• on Jun 28th, 2010 in Products & Services | 50 comments
    For decades, the Postal Service offered vending machine service to supplement its retail operations. Vending machines meet the needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line. While the lack of stamp vending machines has resulted in customer frustration and a surprising number of newspaper articles, the problems are particularly acute in economically depressed and more urban areas. Although Automated Postal Centers (APCs) provide many services including the sale of stamps and directly applied postage for First-Class letters, APCs require credit cards, which people in economically depressed areas often do not have. In addition, some customers find APCs to be intimidating to use. Finally, APCs sell only booklets of stamps or individual stamps in denominations of $1 or more, yet many disadvantaged customers may want to buy just one First-Class Mail stamp.

    So with an apparent need for simple vending machines, what should the Postal Service do? In the past, the Postal Service had problems with the legacy machines it owned. They were costly and difficult to maintain and operate. The answer may be to contract this activity out. Commercial vending machines, like those selling soda and chips, are generally not owned and operated by the organizations on whose property they are located. While Postal Service unions and management associations may have concerns, private operators might be very interested in acquiring stamp vending machine contracts for a percentage of gross sales (or similar) while taking sole responsibility for vending machine maintenance and support. In addition to the convenience vending machines would offer, they might also help window clerks operate more efficiently. Diverting low-value stamp sales from windows would increase revenue per labor hour and allow the Postal Service window clerks to focus on more important functions. With shorter lines and happier customers, the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve. This idea could be a win-win for all concerned. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on May 17th, 2010 in Products & Services | 23 comments
    “If it fits, it ships.” If this sounds familiar, you probably heard it from the Postal Service’s Priority Mail® Flat Rate advertising campaign broadcasted on TV or radio. The Flat Rate option offers a simpler way to ship — whatever fits in the flat rate box or envelope (up to 70 pounds) ships for one rate to anywhere in the United States. There is virtually no weighing or calculating. The packages reach their destinations in 1 to 3 days. Normally, Priority Mail prices are based on weight and destination. To increase overall package revenue and market share, the Postal Service launched a highly-integrated, national marketing campaign in May 2009. The campaign is still running as of May 2010. To promote the benefits of Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, the campaign uses TV, direct mail, print and digital advertising, retail point of purchase, and more. Postal Service management shared the campaign messaging with employees through a May 2009 direct mailing. These are two of the recent Priority Mail Flat Rate TV commercials: •Clowns AdvertisementMail Man Advertisement

    Has Priority Mail added value to your shipping needs? What kind of value? Prior to using Priority Mail Flat Rate, were you using a major delivery service such as UPS or FedEx? Specifically, what caused you to switch? If you have not used Priority Mail service, what would you consider the most important reason for not using the service? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit Field Financial - West team.

  • on May 18th, 2009 in Products & Services | 29 comments
    Do you know why some magazines include postcards in the middle? Or have you mailed a letter back to a company in their envelope without having to put a stamp on it? Did you ever wonder how this service works?

    The Postal Service offers a service called Business Reply Mail (BRM). By opening an account with the local Post Office, a business may supply their customers with return envelopes or labels. This allows customers to send a reply via First-Class Mail or Priority Mail. The business pays the postage and a per piece fee only for the pieces returned. To ensure the postage is collected, clerks at the delivery Post Office calculate the amount due and withdraw the money from a customer account. In some cases, carriers collect the postage when they deliver the pieces to the business. Generally, BRM pieces are identified through automation process; however, the Postal Service relies on clerks and carriers to identify and hold out any BRM pieces that have not been isolated through automation.

    Recent changes in the public’s mailing habits alongside increased use of the internet to communicate with customers have led to reductions in BRM volume. This coupled with a smaller workforce with greater responsibilities may increase the risk to the Postal Service of not collecting all revenue from BRM.

    Do you think a change in the way the Postal Service charges for these pieces would increase the mailing volume while also helping the Postal Service reduce work hours? Is a flat rate based on quarterly volume estimates a more attractive option? Share your thoughts on BRM.

    This blog topic is hosted by the OIG's Field Financial East directorate.

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