• on Jun 20th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 7 comments
    Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins. E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth. Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives? Yes or no, and why? This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • on Jun 9th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 8 comments
    Think for a moment about your most recent visit to a store. How late was it open? Where was it located? Now think about the last time you visited a Post Office? Were there any differences between the two experiences? While retail and the society at large have changed tremendously in the last 40 years, the size and distribution of the Postal Service retail network today is not that different from the network that existed in 1971. It has not changed to reflect the changes in where and how Americans live today.

    Why is this? An OIG paper issued today, Barriers to Retail Network Optimization, highlights some of the obstacles to change:

    Statutory restrictions prevent closing Post Offices for economic reasons and impose requirements for notice, consultation, and appeal procedures. • Regulatory procedures and interpretations create burdens on the Postal Service’s ability to make adjustments. • Political obstacles to rightsizing result from the natural inclination of affected groups to protest the loss of local Post Offices. • Institutional barriers within the Postal Service prevent action. These include a lack of sustained focus over time on retail optimization, problems with the availability and quality of data, past dependence on a highly decentralized bottom-up process, and the absence of a well-articulated strategic retail vision. What changes would you like to see to the Postal Service’s retail network? What do you think are the biggest barriers to change? We want to hear from you. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jun 6th, 2011 in Labor | 24 comments
    It happens many times . . . a company invests time and money into training employees only to have them leave soon after the training is complete. Some industries and companies now have contractual agreements requiring employees to repay training costs to their employers if they separate from employment before a specified period. Congress has also passed legislation requiring continued service agreements from government employees who have received extensive training. These contracts obligate employees to continue working for the agency (or another government agency, depending on their employer’s policy) for a period at least equal to three times the length of the training. If the employee leaves government service before the agreed-upon service time, the agency has the right to require repayment for the amount of time not served. Private sector industries such as information technology, airline, and trucking are also requiring employees to sign these types of agreements. One company requires employees to sign contracts for training programs that are considered expensive and time intensive. The company uses a formula that equates one month of labor for every $1,000 of costs; for example, a $7,000 course would require a seven month commitment.

    The U.S. Postal Service employs approximately 40,000 maintenance craft employees to work in a variety of assignments. Some of these assignments, such as maintenance mechanics, require specific training at great cost to the Postal Service. For example, one training course lasts 13 days and costs $3,325 per employee.

    Should employees receiving specialized training sign contracts to remain with the Postal Service for a specified period so that the cost of providing the training can be recouped? Should employees who received training be permitted to leave for more lucrative positions in the private sector as soon as they are certified without compensating the Postal Service? Should such restrictions apply to all Postal Service employees who receive specialized training?

    This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit's Network Processing team.

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