk or kiosk. I can ship and schedule a pick-up right from the comfort of home. I just wish they offered more options to ship and print postage, instead of just Express and Priority Mail.
When I do go to the post office and have tried to use the kiosk, they are either out of order or I get through and find I need to see a clerk anyway. If I have to make the drive, I prefer to use the clerk.

There needs to be a balance between each. The Postal Service is cutting back too much on the retail help, and pushing too much to automated transactions. There are still people that want to buy stamps, or those that only send out a package once in a great while. A self checkout system is not going to do these people much good. However, they should bring back the vending machines in some of the smaller offices. The office in the town where I work had a 24 hour PO box lobby. It would be great to buy just a couple of stamps after hours when I go to pick up my mail, as ordering it online is not instant and the grocery store is a few miles away.

There are no kiosks in my area. I visit the JFK station in Boston, the Charles Street station in Boston and the post offices in Watertown, Mass. and there are no kiosks. About 10 or 15 years ago, there was a kiosk at the JFK station and it vended odd amounts of postage (i.e., several first class stamps and then various odd amounts of postage that didn't add up to first class).

There could easily be a kiosk that vended, say, a roll of stamps or a book of stamps and provide change if you use cash or simply accept a credit card. They do this at any local grocery store but not at the post office. The old kiosks didn't do any of this and remained free of customers while the lines at the counter went on and on.

We don't have any kiosks in my area (downtown Boston). The ones that were around about 10 or 15 years ago gave you some first class postage and then some odd denominations of stamps that were unusable unless you later visited a window. There was no ability to get change.

I hope today's kiosk's can give you books or rolls of stamps and accept credit cards or cash (and give change) like any grocery store. I'd prefer this since many of my transactions are simple but I must wait in the long line.

I was not sure if I could ship my package a the kiosk. There was a postal employee standing at the front of the line answering questions as people got to the front of the line (which doesn't help because I was about 20 people back and not getting out of line!) and she told two other people she didn't know if their transaction could be completed at the kiosk. If the postal employees aren't sure, and there is no one to ask, it takes less time to wait in line then try to figure out if I can ship and still end up waiting in line.

I was not able to tell how to buy a plain stamp, to mail a plain letter in a plain envelope. I tried two times, one time selecting buy stamp, one time selecting mail letter. There are no pictures of what you are buying, and the wording I'm sure makes good sense to people who speak Postal Service, but I don't. In the "mail a letter" process it asks if a printed form would fit, but I don't want to have to fill out a form, I've already addressed the envelope.

The line to see a clerk had too many people in it to wait. I don't find the machines at all well thought out. On my second attempt, the person in front of me also gave up in disgust.

The old machines where you could see what you were buying and push a button right next to it were vastly superior.

Are there detailed instructions online for how to use the kiosks? I hate having to learn to use it with other people waiting in line behind me.

Maybe "buy one plain stamp for one plain letter in one plain envelope" should be an option.

I used the self-service kiosk to mail a package -- followed all the instructions, and the package came back saying postage was not sufficient. Now, I have to go back to the post office and find why the machine failed to give me the correct postage. I have used it before with no problems..but if this keeps happening during the holiday season, that will be why most people will wait in line for a person; people don't want their package to come back for insufficent postage.

Well, this evening I played kiosk roulette. Spent an hour going to 3 different post offices only to find the kiosks in each were out of order. . . Again. I have no time left in my work day and am thrilled with the kiosk concept. I just wish they were reliable or there were more available.

I have used the self-service kiosks many times and they are great when they work but the one at the Gateway Loop P.O. in Springfield, OR is seldom in working order. Today I tried it and it worked, well it worked up to the point of taking and charging my credit card and issuing a receipt but no postage. I had to go to the counter and seek help from the one clerk working at the customer service counter. The clerk left the counter and went over to the self-service kiosk and played around with it for about five minutes and then came back to the counter and gave me a refund request form to fill out while he waited on other customers. When I was able to get back with him he started going through some clicks on his computer screen but had to stop and go look at a manual. At this point twenty minutes had gone by and as there was only one clerk the line of people waiting behind me was increasing. I told the clerk that I thought it was getting a bit ridiculous and that would rather just pay for the postage again and get on with my day. The clerk took my money and issued the postage and told me that if I came back in two and a half hours there would be someone who could help me with a refund then.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this is that when I looked at the receipt for the second postage it had a message on it that read:
“In a hurry? Self-service kiosks offer quick and easy check-out. Any Retail Associate can show you how.”

After this experience I will never use the self-service kiosks again and will warn everyone I know about them.

I think kiosks should be require at every post office. If you work during regular business hours these things are PERFECT!

The stamp packs are uglier than sin. I didn't even realize how much I liked having artwork on my stamps until I purchased these abominations. Stamping and mailing envelopes isn't exactly common place anymore, but I do still send cards, rent, and the occasional written letter. I understand where the US Postal Service is financially, and frankly there are a lot of employees in their facilities near me that I purposefully avoid. Not all of the employees, but certainly a good handful. I do use the kiosks if a line has formed in the lobby IFF I am doing anything that is not purchasing a book of stamps.

They're triple the size, and the graphic design looks like it's been done in Microsoft Word 95. I know these kiosks have limitations on what they're capable of producing, but COME ON. Is this really the only way to vend stamps without a clerk?

It would be very helpful if you would make available a YouTube video that provides a detailed tutorial and how to use the self service kiosks. There is a You Tube video currently on the kiosks but it is not detailed enough. I think a good tutorial would help many feel comfortable in using the kiosks . This would help customers and the Post Office, thanks.

The clerk at the Worthington Ohio post office refused to sell me a $5.60 stamp for an express envelope I was planning to mail when I got home because I could not remember the zip code to which I would be mailing the envelope. She assured me that I could use the kiosk at any local post office. I attempted to use the kiosk after hours at one of the west Columbus Ohio stations. It charge my debit card but did not print the stamp. "No refund" was printed on my receipt. I'm dreading having to fight with the counter clerk tomorrow to get the stamp I paid for. Because of this experience, I will NEVER use the kiosk again. They are obviously not as reliable as ATMs. PS, when deciding what post offices to close, please give special attention to the ones that refuse to sell stamps. Thank you.

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