on Nov 9th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 65 comments
 
News about disappearing collection boxes is everywhere these days. Even BBC News ran a story on the decline of the blue collection box in the United States.

The Postal Service argues that picking up mail from collection boxes is expensive. Removing underused boxes is a cost savings move and a reasonable response to the economic crisis. The Postal Service is removing boxes with less than 25 stamped mail pieces per day.

Critics wonder if there is adequate analysis to support the 25-piece minimum and whether one reason for removing collection boxes — in addition to the minimal cost savings — is that the Postal Service does not want to be criticized for poor service. Fewer boxes mean fewer opportunities to miss a collection or to pick up mail too early.

Is the Postal Service thinking too narrowly and missing some of the value of collection boxes? The ubiquitous presence of the boxes is free advertising for the ailing agency. How much would a private sector company pay to be allowed to put a collection box anywhere it wanted to in the country? Millions? Billions?

What do you think? Is removing collection boxes a reasonable cost-cutting move or a strategic mistake that the Postal Service will later regret?

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

Comments

I think it is a strategic mistake. Very short-sighted.

I used to get complaints from friends and relatives about waiting in line at Post Offices. Now I get complaints about their inability to find a collection box. I don't know how much money this is saving the agency, but it appears there have been too many boxes removed. I don't think any of our customers would argue with the need to eliminate some of them, but in some places the reduction has been dramatic (e.g. Santa Barbara).

Over the last years increased identity theft has resulted in reluctance to put sensible mailings, like bill payments, in mailboxes for carrier pickup. Some people have resorted to mail such items from their workplace. Mailing from work is not possible for all, so a good part has to rely on collection boxes to drop off sensitive mailings.

It could be argued that a substantial decrease of conveniently located collection boxes may increase some consumer's willingness to switch to online payments/transactions. The other option for the consumer is inconvenience to get to a more remote collection box, or to return using their potentially unsafe mail box. And increased mail box use for sending items will lead to a higher carrier work load.

It is a decision were "minimal savings" have to be balanced against consumer's perception of USPS.

www.postalsanity.com

I agree it is a short-sighted, strategic gaff that the Postal Service will one day regret.

According to Larry Logan, Senior Deputy of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department in Southern California, mail thieves often go "popcorning," slang for cruising neighborhoods in search of outgoing mail left unattended, signaled by red flags in the upward position on mailboxes. "Everyday, somebody's going up and down the street, looking in mailboxes." When residents put mail in an unlocked curbside mailbox and put up the red flag to signal postal workers, it sends the same signal to burglars: Your mail is ready to be taken. He recommends taking your mail to a blue collection box. "Otherwise, you and your neighborhood will become a target."

The USPS "management" answers to no one so their actions do not have to make sense. Just like removing stamp machines from the lobbies. ANYTHING to get the customers to go elsewhere. These people should be fired.

If i walk but the box 2 times a day as a carrier why cant i just pick it up when i am done with my route 3 mins of my time why does someone who gets paid 50 grand a year have to pick up only the boxs and them we say let get rid of the boxs and save 50 grand LET the carriers whose routes they are on pick them up we see them all every day. NUFF said

The sad truth is, you will find a collection box in FRONT of a post office. How is that for convenience? The Service wants more business but removes the vehicle (collection boxes) to obtain that objective.

One could think that the private sector is financing some of this "out-of-target" ideas that the USPS is promoting so intensively. Is there any other reason? I mean the private sector is not dumb, if they can't fight front and center they will find a way to demolish the USPS by using any methods, legal or illegal.

"How much would a private sector company pay to be allowed to put a collection box anywhere it wanted to in the country? Millions? Billions?".... My view is that the "OIG" should not be promoting privatizing the Post Office or the collection boxes...your job will be gone too!!!! But then your probably too busy violating the heppa law.....

stupid idea to remove all those blue boxes. but what is even more dumb is that in san diego ca they are putting the blue boxes in the trash!

Just put a box at the end of every carrier route. Post a collection time of something stupid like "2PM." Anything deposited by 2PM will be collected. It'll take little more than a minute a day to provide this simple but needed service. Is this really that difficult to figure out?

Extremely short-sighted. To make something harder to access in today's world goes against our current culture. In addition, to have a route designed just for collection of the boxes, while the regular carrier in the neighborhood just drives passed it, is a waste of time, money and fuel. It can be a regular stop and scanned to please all the bean-counters who are trying to justify their jobs.

It takes at the most two minutes to collect a blue box and sort the different seperations required by the post office i.e. Netflixs, Blockbusters, metered SPURS, uncancelled SPURS, flats, priority envelopes, international mail, etc. That is a small price to pay for providing customer satisfaction for security of their mail and the fact that it is a means of advertising.

I'd say that removing mailboxes is actually a mistake. Also this is he #1 complaint I'm currently hearing from the public at large.

How much money does it actually save the USPS?

We probably can't throw full blame on local postmasters and station managers only. Isn't this an executive decision made in Washington DC? In the last three-to-four years local managers have been in a dilemma: either increase revenue, or else, cut costs (by any means necessary).

Local managers need to start speaking up at meetings and during teleconferences. The transparent value-added benefits of NOT reducing collection mailboxes outweigh the immediate cost-savings.

OG

Collection boxes aren't for advertising. They're for moving mail and every box out there needs to be picked at least once, usually 2x or more each day. It's hardly "free advertising," then, as implied by the post. They're coming out because the piece counts don't justify the expenditures involved in keeping them in serve. Of course craft employees and the unions will tell you it's shortsighted to take them out, just as they'll tell you it's outrageous to consider 5-day delivery, excessing employees and eliminating jobs no longer necessary in the current environment. It's all about job preservation, no matter what the cost, for those stakeholders. Management, on the other hand, constantly gets pressured to reduce costs and eliminate expenses. Collection boxes garnering 5 pieces of mail a day are a waste of resources - period.

ive been reading stories on here where the town had to gaurd the collection boxes to keep the p o from taking them. get the hint p o your penny pincing ways are costing millions in lost revanue.
i see the penny pinching in our office as losing producttivity. they take away our tables and carts and expect us to do things the hard way so we dont waste office time.

I had a relay box in a collection box in front of City Hall. I pulled the mail each morning when I got there. Sometimes there was a lot, sometimes not. Sometimes, I dumped my collection mail into it [if I had picked up a heavy mailing]. No one told me that this box did not pass the test until it was a done deal! I'm sure it would have been left if the mail I picked up had been counted [I could have kept it separate]. Any perceived cut in service is bad for business, in my opinion. The more we charge, the more we should be kissing the customers' backside. We have no collection boxes in the downtown area in our town, with the exception of the ones behind the Post Office. How much does it cost for us to pull these boxes when we are out delivering our routes? Just another of the cuts they make to be able to say they did something instead of making the cuts that would matter most [cutting management on ALL levels].

The cost of collection from these boxes is de minimus compared to the service, sense of security they provide to customers who use them. Nevermind the potential free advertising they provide to the Postal Service. Why they have not taken advantage of these small billboards on every corner, just think of the products and services that could be posted on the sides of each of these boxes. But once again the Postal Service uses the "Change creates the illusion of progress" line to make it look like it is actually making strides to improve the financial woes of a management heavy organization. Cutting service from a service company is just another step in the current managers mission to destroy the US Postal Service.

The collection box has secondary advantages USPS is not taking advantage of. Boxes are usually in high visability sights and there has only once been marketing (R2D2 wrapping) on them.
If you look at the competition boxes, they are not taking any out. They may move a few. In a downturn or recession, it is a good time to make your presence greater. The cost is usually lower and the benefit coming out is great.
Remember, each box taken out tells a group of customers they are not important. Rather then removing a low performing box, reassign it to a nearby area where it will perform.
A campaign like "Write a letter to a friend" and "Drop a letter to a friend here" might actually increase mail volume. Or maybe attack the competition by having a grandmother by a computer reading email, turning to open a letter with a card in it--she reads the card, smiles and pins it to the bulletin board above her computer. So near colleges a box might say, "Drop letters home here."

Ummm...Really? Are you being disingenuous? Surely you know the main reason for removing collection boxes is to drive improvement in the EXFC socres, right? It’s all pure statistics as it affects management’s NPA scores. One less box is one less chance for a Zero Bundle. V e r y simple.

Whether its hiding COA cards behind the retail counter, or a customer retail script that hides less expensive mailing options, its just like every other foolish decision in recent years, its “Customers Be Damned, we have strategic goals to meet.” And so, we continue to alienate the few loyal customers we have left. We are actively strangling our own livelihood on the vine…

earlier pick -up times fewer blue boxes less mail to pick up

ten letters 44 cents each = 4.40 per box we could do this all day and make money

Removing the boxes was a dumb idea. How can you expect the public to use the Postal Service when they make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to mail a letter? Its like a convenience store closing their doors 23 hours a day and then complaining of the lack of customers...

We are a service organization, stop taking away public services

This is one of the stupider things the USPS has done next to removing stamp machines from the lobbies. I always used drop boxes and stamp machines. Now I have to wait in line just to buy one stamp. When business is bad cutting employees and services is not the answer. I guess upper management within the USPS is still out of touch with reality.

Postal Management does not care about providing
SERVICE to the American Public...they are ONLY
CONCERNED WITH COST CONTROL as THEY SEE IT.

City wide afternoon collections from the "Blue Boxes"
represent only COSTS to them, not SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC.

Why pay money for TV commercials and magazine ads, then remove collection boxes? The less visible, the less relevant we become. People might Mail that card if it was convenient, but if they have to go downtown to the Post Office to Mail it they will send an E-mail instead. If we want to build volume we need to make it easier and more convenient to use the mail, not harder. We are throwing out the baby with the bathwater in so many ways it is no longer funny.

I work for the post office, management does NOT care about customer service. They ONLY careabout time, cutting out time makes their “numbers” look better andgets them a bonus. Bonusesare all they care about, they’d sell their mothers for better numbers. AND they do NOT care what you, the public, think or want. They laugh at you and the workforce as they bully and intimidate and lie to getwhat they want. Our slogan should be, “We are the US Postal Service and you’ll do what we want and like it.”

I was going to comment, but everyone here made the point. Nation wide we are flushing our service down the toilet. Management, thank you for taking service out of the Postal Service.

I think that the removal of these boxes impacts the image of the Postal Service second only to the closure of offices. People depend on these boxes and in many areas, this is the only convienient access to Postal Services. There may be only 15 pieces in that box on a given day, but to those customers, they are the most important 15 pieces. We need to look at the Postal Service's image long term.

USPS is desperately trying to advertise services to the public while we take away the blue boxes and make them wait an hour in line. The only logical answer to this is that USPS no long want to deliver older folks' stinking 41 cent envelops. Not much of a profit margin from that kind of mailing.

When money is the only concern, service will go out the window and profit taking/making becomes the mission of the organization. Tha't why we push the priority mail while taking away the blue boxes. It's all about money folks.

The EXFC scores and the zero bundle theory is another valid point that I had not thought of before...

Removal of collection boxs is another part of the Continuation of the UPSP strategy to not have to deal with American public, Reduced lobby hours and days, reduced locations, elimination of collection boxes, elimination of vending machines, removal of APC’s, USPS only wants to deal with the corporate mailers not the general public, USPS would eliminate home delivery if the thought they could get away with it. Just think where the banking industry would be if they used the half-hearted support for the ATM machine that we put into the APC.

USPS has forgotten they are a government service established for the people. it was not created for it to make a profit. whats worse they pay there employees chump change for the work they do. delivering mail is not and easy task lest any one kid themselves. It is time the lazy greedy politician investigate col john potter and his flying fairies of greedy postal board of governor for delaying the mail. And it is time for Americans to put all these government agencies on notice that we the people have the say.

this definetly hurts service, they want people to think they provide such excellent service and they will go above and beyond but this is clearly not the case. what major expense is involved with these boxes some that have been in place for decades. i had one on my route that had more than 25 pieces daily but somehow i went on vacation and during that time they did the test and removed the box. it is hard to sell customers on the benefits when they do things that undermine their own marketing.

There are some really good comments/suggestions on this site. Is ANYONE listening?

The postal service took out many/most of these collection boxes some years ago. Mostly out of the campus area (high volume traffic of students). Then throughout the city. While delivering mail I took many complaints from students (apt box locations generally dont have outgoing mail slots or boxes) and the university offices said their mail is not ready to go out when the carrier gets there and they utilized the boxes that got picked up later that evening. Business too complained for the same reason as they would drop off their mail at the nearest box on the way home for pick up. Driving to the post office was out of the way.

But they (USPS)wanted to cut city delivery hours and get their bonuses at the expense of customer service. And maybe tell the customer to look elsewhere. Now, in part, they worry that business will not come back. What was the real cost.

People like their corner mailbox. It takes the carrier 2 minutes to tap as he is going by. Another stupid idea to make customers hate us even more.

If it was a security related strategy, perhaps they should have replaced the steel boxes with a see through
design that would have scanned the customer deposited item with a time stamp, and thus, started the id tracking program for the item.
I trust the ole blue boxes are being recycled into a green related Co2 friendly use.
So the USPS earn some carbon credits for the fuel use "demerit" penalties they incur.
Think of the possibilities. The hypothetical new boxes
could be recycled PET, with various cots electronic
features. Or simply a multi-use container that could be picked up and whisked away to the high speed sorter. In any event, a green job could have been
created for a veteran, or a homeless veteran rather than simply giving them a blanket?

The decline in the availability and strategic placement of the traditional blue collection box is going to be another bad business decision by the Postal Service. Might has well change the name, because Service is no longer the priority of this business.

Put them back out at major intersections, or at least one on every carriers route. Pick it up once a day when the carrier goes past it, the only pickup of the day. List the location of the nearest boxes with a late pickup, if a customer has something hot.

Advertize on the box...click and ship, piority mail, etc...

Cost minimal....we have the boxes, 2 -3 minutes for carrier to scan and change out the tub, advertising value, and good will....priceless.

I still remember how I found out my local mailbox was gone. I walked down to where it always was, and there were 4 rusty marks on the ground where it was.
It seemed my only option was to get in my car, and drive to where there was a mailbox. All the milboxes were in a neighborhood where there were less than 10 houses per block. My street had 50+ houses, but no "significant" citizens.
When I looked at the new pick up times, I realized that it wasn't even going to picked up until late the following day.
At this point I realized that my mail was a great inconvenience to the Postal Service. As a good citizen, and a considerate person, I chose to make other arrangements, and drove a few more blocks to the letters destination.
The following month, I knew that I could just drop the letters off, and this time I didn't have to bother the postal service with printing, or selling me any stamps. If they don't want my mail, If my tranactions cost too much, then I can take a hint.

Just as lowering taxes HAS PROVEN TIME AND AGAIN to increase economic activity and actually generate more revenue due to higher gains on productivity ("Google" search "The Laffer Curve" to learn more), here's a great example of how lowering prices led to this company increasing sales so much that it has led to massive overtime as well massive profits: http://finance.yahoo.com/career-...- selfemployment The USPS would be wise to follow suit, as it's been proven to work time and again. We've alreadt seen the devastating effects of raising prices here in the USPS, and how doing it loses volume and thus profits. The fact is, we, like that company I illustrated, had and have excess capacity and we're literally paying people in some areas to do nothing. Lowering prices to spur volume that we could basically handle and deliver for nothing, since we have to process and deliver everyday anyway, is the right move. Raising rates and curtailing service (eliminating collection boxes, cutting a delivery day and reducing window hours as examples) is a suicidal business model. Doing the opposite, lowering rates and expanding service is the best way to emerge from this funk.

Lets try posting that website again: http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/108119/the-accidental-hero.html?mod=career-selfemployment

our town used to have 32 blue collection boxes. the boxes were tapped daily no matter how few letters were in them. now we have about 12 for the whole town.of the 12,4 sit in the alley behind the post office. SERVICE has not diminished,just ask any mgt type at district or above. they are correct in one repect. we still provide the blue box. the problem is finding the _ _ _.

Mail is picked up from every business and houshold, yank the boxes off the street and save the money, gas, time, and help the environment at the same time.

Bravo for finally waking up to this OIG!!

My old manager in retail used to say, "boys, I cant sell it, if it's not on the floor"! Duh?!?

Most of the Carriers and managers dont actually COUNT the mail in these during test periods, they lie so they can pull them out. My box is full every day, because lazy carriers&supvr.s didnt want the collection boxes anymore.

My customers all complain, where are the neighborhood collection boxes?. They used to be on every corner, put them back, put an ad for priority on the side,

I don't know, maybe something simple like, it fits it ships???

Two of the stupidest things the USPS has done was removing collection boxes and stamp machines. DUMB DUMB DUMB. The office use is closed when I get off work. I always used the stamp machines.

in the south ga district as many boxes as possible were removed regardless of volume. boxes near the hospitals in savannah which were overflowing every business day were also removed. when a district level manager was asked why she replied that most zero bundles occurred on the regular carriers day off, the less blue boxes means less zero bundles which means higher potential bonuses just follow the money

Important clarification

My last comment failed to identify the following acronym. It, this age of acronyms afterall...
So, the subject collection box identified in my last comment would be made of "clear" PET material, (recycled water bottles) which would visually show what was in the box at all times. Therefore, it would reflect the current Sustainability Initiative as identified in the 2008 Report!

Polyethylene terephthalate- PET

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