• on Feb 17th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 23 comments
    The Postal Service requires full addresses on most mail, but this creates unnecessary complications for small local businesses such as pizza parlors and dry cleaners that simply want to send a flyer to every address in the surrounding area. It would be much easier for them to bring a stack of unaddressed mail pieces to the Postal Service and let the Postal Service deliver one to each address.

    The Postal Service previously worked on a concept called Neighborhood Mail to meet this need. Using Neighborhood Mail, a business could send unaddressed mail to potential customers in the community it serves. The Postal Service would tell the business how many pieces were necessary to cover the delivery area and charge it for delivery. Such a service is not unusual. Many postal services in other countries offer unaddressed mail service.

    Neighborhood Mail, however, has its opponents. Newspapers, which compete with mail for local advertising, opposed the development of the Neighborhood Mail concept in the past. Neighborhood Mail would also compete with mail consolidators and alternate delivery providers which currently help small businesses deliver information to the community. In addition, unaddressed mail could raise environmental concerns, so the Postal Service might want to offer households the ability to opt out of receiving Neighborhood Mail.

    What do you think about Neighborhood Mail? Are there other services the Postal Service could introduce to help local communities?

  • on Feb 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 7 comments
    Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service allow merchants to pay the shipping charges for their customers' returns. Merchandise Return Service is the end-to-end version, and Parcel Return Service provides workshare discounts for mailers willing to pick up the packages within the Postal Service's network. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service with their own experiences. Nicole, an OIG employee, recently used Parcel Return Service. She agreed to share her experience on Pushing the Envelope.

    For the 2008 holiday season I tried the all-online shopping approach for the first time. I had my items picked out, purchased, delivered to my door, and even wrapped by December 12! It was an unprecedented feat for me personally and I was overjoyed at the lack of stress involved — that is until I found out the big surprise gift of a digital camera for my Mom turned out to be duplicated by another friend of hers! What does this have to do with the USPS OIG blog? We’ll get there…

    After resigning myself to the fact that the other camera was actually better than the one I purchased, it became clear that I would have to return the item, and my dread mounted. What a hassle — there was no ‘store’ for the virtual vendor I purchased it from, so I’d have to find the invoice, repackage the thing, and get it back to the online seller. Just thinking about how long that would take gave me a headache. That is until I logged into the vendor site and saw that they had something called USPS Parcel Return Service. I thought whoa, what is this? And to my delight, I found that with two mouse clicks and my printer, I could get the return invoice for the package and a pre-paid USPS shipping label for the box! It took me less than 5 minutes to plop the item and invoice in the box, fold and tape the label to it, and be on my way to drop it at a local post office. There was even an option to schedule a pickup of the package free of charge by my local carrier, but I felt entirely too guilty at how easy it was to that point to take advantage.

    So, I stopped by the local post office on my way to work, went in the main lobby, and dropped it straight in the parcel box. E-mails from the vendor confirmed the arrival of the return package, and just this week I received the refund of the purchase price. Easy as that! So next holiday season, I’m not going to let this minor blip keep me from shopping online. Instead, I’m going to look for more vendors who offer this convenient service and online-shop away!

    Have you used Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service? Was your experience similar to Nicole’s? If not, what happened, and how would you improve these services?

  • on Feb 2nd, 2009 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 19 comments

    The Postal Service lost $2.8 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2008. This year, the Postal Service is concerned its loss could grow to $6 billion or more. Since the Postal Service is limited by law from borrowing more than $3 billion per year and the Postal Service started 2009 with only $1.4 billion cash on hand, there is a danger the Postal Service could face a liquidity problem as payroll and benefits alone are about $54 billion a year.

    Last Wednesday, Postmaster General Potter testified to the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service. (Click here to view that testimony.) The Postmaster General asked for two forms of relief:

    • Moderation of payments for retiree health care — Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), the Postal Service must make annual payments (more than $5 billion each year) for the next 8 years into a special fund for future retiree health care benefits. In addition, the Postal Service must pay separately for current retirees. The Postal Service requested the ability to start paying for current retirees out of the retiree health care fund now rather than in 8 years as called for in the PAEA. The large annual payments into the fund would continue.
    • Optional 5-day delivery — The Postal Service would like the Board of Governors to have the option of reducing delivery from 6 days a week when circumstances warranted.

    What do you think of these options?

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