Pretty soon, Americans will have no reason to leave their homes. We can order everything online and have it delivered to our doors – even groceries. That’s good news for package delivery companies, if not for Americans’ Vitamin D intake.

Attention has centered lately on grocery delivery, with the U.S. Postal Service unveiling its plans to get in the game. The Postal Service recently asked the Postal Regulatory Commission to let it expand its test with Amazon into a broader 2-year test available to other retailers. Under the test, retailers would drop off their grocery orders in color-schemed tote bags at local post offices between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Postal officials would map out the day’s deliveries and then city carrier assistants would load the trucks and deliver the totes between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., leaving them at front doors. The carriers would use iPhones to scan for tracking purposes.

Given Americans’ love affair with food, grocery delivery seems like a safe bet. But it’s a fragmented market and some players already have a foothold in certain cities. Peapod, Instacart, and Fresh Direct are fairly well-established in some locations and work with many of the big name grocery stores. Walmart with its Walmart to Go and Safeway are testing delivery of groceries from their own stores in select cities.

Still the Postal Service, with its local presence and national reach, brings expertise as a delivery company to the table. Its ability to “dynamically route” the deliveries each day based on supply also helps. That is, it can adjust deliveries and routes as needed to achieve the greatest route density, which is critical to success. Further, this service would allow the Postal Service to use delivery vehicles when they normally sit idle, although extra wear and tear on its aging fleet could prove problematic.

If the Postal Service gets the pricing right, it could entice some retailers to give the service a try. But pricing is a big question: Can the Postal Service price it right? The market test should help answer some other questions: Will bags of groceries left unattended in the early morning hours be susceptible to theft? Has the Postal Service waited too long to enter the market? Or does its delivery expertise and presence in every community give the Postal Service a competitive advantage? 

Comments (3)

  • anon

    Why can't the post office concentrate on perfecting mail delivery before it branches out into unknown territory?

    Oct 07, 2014
  • anon

    First of all this is ridiculous. My letter carrier can't even get my packages to me safely NOW! And why in the world would I want groceries, which I assume could contain perishable items like meat and dairy since you mentioned Vitamin D, left "at my door"?! That is the most ridiculous part because the jerk that supposedly delivers my mail now has continued leaving my packages at my door (or so he claims) only to be STOLEN!!!!! Your postal employees from the letter carrier on up have yet to take any responsibility for the losses cause by "our" lazy butt letter carrier that left my packages out in the open AGAINST my stated wishes. This has been an ongoing problem for years and I have complained as long. It all falls on deaf ears because they all have job security. Why don't you do better rather than biting off something so far outside your ballywick! How do you propose to leave perishable items in the hot sun after sitting around in your facilities, on trucks, and then on the road in a hot delivery truck? Are you going to begin using refrigerated systems on the truck and in your facilities? And how about things that shouldn't freeze being left in the elements when its -15 like it gets in many places across America? And what if (gasp) some or all of someones groceries go missing, yet your carrier "scanned" them as delivered? The scan only proves he or she scanned them at some point, not that they actually were placed "at the door" much less didn't get carried away by someone else. What then oh wise ones??!! Oh don't tell me, its the fault and responsibility of the person who paid for but never got the goods, just like I'm out my packages our letter carrier "claimed" he delivered "if they were sent". You can take this stupid idea and send it to outer space with E.T.!!

    Oct 07, 2014
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. So we can get you in touch with the right office to address your complaint, we encourage you to contact our Hotline. The best way is to file an online complaint at or you can call 1-888-877-7644. The Hotline is answered Monday through Friday 11am-3pm EST, otherwise you can leave a message and we will get back to you. Theft, delay or destruction of mail by Postal Service employees and contractors are among the crimes the Office of Inspector General investigates. Once we review your complaint, we’ll determine if it falls under our jurisdiction. If it does not, we will forward it to your local Postal Service’s Office of Consumer Affairs. As for the Postal Service’s test of grocery delivery, the market test calls for the retail companies to use their own retailer-branded totes that can be chilled or include freezer packs. The Postal Service will deliver between 3 am and 7 am and routes will be done by city carrier assistants. It will not be a delivery made by the regular carrier on their regular route. You can find details of the grocery delivery market test in the filing with the Postal Regulatory Commission.

    Oct 07, 2014

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