Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service allow merchants to pay the shipping charges for their customers' returns. Merchandise Return Service is the end-to-end version, and Parcel Return Service provides workshare discounts for mailers willing to pick up the packages within the Postal Service's network. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service with their own experiences. Nicole, an OIG employee, recently used Parcel Return Service. She agreed to share her experience on Pushing the Envelope.

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For the 2008 holiday season I tried the all-online shopping approach for the first time. I had my items picked out, purchased, delivered to my door, and even wrapped by December 12! It was an unprecedented feat for me personally and I was overjoyed at the lack of stress involved — that is until I found out the big surprise gift of a digital camera for my Mom turned out to be duplicated by another friend of hers! What does this have to do with the USPS OIG blog? We’ll get there…

After resigning myself to the fact that the other camera was actually better than the one I purchased, it became clear that I would have to return the item, and my dread mounted. What a hassle — there was no ‘store’ for the virtual vendor I purchased it from, so I’d have to find the invoice, repackage the thing, and get it back to the online seller. Just thinking about how long that would take gave me a headache. That is until I logged into the vendor site and saw that they had something called USPS Parcel Return Service. I thought whoa, what is this? And to my delight, I found that with two mouse clicks and my printer, I could get the return invoice for the package and a pre-paid USPS shipping label for the box! It took me less than 5 minutes to plop the item and invoice in the box, fold and tape the label to it, and be on my way to drop it at a local post office. There was even an option to schedule a pickup of the package free of charge by my local carrier, but I felt entirely too guilty at how easy it was to that point to take advantage.

So, I stopped by the local post office on my way to work, went in the main lobby, and dropped it straight in the parcel box. E-mails from the vendor confirmed the arrival of the return package, and just this week I received the refund of the purchase price. Easy as that! So next holiday season, I’m not going to let this minor blip keep me from shopping online. Instead, I’m going to look for more vendors who offer this convenient service and online-shop away!

Have you used Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service? Was your experience similar to Nicole’s? If not, what happened, and how would you improve these services?

Comments (15)

  • anon

    I left my RMA authorized merchandise at the USPS close to me, at Blue Bell, PA. I have a few details from the receipt i got from the clerk at the desk and would like to know how i can track the merchandise being either picked up by the intended receiver or being received by them. Please advise. I do see a label number being mentioned on my receipt which is indeed a long one and would like to know if that is expected to be a tracking number. Please advise.

    Jan 20, 2018
  • anon

    I send a return shipping label out with my item was sending out and the USPS app says it has been delivered to agent and Tendered to Returns Agent, what does this mean

    Jan 06, 2018
  • anon

    We received this open envelope today totally empty Priority mail 2 day Tracking number 9505 5000 1991 7129 0002 30 Not sure what it was Can you track it to the seller Thank you Ken

    May 12, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Ken, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 15, 2017
  • anon

    I return my package thru US postal two weeks ago, but until now,,the sender they don't receive the package yet.i call the company.they said they don't get it.. That's why they can't refund my money back.

    Mar 06, 2017
  • anon

    I have returned to different items to two different companies. I have used their shipping labels and their boxes. The first one was last year. They never received the router, I'm out $150. Now this year I returned a mini genie to Directv. I did this on or about Nov 10th. Today is Nov 29th. Dtv still does not have the genie. I'm going to be charged for that. Now what? Directv says they have no tracking for their preprinted label. I screwed up by not learning my lesson the first time and taking a pic of the label.

    Nov 29, 2016
  • anon

    I sent 3 items yesterday at USPS office and unfortunately the receiver's name and address was wrong and also I have the tracking number. Can you help me make some changes or return the items?

    Oct 20, 2016
  • anon

    Hi there, how's it going? Just shared this post with a colleague, we had a good laugh.

    May 21, 2016
  • anon

    <a href="#">yes</a>

    Aug 18, 2013
  • anon

    Very interesting post, also good comments.

    Dec 10, 2011
  • anon

    Alan, why would you BORE readers with your banal comment. go away. no one cares.

    Jan 09, 2012
  • anon

    It can be a bit complicated to return purchased good especially if you never send anything with services such as UPS or DHL.

    Jul 24, 2011
  • anon

    I agree with the previous 2 responses to some extent, although I am still scratching my head a bit over an excerpt of the 1st response 'exact estimated package position'. The only true tracking the USPS offers is 'Express Mail'. Certified , Signature Confirmation, Registered pieces get the job done that the sender required; that the recipient got the item or was notified that it is available for pick-up. A return receipt card provides proof. So does the USPS website. Delivery Confirmation is a little dicey, the carrier can scan it delivered, but the recipient can swear up and down that they did'nt receive it, since in most cases, a signature is not required. The problem with most 'No record of this item' has to do with items not presented to a retail clerk. A retail clerk with a POS system scans in all accountable items as they receive them. Here is the WEAKNESS; accountable mail placed in APC's, picked-up by a carrier, by a collection clerk at contract stations or other mailers, or in blue boxes, are not scanned into the system. There will always be no record of these items until they reach their destinations. Except for "Express" mail. That is always scanned in at some point, even if the window is closed. Anyway, 'TRACKING A PKG', in my opinion, is over-rated. Personally, I don't care when a pkg from North Carolina gets to Kentucky and then to Texas, and then to my town. I only care about GETTING it. For me at least, the USPS provides excellent service. AND BACK TO THE ORIGINAL TOPIC: The USPS should continue to get mailers to offer Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service to their customers. A lot of low-income folks would rather risk the companies coming after them for pymt, then paying the price of postage to return items, never knowing if they will get reimbursed. It's a good deal and money in the bank for the USPS.

    Mar 07, 2009
  • anon

    Good point but it sounds expensive to implement especially for an organization that is hemorrhaging money.

    Feb 19, 2009
  • anon

    Although I have not had to ever do a return as a consumer, I do think that this option is a very important part of the internet commerce community. I would like to see the USPS promote this capability a lot more - amongst all the other promoting that the USPS should be doing. Something that is related, and quite important to me is the ability to track a shipment. There is something really satisfying about tracking your shipment online, step by step, when they are shipped using UPS and FedEx. Unfortunately, for some reason, USPS is horrible at providing shipping information. For example, I have a package on its way to me. As I was notified, it was shipped on Thursday; the USPS tracking information does not provide any information but that "there is no record for this item". Unfortunately, that is quite commonly the only information that is provided until the package is already delivered and if there is information provided, it is so sparse that it would be better not to get any information at all. I don't see why USPS could not implement a far better system that uploads package status information for each transition situation. If you were to create a system that allows someone to get online and see a, e.g., Google maps, map where an exact estimated package position is identifiable based on where it last was, where it is going, and the average speed between the points; I think USPS would steal significant market share away from the other shippers. Don't underestimate the significance of consumers being able to track shipments and identifying estimated delivery dates.

    Feb 09, 2009

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