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 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.
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).
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