on Jun 28th, 2010 in Products & Services | 50 comments
 
For decades, the Postal Service offered vending machine service to supplement its retail operations. Vending machines meet the needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line. While the lack of stamp vending machines has resulted in customer frustration and a surprising number of newspaper articles, the problems are particularly acute in economically depressed and more urban areas. Although Automated Postal Centers (APCs) provide many services including the sale of stamps and directly applied postage for First-Class letters, APCs require credit cards, which people in economically depressed areas often do not have. In addition, some customers find APCs to be intimidating to use. Finally, APCs sell only booklets of stamps or individual stamps in denominations of $1 or more, yet many disadvantaged customers may want to buy just one First-Class Mail stamp.

So with an apparent need for simple vending machines, what should the Postal Service do? In the past, the Postal Service had problems with the legacy machines it owned. They were costly and difficult to maintain and operate. The answer may be to contract this activity out. Commercial vending machines, like those selling soda and chips, are generally not owned and operated by the organizations on whose property they are located. While Postal Service unions and management associations may have concerns, private operators might be very interested in acquiring stamp vending machine contracts for a percentage of gross sales (or similar) while taking sole responsibility for vending machine maintenance and support. In addition to the convenience vending machines would offer, they might also help window clerks operate more efficiently. Diverting low-value stamp sales from windows would increase revenue per labor hour and allow the Postal Service window clerks to focus on more important functions. With shorter lines and happier customers, the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve. This idea could be a win-win for all concerned. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments

Getting rid of stamp vending machines was a mistake that has led to customer's reevaluation as to whether or not they want to bother even visiting the PO. When the hassel exceeds the need, customers will do everything possible to avoid using the USPS. Everybody loses.

Vending machines cost nothing but trouble with offices
that the lobbies are open 24/7 they are a target for
thieves, never raised enough revenue to justify the
hours spend accounting for the stock, monies and breakdowns that required a maintenance person to drive to the PO calling for service and even customers claiming that they had lost moneys in them and as a PM for 4 years never saw a customer just buy
one stamp and I do not think the selling of one stamp
for the convenience of "poor people" justifies the
expense and "poor people" do not buy one stamp. Good Lord don't you have other issues to look into; leave
Operations to Operations.

Automated stamp selling of some sort is absolutely required! It doesn't have to be available after hours really. It just makes the average occasional stamp buyer's life better not having to stand in those god awful PO lines!

I'll never understand the massive line ups at PO's. No for-profit business would ever make VALUABLE paying customers stand in line that long.

have been around a long time(25yrs) and taking the vending out of lobby was a bad idea. many customers used it while window was closed for lunch. And anon 2 must not work window as a PM, I sell one stamp at a time all the time, rural america. As for maintenace on vending, last one I had for 10 years and never spent a dime on it. Maintenace came and took mother board out and had me put the case and working insides in the trash, instead of recycling.

yea I love dealing with long lines and and
notoriously rude clerks to buy stamps.

give me a vending machine over a clerk any day.

Bring them back. Yes, many would say they are not cost effective but we've reduced personnel EVERYWHERE, we're cutting back on window hours and now DC wants to cut one day of service. I thought We're supposed to be "servicing" the customers, not making it difficult to buy our product(s) and services. Taking them out was a big mistake.

with so many voting to return the vending machines are they coming back, or is this more blowing smoke?

It seems like a no-brainer that stamp machines would benefit USPS and its customers. And why not have them in other venues as well, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and banks?

anon #2:
You keep forgetting.... its the POSTAL SERVICE not POSTAL INC. You can't have it both ways.

- Bring back vending machines
- Bring back 24 hour lobbies
- Bring back Sunday Express Delivery
- Bring back Sunday AO sortation
- Bring back offices closed in communities
- Bring back the "Jr. Postmaster Program"
- Bring back school visitations to Post Offices
- Bring back visiting schools with postal truck and select carrier represenatatives
- Bring back Postmasters living in the community in which they serve
- Bring back Postmasters actively participating in community groups, clubs and civic affairs
- Bring back VOMAs to fix the filthy old LLV's
- Bring back standup desks to get the supervisors off their butts
- Bring back life to the US Postal Service and quit trying to destroy it from the inside with negative rhetoric.

++ Confessions of a Former Station Manager ++

Equinox..........apparently you have never shopped at Walmart or Sam's or Costco............

i understand why they were taken out, they were decades old, but if you take them out replace them with something that will speed up peoples wait times. people hate the post office because of the lines, now they have to stand in a line to buy one stamp? come on, have some common sense. why is this even a question? just do it.

Yeah. I just love how the OIG filters out completely appropriate comments that they just don't like.. Why have a blog if you only post what you want to hear? Just like other Postal Management, it's controlling information to achieve goals, whether ethical or not.

Vending machines, as they used to be, should not be returned to service. The Postal Service wrote off huge losses in vending machine shortages, because arbitrators ruled the servicing clerk could not be held accountable when they did not fully control the credit. Vending machines also proved extremely attractive to embezzlers; even when we proved those cases, the Inspection Service never recovered all the missing funds because the embezzler couldn't pay the money back.

Alternatives could inlcude configuring the APC to sell 5 stamp or 10 stamp booklets, or usng a slot to accept standard weight and size postcards and letters, whose postage would be printed inside the machine on the mail piece, and then deposited in a collection tub in back of the APC.

Vending Machines, Postal Stores and Mobile Post Offices were eliminated after APC's were installed because they were competition for the APC's. Only 2 options now when you go into a PO now, wait on the LONG line or try the APC.

Sorry the third option is to walk out of the PO, which I see a lot of customers doing.

Dear Tin Man,

As a matter of policy we review all comments on the OIG’s blog. Given the need to manage Federal resources effectively, however, we review comments and post them from 9:00 am—5:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. We read and post comments submitted after hours, on weekends, or on holidays as early as possible the next business day. Please refer to our Comment Policy page for details at http://blog.uspsoig.gov/?page_id=102
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Thank you for your comments,

RARC Host

Didn't Congress pass a provision which would require the USPS to dispense dollar coins as change in vending machines? Think about how costly this would be should we return to vending machines.

Vending machines and APCs are not comparable for several reasons, foremost being that only a hand full of post offices will ever reach the retail threshold HQ has assigned to justify one. The OIG should really be focusing on the losses associated with an alternative access retail strategy that was short sighted and poorly implemented. The discussion on contracting out vending should have been had before we sunsetted the program, not after the customers have migrated to other services.

I just love how the OIG filters out completely and it is very helpfull

I just love how the OIG filters out completely appropriate comments that they just don’t like most popular

The comment about the dollar coin requirement is correct, but only if on federal property. USPS would need to locate vending machines elsewhere, and of course there are lots of places that would make sense.

Dollar coins should someday replace the paper dollar bill and save taxpayers $700 million. We are about the only country left in the world with a one dollar bill or equivalent. The paper bill lasts about 13 months before wearing out. The dollar coin can last for 30 years. Our lack of political courage or lack of attention to waste is costing us way too much. Using the dollar coin means fewer coins in your pocket or purse. Don't forget, it takes the place of two quarters, two dimes, five nickels, and five cents-14 coins in all!

I am still fuming at the incompetence I experienced at the hands of the USPS today. I needed an original document from London. The London party paid 6 pounds to send it special air delivery registered. I stay in my home/office all day to make sure I would receive it.

At about 4 pm, I check my mailbox. There was a note "Sorry we missed you!" Nobody missed me! The carrier was too lazy to ring my bell and take the elevator (not even stairs) up to the 5th floor to get my signature. I immediately called and asked for redelivery today but was told that was impossible.

Now I have to go to the post office before my morning meeting to retrieve this document.

No wonder people prefer FedEx. This has happened to me with USPS before. This would never happen with FedEx. This is one of the reasons the USPS is losing business. It deserves to lose such business.

FYI the tracking # is 5293 0280 8780 5045 and the article number is LY 5550 7957 3GB.

Is that carrier going to keep his/her job?

this is great Vending machines that really needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line.

Do not bring back vending machines.Not worth the cost.The simple solution is to buy a book of 18 forever stamps from the APC,this is not rocket science. The markets and Costco also sell forever stamps. Maybe that will make Jessica happy so she won't have to bother the rude clerks.

Hi there, I wonder if this will really be a thing for the postal system to work properly. There are a lot of cases when idle minds just think they can get away with postal service using machines. I wish there are a lot of industrious people.

I think they're great they will speed up the post office. But im sure there will be people who dont like them or can't figure them out.

humans aren't use now. i think this machine had not need

the machines were a fine idea. Everything involved in the implementation sucked. for instance, the janitor installed the machine that was in our lobby. It should have never been put into service for security reasons. I believe it was never inspected by the inspection service or someone else as ok(from a theft standpoint) It was held to the wall by a 2X4 with 2 lag screws.Even after the ist break-in attempt ,it was put back in place with the 2X4 and 2 lag screws. So it was broken into a second time. It was not cleaned properly and funds taken from it were not accounted for properly.

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Hey,

I am a San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker, and am curious about the USPS stamp machines. We have a script that was written about one and we didn't realize that they had taken them all out.

Does anybody know a place where there still may be one, or where I can find one?

Thanks!

You can only find a stamp vending machine in convenience stores and they are privately operated for profit selling stamps for more than face value.

There are none left. USPS will, however, be reinstituting them, but I don't know when.

Yes, I know where you can get a stamp vending machine like you would see at a convenience store. It mounts on the wall.

this should of been done a while ago, i even stressed the importance of having this be marketable and associated with so many people, instead of controlling it within a certain timeframe.

That or better advertise things like printed postage. Ticket venues have had tremendous success with this technology and it's better for the environment all around.

James

Bring them back. I hate standing in line for such a simple thing and then getting treated rudely by Post office workers when I don't want one hundred dollars worth of stamps..

Yeah, but vending machines MUST be on a premise,
where a security camera MUST be observing, and
the firewall MUST be off installation campus!!!

The removal of vending machines was a big mistake because the reasoning to remove them was faulty. Management said they break down too often so instead of finding a machine that did not break down, they removed all the machines. Excellent machines that seldom breakdown are easily available. Hundred of millions of dollars of snacks and drinks are sold through machines this way. Plus, management removed machines from all post offices instead of just the post offices with low sales. That's right, profitable high selling machines were taken out. The USPS' own study said stamp vending sales were very profitable in in 76% of the locations. I would fire the management personnel that used this line of illogical reasoning. Dollar coins make the use of vending machines very convenient. Bring vending machines back in the locations that have the traffic to support them

yes every poat office should have vending machine becouse sometime customers just want to buy one or two stamps only nobody wants to stand in a line just to buy a stamp.

And where does one find the nearest APC since I don't know of one in my area and don't have the time to waste standing in a line at the post office that moves at a snail's pace to buy air mail stamps???

You can find an APC using the Postal Service's Post Office Locator at http://usps.whitepages.com/post_office.

The Sierra Madre, California 91024 post office removed the coin-based machines and installed credit card-based APC. I liked it a lot. But a couple of weeks ago they removed the APC and they say they are not going to replace it. Why?

I checked. It was removed because it didn't generate inimum revenue required.

I think that the stamp vending machines should be brought back if they are in the budget...it doesn't sound like they are. I am all for convenience and speedy lines, but I would rather see the money go towards more postal workers keeping their jobs.

That's just my 2 cents...

does pepsi make vending machines available to rich and poor alike? why not try applying some free market principles to come up with a solution for postage vending machines that take both cash and credit, for as little or as much stamps you need to buy, and place them in logical places where people go to buy stamps. after all, it's not rocket science.

Needed stamps this a.m., had to wait behind about eight other customers, didn't help that one of the postal clerks was a 'chatty Cathy'. If they had a stamp dispensing machine, I'd have been in and out in about a minute. I'd even pay an additional 5cents per stamp if dispensers were put in grocery stores, like soda vending machines are. We used to have stamp dispensing machines available.

@Mel Holden: Stamp dispensers in grocery stores? You can already buy stamps in most grocery stores - all you need to do is ask... no extra 5 cents per stamp needed! ;-) Why would we need a dispenser as well? Seems a bit redundant to me....

This poll is over two years old and has 87% yes. When are these fools going to bring them back. (Writing this while in a very long line in one of my rare visits to post office -- rare because of lines.)

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