• on Jan 25th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 124 comments
    How much does it cost to develop, print, ship, inventory, secure, sell, and cancel a stamp used to mail a letter?  What about the stamps that are never sold?  The Postal Service destroys billions of stamps each year because they are obsolete.  In FY 2008, the Postal Service printed 37 billion stamps, which cost $78 million to print.  In that same year, they destroyed old stamps, some of which were printed more than 10 years ago, that were valued at approximately $2.8 billion.  Those stamps were printed, shipped, counted multiple times in various inventories, and finally shipped back for destruction under secure conditions.  How much does this cost and does the Postal Service benefit from the expense?

    Are there better alternatives to stamps?  Business customers often rent postage meters and use permits for bulk mail.  Now, the advent of online postage vendors has given individual customers an alternative to stamps.  Customers that use online postage can customize their postage and incorporate approved language or pictures.

    Not everyone has access to a computer.  What can we do for people who do not have access to online postage or who simply do not want to use online postage?  One answer may be simplifying the Postal Service’s current stamp inventory.  What if all postage stamps were “Forever Stamps”?  Stamps would never become obsolete and have to be destroyed, and production costs would never eat up their contribution to overhead.  After a rate increase — now generally an annual event rather than every 3 or 4 years — there would be no 1-cent or 2-cent stamp shortages or rush to produce the next generation of denominated stamps. What about stamp collectors?  Would philatelic sales suffer if the Postal Service reduced the denominations it offered?  Commemorative Forever Stamps could be issued in limited quantities to satisfy collectors.  Some commemorative stamps could be sold locally, while others could only be ordered and shipped direct from a central location.  Forever Stamps that marked holidays or other special events such as birthdays would be very useful for people who wanted to stock up.  And what could be more appropriate for wedding invitations than “Forever Love” stamps? Do you know of a better method of postage payment, convenient and available to everybody that could be implemented? Tell us what you think. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Field Financial East directorate. Topic was revised to indicate that 37 billion stamps not $37 billion worth of stamps were printed in 2008.

  • on Dec 21st, 2009 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 20 comments
    Last Monday was predicted to be the busiest day of the year for Post Offices™ across the country. Have you visited a Post Office recently? If so, we would like to hear your story.

    Why were you there? What worked well? What didn’t work well?

    Has your local Post Office adopted any best practices that should spread across the country? Are there any low-cost improvements that would improve the retail experience?

    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Keep in mind that Pushing the Envelope will not publish comments that contain personally identifiable information, so please don’t include any names in your story.

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

  • on Sep 14th, 2009 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 50 comments
    Like most retailers, the Postal Service uses mystery shoppers — customers unknown to the retail staff who fill out evaluations on their shopping experience — to determine how well retail units are performing. Not every postal retail unit is visited by mystery shoppers. Only units with a certain amount of revenue are included in the mystery shopper program.

    Mystery shoppers record how long they spent in line, how the retail unit looked, how courteous the retail associates were, and other details about their visit. For example, sales associates are supposed to ask whether a package contains anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous. Mystery shoppers are asked to note down whether anyone asked them this about their package.

    Five weeks ago, Pushing the Envelope dealt with the topic of “upselling.” Some of the questions on the mystery shopper evaluation relate to which products sales associates promote to their customers. Given the variety of customers and types of transactions, the need for a uniform approach to customers is important. Is it appropriate, however, to include items generally viewed as “upselling” in the mystery shopper program?

    What about the mystery shopper program in general? Is it effective or can it be improved? What do you think is the most effective way to ensure postal retail units provide good retail service?

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

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