• 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).

  • on Aug 31st, 2009 in Labor | 54 comments
    The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 included the goal of matching postal employees’ compensation with that of private sector workers. The recently enacted Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) did not alter that goal. However, such a comparison is virtually impossible since private sector compensation varies considerably by locale, whereas postal compensation does not. It is also difficult to decide what constitutes a comparable job, and how benefits should be considered. Given the Postal Service’s financial situation and calls for down-sizing, the issues surrounding this policy take on special meaning. Over the course of the next two weeks, we’d like to ask you about this policy in general, its applicability in the diverse labor market across the country, and what changes might be in order to facilitate the financial situation and the level of service afforded the public.

    So, first of all, as a general matter and notwithstanding current contracts, does it make sense to attempt to match private sector compensation? Does the goal in the 1970 legislation still make sense today?

    How should Postal Service pay be set? If private-sector comparability is used, what types of jobs are comparable to postal work?

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

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