on Oct 24th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 28 comments
 
A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment, such as supermarkets, card and gift shops, pharmacies, and colleges. CPUs are operated by the retailer's employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office. The Village Post Office (VPO) concept was introduced earlier this year and is similar to the CPU in that they are retail postal facilities operated by community businesses. However, they provide limited postal products and services. CPUs and VPOs lower U.S. Postal Service expenses, primarily because they use already existing retail stores. The Postal Service does not have to rent its own store and hire dedicated staff. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, CPUs accounted for 8 percent of the Postal Service’s total retail network. In comparison, Canada has private dealer – operated outlets, which are similar to CPUs and account for more than 39 percent of Canada Posts® retail outlets; Australia has Licensed Post Offices and Community Postal Agencies, which are also similar to CPUs and account for 81 percent of Australia Posts® retail network. Expanding the use of CPUs and VPOs could assist the Postal Service in reducing its physical footprint, lowering expenses, providing more outlets for products and services, and potentially increasing access hours. What do you think? Would a system of CPU and VPOs better serve the current market? Do you have any concerns with the concept? Please share your thoughts and ideas. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Control Directorate.

28 Comments

Our downtown Post Office closed and the building was sold to a local non-profit. They renovated the building back to 1922 and run an excellent CPU. I dare say the staff of the non-profit are much nicer than our USPS postal employees out on the highway - they certainly smile more downtown! :-)

Many shopping centres are now using automated postal machines which will way, price and accept letters and small packages. These may be the future of CPUs.

When the contract station employees and the village post office employees receive extensive retail training and are held accountable - then and only then will the service be as good as at your local post office. (this also should apply to PMR's - the extensive training)

as it stands they have no concept of the indepth rules and regulations necessary for proper mail acceptance and procedures-- causing many unhappy customers...

A CPU is not like a standard post office, and a VPO is not even a reasonable facsimile of either of the above. We all know VPOs only exist because Union contracts prohibit new CPUs from having PO boxes. How do you invent a new type of CPU? Have it offer absolutely nothing. You can't weigh a package, you can't have them put stamps on it, you can't send anything non-Priority Flat Rate, you can't get Change of Address Cards there, you can't ask them questions, you can't get insurance or Delivery Confirmation, and you can't even get a letter postmarked there because all they have are these dumb boxes that do NOT represent the wide-ranging needs of various communities. People need more than least-common-denominator Bell stamps and Flat-Rate Priority boxes.

VPOs are volunteer work forced onto local stores, guilt-tripped into "letting their town keep its ZIP code". They not post offices, and under NO circumstance should they be allowed to represent adequate service to a community.

Instead of asking people whether they'd rather have a VPO or nothing, what you should be asking is "Why should people accept this trash in place maintaining their real Post Office, featuring a qualified professional?"

What USPS needs is better customer service at its existing locations, particularly in urban communities. What customers need are trained USPS professionals to help them with the wide variety of services that USPS offers, and is obligated to fully offer, each community.

CPUs are good additions the postal network, to SUPPLEMENT (not REPLACE) existing facilities. VPOs are trash.

great idea I had not crossed his mind, is a good way to make life easier for people and generate extra income that does not require investing large sums of money and can put in any shop.
bye

I also think it's a great idea that the CPUs are in the malls. makes things easier

Adrian

A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment

Thanks to all who took the time to vote and post a comment on this blog.

There is no substitute for the genuine article, which is a bona fide post office. I submit Benjamin Franklin knew what he was doing. The mail is too vital to trust to makeshift operations. Whatever they officially are titled, they are imitations. The federal government has bailed out the most undeserving enterprises and institutions. It can provide the USPS with essential funding. Case closed.

Open more "Goin Postal" Franchises or similar. Less government, more entrepreneurship business's. Less entitlements, more independence, less bureaucracy, more commerce. Create more competition, and initiative so the qualified and or experienced are at the helm, not those who gain promotion via political or socialisim agenda.
The USPS calls what the do a "service". Stand in line for 35 minutes at a Post Office, then walk up to the clerk and ask for a roll of stamps. The clerk replies "Of course sir/ma'am, do you have cash because our ATM is down."
BE RETAIL WHERE PEOPLE ARE! NOT SOME SPECIAL LOCATION OR TIME BECAUSE IT CONFORMS TO SOME COLLECTIVE BARGAINING UNITS AGENDA.

What USPS needs is better customer service at its existing locations, particularly in urban communities. What customers need are trained USPS I think so. professionals to help them with the wide variety of services that USPS offers, and is obligated to fully offer, each community.

I agree with the opinion of my friend Linda, If there is a training for service to the customer it would be perfect and will make the customer satisfied. So all the business can run properly

I actually think the USPS guys and gals are pretty well-trained; insofar as their interactions with customers. Where the problem lies seems to be the interaction they have amongst themselves. The workplace environment doesn't always seem amenable to amicability.

I take issue with the whole "train your urban employees" nonsense. The simple fact is that employees often get treated like crap by customers, when an air of calmness would resolve any situation. Postal workers are under a lot of stress. In any case, I favor traditional offices, but CPUs serve a purpose for quick, non-intensive trips

Where people are working they need a proper training! Thanks.

I also think it’s a great idea that the CPUs are in the malls. makes things easier

I agree with the opinion of my friend Linda, If there is a training for service to the customer it would be perfect and will make the customer satisfied. So all the business can run properly

I actually think the USPS guys and gals are pretty well-trained; insofar as their interactions with customers. Where the problem lies seems to be the interaction they have amongst themselves. The workplace environment doesn’t always seem amenable to amicability.

Considering the USPS operates at a huge loss every quarter, I think it would be a good idea to close more post offices and switch to CPU's or VPO's where appropriate.

This is very similar to the requirements now from the feds for EPA Lead Certification! It is so weird they have decided to do this now too...

Where is the sanctitity and the security of the mail with the VPO? And what about the strict FAA regulations so we can fly priority parcels by commercial airline? What about the strict scanning scores for all parcels the USPS reminds its employees that they shouldn't miss a scan? Apparently those are all old-hat and out the window. Will the part-time store employee running the VPO really care about all these? I DON'T THINK SO! And what about the new type of clerk employee that is being hired now--the PSE? A two-year stint maximum at a reduced rate from what a regular clerk earns, but with a few benefits. How serious do you think someone is going to be about a job they know is only going to last two years at the most, anyway? And what about the "ethics" of today's workers--they want to work when they want to work and make no qualms about telling you they're "not available on Saturdays", or that they need "flexibility". Today's new breed of workers can't even begin to compare to the old-timers who stand behind the window of the local post office. How serious do you think these part-timers or people running the VPO will be about the rules in the Domestic Mail Manual and about the strict rules about mailing overseas, and the restrictions for what can and what cannot be mailed? Do you think they will really care? Hire all the part-timers you want--that should REALLY screw things up for the USPS--and drive what's left of the business into the hands of private enterprise. I think that's the whole idea behind this anyway--privatize! It's all about greed. The USPS is about TRUST. Postal employees take a serious oath to protect the mails, and postmasters in very small post offices are a very special breed of person--someone who is ultimately discreet, who can meet the needs of ALL their customers, who understands every customer individually, and who can relate to each one on their own level. Part of the problem stems from the misconception that people making decisions about small post offices don't understand what the postmaster in the small post office actually does--cleans the toilet, washes the windows, vacuums, shovels the snow, etc. Management believes all they do is sell stamps. Even some customers think that's all the person behind the window does--sell stamps, because that is all they see. But there is much more to operating a small post office. Much more than selling some generic stamps or generic pre-paid Priority envelopes or packaging.

The current drive to privatize the Post office with HR2309 will drive service and workers wages and benefits down.

Two contract stations that I know about simply didn't work out so to view contract stations as a cost saving measure to replace Post Offices may not save as much money as the Post Office contemplates.

If the USPS elimated the Union they could survive. Bad enough with the Government rules but then the post office has to deal with the the unreasionable & irresponsible demands of the Union Bosses that milk the employees of their hard earned pay. At least give the postal worker the freedom to choose & not be mandated to join a union against their will. If most workers were given that freedom - unions would fade away.

Yes its less pain and struggle when postal offices is on malls. The ambiance is different for sure, good even you bring kids around.

Canada is already moving into that direction. It is the future, the funds invested into community mailboxes if sure to pay off . It is a way to hedge into an uncertain future as well. You should go ahead with it.

You mention that Australia has community postal agencies and that's true as I live about 200 yards from one. Just a couple of points though: For the last week they haven't had any stamps for overseas postage. Also when I went into the main post office about 2 miles away and mentioned that my local community agency had advised me something on international post they contradicted that advice and said that "they're not a real post office".

The community post office does have very good opening hours though and is suitable for what I need 9 times out of 10. On balance - I'm for them.

I take issue with the whole "train your urban employees" nonsense. The simple fact is that employees often get treated like crap by customers, when an air of calmness would resolve any situation. Postal workers are under a lot of stress. In any case, I favor traditional offices, but CPUs serve a purpose for quick, non-intensive trips

Who knows what will happen next with the Post Office...I'm confident that what ever happens the post will still always be around to deliver our mail.

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