• on Nov 2nd, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    In a world where speed is everything, a new product is becoming popular that takes it s-l-o-w. It’s called Future Mail. In China, several companies are offering to deliver mail as slowly as you want, — even weeks, months, or years into the future. No time machine necessary! Some customers are using Future Mail to send letters to their future selves, others use it to be sure their anniversary, birthday, or holiday greetings will arrive exactly on time. Future Mail customers simply fill out, address their cards, letters, or packages, and specify the date they want them delivered. These new companies will make it happen. One can even purchase gifts and flowers to be sent in the future. When signing up for the service, customers are assessed a fee depending on how long the company has to hold on to the deliverables. Customers must also provide current contact information, in case their item is undeliverable in the future. Once the letter or package is handed over, the company tucks it away in a safe place until the date selected comes around. Though some customers have concerns about what happens to their packages if the companies fail, the service continues to catch on. This unique service may prove to be a new revenue stream for the U.S. Postal Service. Do you think there will be a market for Future Mail here? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Aug 2nd, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 9 comments
    Deutsche Post graphic emphasizing online ordering and shipment integration.
    About a year ago, we ran a short blog about Deutsche Post’s Automated Packstations. Operated via touch screens, Packstation services include 24/7 customer pick-up and the ability to mail parcels and letters as well as print postage. When a parcel arrives, the recipient is notified via e-mail for pick up at the kiosk. Customers can have their packages delivered to a Packstation of their choice. Since our last blog, Packstations have caught on. The numbers have expanded, to about 2,500 Packstations in Germany and over 1 million registered customers. Typically located in high volume pedestrian areas along streets and in commuter rail stations, Packstations offer a myriad of customer choices for items being sent or received. Mailing a parcel from a Packstation is cheaper than mailing a parcel from traditional post office counters, and there is a bonus rewards program as well. Points are earned for sending a package, buying stamps, picking up a package, having a friend register or simply reading the online newsletter. The points are redeemable for shopping vouchers, stamps, and gifts. Austria Post introduced a nearly identical service in 2006. Estonia offers similar parcel terminals, and Dubai’s subway system has made a deal with DHL to install Packstations at certain stations. Can the U.S. Postal Service copy Deutsche Post’s success too? Automated package stations could be a great alternative to traditional post offices and fit neatly into the evolving internet economy – and provide real competition in the package business at the same time! How could this service help you? Would you have any concerns? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jul 26th, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
    Millions of people trust the Postal Service to mail their bills and cast their vote. In our previous voting by mail blog, concerns about potential fraud were identified and whether their votes would reach their destination. Others identified the potential for the Postal Service to expand its role and expressed relief in avoiding long lines to cast their votes.
    “The answer to the nation’s voting anxiety is not a national standard that imposes new rules on an outdated system of polling places. The answer is a low-tech, low-cost, reliable, and convenient system that makes it easier to vote and easier to count votes. The answer is Vote-by-Mail.” — Bill Bradbury, Former Secretary of State, Oregon
    Various voting methods have been explored over the years to provide secure and convenient ways for citizens to cast their votes and provide municipalities with cost-cutting opportunities. One method under consideration is voting by mail. The Postal Service has repeatedly been ranked as one of the most trusted government agencies and has a significant role in today’s voting landscape. The Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act, introduced by California Representative Susan Davis, will provide all eligible voters the option to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections for any reason. Currently, states such as Oregon and Washington use voting by mail extensively and many cities, counties, and other states are getting on board. Oregon boasts over a decade of voting by mail resulting in increased voter turnout, cost savings, and only nine fraud cases out of 15 million mail ballots cast. For years, the military has used the mail to allow overseas personnel to cast their votes. The Postal Service claims there are advantages to voting by mail, such as: •Increasing voter participation. •Giving voters a longer opportunity to study the initiatives, the candidates, and the ballot. •Providing an automatic paper trail. •Eliminating confusion about where to vote. •Providing privacy and security. •Offering a variety of formats to communicate with voters. •Giving easy and cost-effective solutions for returning ballots to help increase response. •Providing technology to help registrars update and correct voter registration lists and addresses before an election. •Offering return services at no additional charge with First-Class Mail®. Supporters of mail voting claim greater and more informed voter participation, less fraud, and lower administrative costs. Opponents say there is a risk of unauthorized voter participation, loss of the secret ballot, increased chance of fraud, inappropriate pressure from interest groups, and fewer opportunities for the community to come together. What do you think about voting by mail? We want to hear your experiences and ideas. What value does vote by mail add? What concerns or risks exist? Please share your opinions. This topic is hosted by the Human Resources & Security team.

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