• on Sep 21st, 2009 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 90 comments
    Keep Sunday Operations?

    We’ve all heard the bad news. Mail volume in fiscal year (FY) 2008 totaled 202.7 billion pieces, a decline of 9.5 billion pieces or 4.5 percent compared to the previous fiscal year. Mail volume has declined even further this year. At the end of the last quarter, mail volume was down more than 12 percent from the same period last year. Most recently, the Postal Service lost $2.4 billion in the third quarter of FY 2009 and projected a net loss of more than $7 billion for FY 2009.

    As a panelist during the August 6 Senate subcommittee hearings on the Postal Service, Postmaster General Jack Potter once again focused on the need for 5-day delivery, greater flexibility, and the elimination of some network infrastructure. During the same hearings, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended urgent action to streamline the mail processing and retail networks as the Postal Service no longer has sufficient revenues to cover the cost of maintaining its large network of processing and retail facilities.

    End Sunday Operations?

    The reality of the current situation is that in many areas the Postal Service has an excess of equipment, staff, and facilities to process a declining volume of mail. Given the harsh economic conditions faced by the Postal Service today, looking at opportunities to cut costs by streamlining inefficient operations or eliminating unnecessary ones makes good business sense.

    One area for consideration is the elimination of Sunday mail processing operations. In many Processing and Distribution Centers around the nation, mail processing activities are run on Saturday night and into Sunday just as they are the rest of the week.

    With mail volume declining, should the Postal Service reduce mail processing operation to 6 days a week, rather than the traditional 7 days, and allow employees to have Sunday off?

    This blog is hosted by the Network Operations directorate.

  • 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).

  • on Sep 8th, 2009 in Labor | 7 comments
    Source: BLS Metropolitan Area Wage Estimates May 2008
    (Occupation Codes: 25-2031, 43-5052, and 47-2061)

    Thanks for the great response to last week's blog. Last week, we asked about pay comparability, and 23 percent of those polled voted that the goal for postal compensation should be to match the prevailing private sector compensation. However, 35 percent voted that Postal Service compensation should exceed private sector pay, and the largest group of voters (40 percent) said that Postal Service pay should be set at levels necessary to get good, qualified employees.

    In reality, matching private sector pay is virtually impossible with a uniform pay structure. Why? The uniform postal wage may be much higher than the prevailing wages in a low cost-of-living area and much lower than private sector pay in high-cost areas. A letter carrier working in New York makes the same as the letter carrier working in Dubuque, Iowa. So this week, we’re seeking your opinions and comments on wage uniformity. Regardless of how you feel about the need to match the private sector in general, should postal wages vary by area? The federal government currently has 31 locality pay areas for General Schedule (GS) employees, and the federal “blue collar” schedule called the Federal Wage System has 257 wage grade areas. Should postal wages vary in a similar manner by locality?

    What are some of the consequences of having uniform wages? Does it make it harder to find qualified workers in urban areas? Are workers more reluctant to relocate to high-wage areas? What do you think?

    To limit the effect on effect on current employees, a two-tier system could be introduced that applies geographic-based pay to new employees only. What do you think about a two-tier system?

    Are there other alternatives for introducing geographic-based pay?

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

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