• on Nov 26th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments
    This holiday season many of us will find ourselves rushing from one errand to the next, often visiting a variety of stores to accomplish all of our tasks. Wouldn’t “one-stop shopping” be easier? Wouldn’t it be nice to get everything from shopping to wrapping to shipping taken care of in a single trip? Locations offering a multitude of services potentially increase foot traffic because of the convenience they offer. They also create opportunities for the company to sell more products and services to its customers. In other countries, such as Sweden and Australia, the trend has been toward placing postal counters in grocery stores and pharmacies, often located in shopping malls. Customers can buy stamps or ship their packages while they are shopping for food and other staples. In the United States, grocery and other retail stores sell stamps at check-out counters, but do not offer shipping options. Office supply and other approved shipping stores offer a range of Postal Service mailing services including Priority and Express mail. Customers find that using these stores for their mailing needs saves time and effort because many of these retail outlets have longer hours than post offices and are conveniently located. E-commerce and mobile commerce have proven to be a popular choice for consumers who enjoy the convenience of shopping at home. Online retailers ship directly to the purchaser’s home, or wrap and ship gift purchases directly to their recipients. If customers want to wrap the package or gift themselves, the Postal Service’s Carrier Pick-up service will retrieve the package at their doorstep for shipping. While e-commerce and mobile commerce can offer purchasing, wrapping, and shipping from home, some people prefer physically browsing and purchasing items from brick-and-mortar retail outlets. This holiday season, a shopper might first visit a retail outlet to make your purchases, go home and wrap the gifts, and then go back out to ship the item. That's at least three trips and two lines, just to send one package! Does shopping, purchasing, wrapping, and sending your item in one stop sound better? With postal counters in strategic locations, all of your needs could be met in one stop. Would gift-wrapping services be an added bonus? If Post Office functions could be moved into retail spaces, what areas or types of stores best lend themselves to this effort? Share your ideas in the comment section below.
  • on Jun 11th, 2012 in Products & Services | 14 comments
    A 100-year old temperance-era law prohibits the Postal Service from shipping alcohol and benefiting from the growth in online purchases of wine, beer, and other spirits. As states have loosened their restrictions on inter-state alcohol shipments, FedEx and UPS have seized this burgeoning opportunity. The Postal Service needs to secure new sources of revenue in an era of declining mail volume. Shipping of alcohol could create an additional revenue stream, while capitalizing on the Postal Service’s strength in last-mile delivery. Shipping of alcohol would require the Postal Service to establish a strict set of rules. First, it would have to be sure no one under age 21 receives alcoholic shipments. Second, it would have to comply with varying state laws, some of which prohibit the shipment of out-of-state alcohol directly to consumers. Other states allow direct shipments to consumers but restrict those shipments to producers, such as wineries. The Postal Service has indicated it would put proper restrictions in place, such as requiring an adult signature for shipments of alcohol. It even appears to have ideas around flat rate boxes that could hold two, four, or six bottles of wine. With the right restrictions in place, should the Postal Service be allowed to ship alcohol and tap into this growing market? Or should an organization that is part of the federal government stay out of the business of shipping alcohol given the negative images sometimes associated with alcohol consumption? What do you think? Share your comments below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Office of Audit.
  • on Sep 5th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 5 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has aggressively moved to reduce costs by consolidating its processing network and realigning its delivery facilities. However, it has essentially eliminated rail transportation, which is the least costly way to move mail long distances. During the recent economic downturn, railroads invested heavily in infrastructure to improve service. Private industry shippers of time-sensitive materials have responded to these improvements by shifting volume from highway to rail. UPS (the largest rail customer in the U.S.) attempts to put any package traveling over 750 miles on rail. JB Hunt, one of the Postal Service’s largest highway contractors, has shifted a substantial freight volume to rail and now earns more than one-third of its overall revenue from intermodal rail transportation. The potential benefits to the Postal Service are clear. Rail is a less expensive and more environmentally friendly transportation mode compared to trucking. Recent estimates show that intermodal rail service can improve fuel efficiency by about 3.5 times relative to highway tractor-trailer service. In addition, rail gives the Postal Service more capacity flexibility as this mode can operate one-way, while highway transportation must be purchased in round-trips. Since Postal Service volumes tend to flow from north to south and east to west, utilizing rail would avoid the cost of paying for empty or near-empty trucks on the return trips. Rail is also far less susceptible to the weather interruptions that can wreak havoc on highways. The shift to rail, however, is not without its drawbacks. On average, rail is slower than highway transportation. It would also require greater monitoring and pre-planning and complex decision-making by management. For example, the Postal Service would need to choose when to dispatch to rail yards versus alternatives such as dispatching a highway trailer to a network distribution center or other consolidation points. Although it would require some additional efforts, the potential savings to the Postal Service of converting from highway to rail could be tremendous. While concerns related to speed of service moved the Postal Service almost completely away from rail, other shipping companies are embracing rail with vigor. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Pages