• on Aug 8th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 26 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it would study approximately 3,700 postal retail facilities which are candidates for consolidation. Many policymakers and Postal Service customers have expressed concern over the effect these potential consolidations will have on access to postal services and as well as the social life of rural communities where the local post office acted as a gathering point for the community. In an attempt to address some of these concerns, the Postal Service revealed plans to offer its services through authorized third party vendors, including drug stores, grocery stores, and office supply stores. These Village Post Offices (VPO) would be operated by the vendor and sell popular products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging. The Postal Service’s primary benefit would be lower labor and facilities maintenance costs from replacing traditional, free-standing post offices with Village Post Offices. There are also potential benefits to consumers. First, postal services could be more conveniently accessed by customers who already patronize the third party vendors. Second, the co-location may actually help to strengthen community ties. Third, the VPOs may be open longer hours. However, there may also be drawbacks to switching from traditional post offices to VPOs. First, the quality and level of service may vary between communities as VPOs would be managed by many different private vendors. In addition, as with any effort involving public-private partnerships, oversight issues may arise. Finally, because VPOs will be operated by private vendors, the role of the post office as a public space may be lost. Are Village Post Offices a viable substitute for tradition postal retail facilities? Can service standards be maintained? Which type of vendors do you believe would be most suitable as a host for a VPO?
  • on Jun 9th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 8 comments
    Think for a moment about your most recent visit to a store. How late was it open? Where was it located? Now think about the last time you visited a Post Office? Were there any differences between the two experiences? While retail and the society at large have changed tremendously in the last 40 years, the size and distribution of the Postal Service retail network today is not that different from the network that existed in 1971. It has not changed to reflect the changes in where and how Americans live today.

    Why is this? An OIG paper issued today, Barriers to Retail Network Optimization, highlights some of the obstacles to change:

    Statutory restrictions prevent closing Post Offices for economic reasons and impose requirements for notice, consultation, and appeal procedures. • Regulatory procedures and interpretations create burdens on the Postal Service’s ability to make adjustments. • Political obstacles to rightsizing result from the natural inclination of affected groups to protest the loss of local Post Offices. • Institutional barriers within the Postal Service prevent action. These include a lack of sustained focus over time on retail optimization, problems with the availability and quality of data, past dependence on a highly decentralized bottom-up process, and the absence of a well-articulated strategic retail vision. What changes would you like to see to the Postal Service’s retail network? What do you think are the biggest barriers to change? We want to hear from you. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Mar 21st, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 26 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"]I[/dropcap]n fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Postal Service spent more than $149 million in manufacturing, shipping, and fulfillment costs for Express Mail® and Priority Mail® packaging supplies. The Postal Service, like FedEx, provides these supplies at no cost to customers and the public. The packaging is Postal Service property and, therefore, should only be used to send Express and Priority mail packages. However, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes and in some cases, customers use the packaging to mail items using the Postal Service’s competitors. This adds additional costs to the Postal Service and violates federal law. The question is balancing the desire to control costs with maintaining the convenience that customers desire. The Postal Service must ensure the supplies it provides are used appropriately, but what’s the best way to do this? Are the savings worth the logistics and costs of monitoring and the inconvenience for customers? How do competitors monitor the use of packaging supplies? This topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Field Financial – West team.

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