• on Aug 13th, 2012 in Products & Services | 29 comments
    More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million. The cost of mail forwarding – and returning to sender and treating as waste -- is baked into the overall First Class Mail rates, so all customers effectively pay for this service whether they use it or not. Canada Post has taken a different approach to mail forwarding, charging recipients either an annual or semi-annual fee when they move. Residential customers pay $75 for 12 months of forwarding and business customers pay $235. These prices increase slightly if the person or business moves to another province. The Canada Post model extricates the costs from the overall First Class Mail rate and is structured so recipients pay for the service, but only if they use it. Some U.S. business customers have requested that the Postal Service explore new pricing and product options to reduce the costs of forwarding and returning mail to sender. Would a model similar to the Canada Post one work in the U.S. or would residential recipients, in particular, feel like they were being charged for a service they thought was free? Should the sender pay for forwarding instead of the recipients? What would happen if recipients or senders decided against paying for forwarding? Would total costs merely go up since return to sender mail costs more than twice as much as forwarding per piece? Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts below.
  • on Jun 11th, 2012 in Products & Services | 14 comments
    A 100-year old temperance-era law prohibits the Postal Service from shipping alcohol and benefiting from the growth in online purchases of wine, beer, and other spirits. As states have loosened their restrictions on inter-state alcohol shipments, FedEx and UPS have seized this burgeoning opportunity. The Postal Service needs to secure new sources of revenue in an era of declining mail volume. Shipping of alcohol could create an additional revenue stream, while capitalizing on the Postal Service’s strength in last-mile delivery. Shipping of alcohol would require the Postal Service to establish a strict set of rules. First, it would have to be sure no one under age 21 receives alcoholic shipments. Second, it would have to comply with varying state laws, some of which prohibit the shipment of out-of-state alcohol directly to consumers. Other states allow direct shipments to consumers but restrict those shipments to producers, such as wineries. The Postal Service has indicated it would put proper restrictions in place, such as requiring an adult signature for shipments of alcohol. It even appears to have ideas around flat rate boxes that could hold two, four, or six bottles of wine. With the right restrictions in place, should the Postal Service be allowed to ship alcohol and tap into this growing market? Or should an organization that is part of the federal government stay out of the business of shipping alcohol given the negative images sometimes associated with alcohol consumption? What do you think? Share your comments below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Office of Audit.
  • on Jun 4th, 2012 in Products & Services | 14 comments
    Following the success of the Priority Mail ® Flat Rate Box® advertising campaign, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to use the “If it fits, it ships” letter carrier (actor and comedian Mike Bradecich) as the public face for one of its newest products, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). The campaign’s new tag line, “Every home, every address, every time” describes the new product’s main advantage: small businesses can target every address in their local area without having to provide every name and address. EDDM is a different product than the Flat Rate Box because it’s geared toward small business customers. The Flat Rate Box is intended for both individuals and businesses. One of the new television commercials points out the value of direct mail for small businesses over other types of advertising options like billboards. This message is intended to appeal to local businesses, like restaurants and doctor’s offices, which may not advertise much to begin with and face tough decisions about where to put their limited advertising dollars. It remains to be seen whether a mass media advertising campaign is the best way to bring these small businesses into direct mail, even if supplemented with direct mail and online advertising. Check out two of the new television advertisements: Official USPS Chicken Commercial Official USPS Billboard Commercial The main message in the campaign is simplicity. Businesses no longer need mailing lists, and they can drop off their mail (up to 5,000 pieces) at their local post office instead of Business Mail Entry Units. Given the smaller audience and the larger cost for this product, it remains to be seen if EDDM will be as well received as Priority Mail, but the Postal Service appears to believe this product has potential. Revenues for EDDM since April 2011 (when the product was introduced) have grown rapidly and could increase as the economy continues to improve. The advertisements began running in April on TV and the campaign will include print, radio, and direct mail. So, tell us what you think about this new advertising campaign. Have you seen the new advertisements? How do you think this advertising campaign compares to the Priority Mail campaign? Does it do a good job of addressing the needs of small businesses?

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