• on Apr 5th, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 42 comments
    According to a New York Times article, nearly 10 percent of Americans do not have bank accounts. These and other underbanked people may be taken advantage of by lenders, check cashing facilities, and pawnbrokers through excessive interest rates and fees. Fortunately, in this country, there are many options for consumers to choose, including prepaid debit cards. What if the Postal Service explored partnering with prepaid debit card providers to sell prepaid debit cards at post offices, just as they are now sold at other retail outlets? While the Postal Service explored similar products in the past, the current economic climate calls for a reexamination of the product. The Postal Service’s current experience conducting financial transactions in the form of money orders and Dinero Seguro would aid in the introduction of prepaid debit card services. Offering the cards could create a new revenue stream for the Postal Service and earn interest on the cards’ float, the money residing in cardholder accounts. That money may be invested prior to its use by account holders. The Postal Service might also benefit from increased sales of other products due to an increase in store traffic. The Postal Service has two core market advantages that would aid it in successfully offering prepaid debit cards. First, with the second-largest retail network in the country, the Postal Service could sell prepaid debit cards in areas with limited private sector retailers. Second, customers may be more likely to come to a Post Office to purchase prepaid debit card transactions because of their trust in the Postal Service brand. Legal and regulatory constraints, however, currently prohibit the Postal Service from offering prepaid debit cards. Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the Postal Service cannot offer new nonpostal products. Private sector interests may also work to prevent the Postal Service from competing against them by offering this product. Finally consider that given the robust variety of financial institutions already in this country, the Postal Service should evaluate whether offering prepaid banking card services would provide valuable options to customers while making a profit for itself. What do you think? Why did you answer yes or no to the poll question? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Mar 1st, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 28 comments
    According to a representative on the Postal Regulatory Commission’s staff, a Postal Service-run lottery “could offer the potential for substantial profits for the Postal Service and utilize its current retail infrastructure with its 36,000 retail outlets.” Popular lottery formats in many states include drawings and instant lottery tickets. The claim is that running a national lottery could help the U.S. Postal Service close its multibillion-dollar budget gap.  It could also build foot traffic to post offices, increasing retail sales of postal products. A lottery might bring in a lot of revenue, but would it also bring more problems?
    • A lottery, like any form of gambling, is susceptible to fraud, despite the high degree of scrutiny claimed by the organizers.
    • Lines at many lottery depots can be long when jackpots are high—stretching around corners. Adding lottery customers to the lines at post offices could have a negative impact on regular customers who are not lottery players.
    • How would the states react to the Postal Service joining the business of selling lottery tickets? Would the ability to reach out to such a large audience (through 36,000 retail units) take money from state lotteries, a number of which earmark revenues for education and social programs?
    • Who would run the lottery operations? Is Postal Service management equipped for such an endeavor?
    • What do you think?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Nov 30th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 32 comments

    From public transportation to sports stadiums, venues use their prime real estate to sell space to advertisers and generate extra revenue. Take for example the Washington Metro transit system. Ad space is for sale everywhere — on buses and trains (inside and out) and even on train tunnel walls and floors.

    In these times of doing what it takes to maintain fiscal solvency, what if the Postal Service started selling its prime advertising real estate to generate revenue? Major advertisers might welcome the opportunity to place their ad on hundreds of thousand Postal Service trucks all over the country. Or smaller advertisers could take advantage of purchasing wall-space in a post office. The Postal Service actually explored selling advertising space around 2001 in a program called the Postal Ad Network, but it was discontinued after it raised much less money than initially expected. However, a major advertising slump hit right at the time the Postal Ad Network was rolling out.

    There are some major ‘what ifs.’ Who would manage the program and what would be charged for advertising? More importantly, what would the limitations be? When Major League Baseball proposed placing ads on bases, there was a major league backlash. How would the public react to advertising on Postal Service property? Would certain types of advertising be out of bounds? The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act does not permit the Postal Service to undertake new nonpostal products. Would selling advertising on Postal Service property violate the law? And how would selling advertising space affect the Postal Service’s brand?

    Putting aside those issues, would it be worth it? And what kind of increased revenue would an advertising program like this bring?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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