• on Oct 13th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 15 comments
    When the topic of competition for the Postal Service comes up in casual conversation, the discussion usually involves FedEx or UPS. However, packages are a relatively small part of the Postal Service’s business. Certainly, these firms are direct competitors, but are there other competitors for Postal Service business? What alternatives compete with each of the various Postal products? What, if anything, can the Postal Service do to better compete in each product line? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Feb 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 7 comments
    Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service allow merchants to pay the shipping charges for their customers' returns. Merchandise Return Service is the end-to-end version, and Parcel Return Service provides workshare discounts for mailers willing to pick up the packages within the Postal Service's network. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service with their own experiences. Nicole, an OIG employee, recently used Parcel Return Service. She agreed to share her experience on Pushing the Envelope.

    For the 2008 holiday season I tried the all-online shopping approach for the first time. I had my items picked out, purchased, delivered to my door, and even wrapped by December 12! It was an unprecedented feat for me personally and I was overjoyed at the lack of stress involved — that is until I found out the big surprise gift of a digital camera for my Mom turned out to be duplicated by another friend of hers! What does this have to do with the USPS OIG blog? We’ll get there…

    After resigning myself to the fact that the other camera was actually better than the one I purchased, it became clear that I would have to return the item, and my dread mounted. What a hassle — there was no ‘store’ for the virtual vendor I purchased it from, so I’d have to find the invoice, repackage the thing, and get it back to the online seller. Just thinking about how long that would take gave me a headache. That is until I logged into the vendor site and saw that they had something called USPS Parcel Return Service. I thought whoa, what is this? And to my delight, I found that with two mouse clicks and my printer, I could get the return invoice for the package and a pre-paid USPS shipping label for the box! It took me less than 5 minutes to plop the item and invoice in the box, fold and tape the label to it, and be on my way to drop it at a local post office. There was even an option to schedule a pickup of the package free of charge by my local carrier, but I felt entirely too guilty at how easy it was to that point to take advantage.

    So, I stopped by the local post office on my way to work, went in the main lobby, and dropped it straight in the parcel box. E-mails from the vendor confirmed the arrival of the return package, and just this week I received the refund of the purchase price. Easy as that! So next holiday season, I’m not going to let this minor blip keep me from shopping online. Instead, I’m going to look for more vendors who offer this convenient service and online-shop away!

    Have you used Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service? Was your experience similar to Nicole’s? If not, what happened, and how would you improve these services?

  • on Jan 16th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 14 comments
    A recent presentation by Deutsche Post describes the German delivery and logistics company’s efforts to transform its retail network. One particularly interesting innovation is self-service Packstations. Like the U.S. Postal Service’s APCs (Automated Postal Centers), these kiosks allow customers to ship packages. However, Packstations also provide 24-hour access for parcel pickup. Customers can register to receive their packages at any packstation in the country. When the package arrives, the recipient receives an e-mail or text message. Rather than rushing to the post office before it closes, customers can use their card and pin number to retrieve it at any time. This convenience is particularly helpful for people who have no way to get to a post office when it is open.

    Deutsche Post already has 1,500 Packstations in Germany and is planning to add 1,000 more. What do you think about Packstations? Would you use one?

    Should the U.S. Postal Service look into providing 24-hour parcel pickup? If so, how? What about combining APCs with parcel pickup?

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