• on Apr 12th, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 40 comments
    The Postal Service is required by law to “provide, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Consequently, the Postal Service has the largest retail presence in America with more than 32,000 leased or owned facilities located across the country. Today, alternate access channels are widely available. Customers can purchase stamps and access services at the Postal Service’s website www.usps.com, self-serve kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately-operated shipper locations. Meanwhile, in the past decade, business and household mailers have increasingly turned to electronic media to transmit correspondence that was formerly sent through the postal system. In addition, a weakened economy has resulted in declining mail volume and revenue. The combination of the availability of alternative access and declining revenue requires the Postal Service to re-evaluate its retail network to eliminate growing excess capacity, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. In May 2009, the Postal Service began a national initiative, known as retail optimization, to consolidate its retail stations and branches in urban and suburban areas. Unlike some other retailers, the Postal Service can’t close their stores without generating public reaction. Closing just a small percentage of postal facilities can affect thousands of people and communities and is often questioned by those communities involved. As a result, there is a need for the Postal Service to work with stakeholders to balance their interests and optimize resources. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Network Optimization Team.
  • on Mar 22nd, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 16 comments
    As the Postal Service examines its business model and contemplates changes meant to increase its efficiency, Congress’s role in postal operations has captured public attention. A prime example is the Postal Service’s recent efforts to trim its retail operations. As a cost cutting initiative, on July 2, 2009, the Postal Service filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission a list of Post Office stations and branches it was considering closing. After the filing, many entities questioned the Postal Service’s authority to close these facilities. An article published on the U.S. News & World Report website states, “Call your local congressman if you don’t want your local Post Office retail station or branch to be closed.” In addition, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) announced on its website “the APWU continues to lead community-based drives to keep retail units open.” Clearly, identifying the exact number and location of closings supercharges emotions. Add very real issues like social customs and potential job losses and relocations to the mix, and there are even more negative feelings associated with Post Office closures. It is not clear yet the number of retail stations and branches that will be closed, but what started out as list of 3,200 candidates has now declined to fewer than 170. In the action plan the Postmaster General announced in March, he cited a number of issues that will require legislative approval, including the retail network. The question is whether Congress, given constituent and political pressure, can provide the Postal Service the level of autonomy necessary to address this issue. How do you think Congressional oversight affects Postal Service operations? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit Network Optimization team.
  • on Nov 9th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 65 comments
    News about disappearing collection boxes is everywhere these days. Even BBC News ran a story on the decline of the blue collection box in the United States.

    The Postal Service argues that picking up mail from collection boxes is expensive. Removing underused boxes is a cost savings move and a reasonable response to the economic crisis. The Postal Service is removing boxes with less than 25 stamped mail pieces per day.

    Critics wonder if there is adequate analysis to support the 25-piece minimum and whether one reason for removing collection boxes — in addition to the minimal cost savings — is that the Postal Service does not want to be criticized for poor service. Fewer boxes mean fewer opportunities to miss a collection or to pick up mail too early.

    Is the Postal Service thinking too narrowly and missing some of the value of collection boxes? The ubiquitous presence of the boxes is free advertising for the ailing agency. How much would a private sector company pay to be allowed to put a collection box anywhere it wanted to in the country? Millions? Billions?

    What do you think? Is removing collection boxes a reasonable cost-cutting move or a strategic mistake that the Postal Service will later regret?

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

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