Same-day delivery. On-demand delivery. Customer control. Dynamic routing. These are just a few features that have made package delivery a booming and competitive industry. Some might even argue it’s a downright sexy one.

To get to the bells and whistles, however, you need a solid foundation. All of those innovations depend on accurate tracking. And tracking starts with scanning. Customers expect to be able to track their orders as soon as they have checked out online. So complete tracking and tracing is essential.

The U.S. Postal Service understands this. It has said it wants to achieve 100 percent visibility and provide world-class package delivery services. And it is working aggressively toward those goals. Last year it deployed over 200,000 mobile scan devices for scanning as packages move through the network, including at delivery.

At the National Postal Forum in March postal officials announced that in 2016 they would expand Informed Visibility, the Postal Service program that uses data, such as Intelligent Mail barcode scans, to give mailers real-time insight into how their mail is being processed and delivered. Informed Visibility also gives the Postal Service information on operational and delivery performance.

Specifically, Informed Visibility would add more scan events and get those scans into the hands of mailers sooner. A future addition will be delivery scans using geospatial technology.

Things are definitely moving along. But as our recent audit report indicates, sometimes it makes sense to get back to basics. Our analysis of scan data and the scanning process at 30 delivery units in the Chicago District found the Postal Service has opportunities to improve package scanning in city delivery operations.

In addition to packages being falsely scanned as delivered, our audit report found that some packages were scanned as delivered prematurely (before the carrier left the office) or too late (after the carrier returned). The scan should be made at the delivery point.

It’s an understatement to say that inaccurate scans irk customers. And a dissatisfied customer can lead to a loss of business. We urged the Postal Service to make the necessary improvements to its scanning procedures and improve oversight of the process, and make sure mobile scan devices are repaired promptly and additional devices added as needed.  

Please take our poll, and then share in a comment your thoughts on these questions: When you order online, do you track your package from start to finish? How important is it to you to know where it is every step of the process. Or is just knowing when it will arrive enough information? 

Comments (16)

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  • anon

    I send out prepaid packages and they rarely get scanned in until days after. My customers get annoyed because I have a 1-2 ship time, and even though I shipped the item, it might not show in tracking for days.

    Jan 12, 2017
  • anon

    I am very displeased with the poor tracking of the USPS, yours is worse than even UPS, FEDEX is the best, and there is no reason the USPS should be so bad. Today is 11/18/2016. I purchase LP records from Ebay regularly, most sellers ship them Media mail, which is proper for recorded media. But i have had so far just this week, 20 out of the 24 lps I purchased have NOT yet been scanned, after a WEEK! 1 never even has showed up, after 15 days, local PO says sorry no way to trace a tracking number, then what use is it then?? EACH PARCEL is supposed to be scanned in upon receipt by the USPS, and it is NOT being done.My local PO is so rude to me, they regularly flat out lie, make up their own rules, are just downright nasty, I have lived here for 25 years now, some of them are still there, and still as nasty. I actually will DRIVE ONE HOUR round trip to the next closest town to mail my packages, to avoid the rude employees at my PO, but more frequently if I have to drive, i will choose FEDEX, as their service is so much better, they deliver in 2-3 days average even on regular ground service, at much cheaper cost, and most importantly, they dont throw or kick my packages up onto my porch, as my neighbors have video taped them doing to my packages! Complaining does no good, just makes it happen more. The USPS should be ashamed. I am.

    Nov 18, 2016
  • anon

    huge issue with the postal service not scanning online prepaid labeled packages at time of acceptance!! this is affecting my delivery rate % and thus has caused me to loose my fee discount with e-bay!!!...as in the letter from inspector general on may 2016 he says that package must be scanned at pickup/delivery time. think about it! the post office has a tracking system and charges customers .85 to track a package. you expect to get what you are paying for!.if they do not scan it at each point(pick-up or drop off,each postal depot. until delivered.) then there is no full tracking. I have had packages never scanned!. in fact 3 within the last 2 months that were never scanned at any point and have suddenly vanished off the face of the earth!. I complete a lost mail claim to no avail!. you will finally get an apology letter that they are unable to locate the package. I even wonder if anyone truly looks for it!.. so that puts me in a situation where I have to refund money for an item someone bought from me and along with the shipping they paid!.. again another lose to me for spending hundreds a dollars a year to the post office and them not doing the job they are supposed to do!. "we" the people buying your labels, tracking and other products are who pay your salaries to get the job done correctly!. we paid for it!!! do your part and take care of the customer!!

    Oct 29, 2016
  • anon

    Hello, I have had so many problems with my local usps delivery services. I live in Hermosa Beach, but our mail is delivered by Redondo Beach, CA post office. I get my neighbors mail every other day in my box. The packages that are scanned as delivered, arrive days later, if at all. I can never get a hold of anyone to talk to or complain. Today I received a text that my package was delivered and handed directly to me, when I am at home all day and nobody even knocked on my door! I walked around the house, talked to my neighbors and nothing!!! I am an amazon prime customer, and with all these problems, I am going to ask amazon to stop mailing my packages with usps, because it is so unreliable and nobody seems to be accountable for anything at all!!!!! Please do something about it!!! I have had packages stolen from my door step, so I make sure I am at home, when a package is supposed to get delivered. I am tired of wasting my time for nothing. This is not a way to do business. USPS needs to compete with private services, so customer complaints really need to be responded to. Please, get back to me about this issue. Thank you very much.

    Oct 18, 2016
  • anon

    I, just yesterday, got into a discussion with my local postmaster. I was continually not getting mail picked up (flag up) at my mail box. So, last week they suggested I fill out a pickup form. Which I DID.... This postmaster is under the impression that since my pickup request was "scanned" the carrier did NOT have to scan the packages. I explained that all USPS wants is the count piece for items to pickup. NO where is there a place to enter tracking numbers so that scan does NOT reveal that my package was actually shipped. He said if I wanted MY packages scanned he would tell the route carrier to do so.... WHAT ? Why would this be considered a privilege just for my mail.... It is a requirement to scan mail YES / NO. If I could create a scan sheet by entering my labels (printed on ebay) tracking number somewhere so that scanning the scan sheet would in fact enter all of them ....then I would do so...... I just think local postmasters need to be re-educated ....and NOT by their customers.... I LOVE my little post office and everyone that works there - but, this is business ....MY BUSINESS and I count on USPS doing what they are supposed to do and doing what normally they do very, very well...... HELP ME....HELP THEM....I've printed off stuff I found and taken to the post office - USPS needs to let me know am I wrong ? or are they misinformed? Does USPS even READ this or do they count on answers from random strangers..... YES ....I track what I ship ....but, most importantly ....MY customer tracks them .... or at least tries to

    Aug 25, 2016
  • anon

    The most important thing to me about delivery is that I actually get the delivery. For the last 18 months we have had horrible service from our locale post office. At least once a week we have to deliver other peoples mail to them and I don't order much through the mail but am getting packages on my doorstep constantly. Some of our neighbors are not so generous and have kept our mail for over 3 months. So PLEASE start out your service by actually getting the mail to the person it was mailed to. The only good thing to come out of this is that I have come to know my neighbors.

    Aug 21, 2016
  • anon

    Your delivery speed is to slow. I've had a package I've been waiting on for four weeks now that's ridiculous. The closes it's gotten is Birmingham where it's has been sitting now for three days , and I'm in Montgomery all I can do is sit and look at your website read Birmingham for three days now. Very frustrating next time I will use a different carrier.

    Jun 18, 2016
  • anon

    I was told by my carrier that my packages would no longer be scanned. We send out 80 to 100 packages a day and this is going to cause a major problem for our business. We are looking for other mailing solutions.

    May 14, 2016
  • anon

    I personally track my package from start to delivery. Although occasional processing problems are quite rare, the most issues I am having usually happen at the final delivery point. When my regular carrier is not on the route, it seems like there is very little concern for the replacements to scan at the point of delivery. With real-time tracking now being the norm, it is very aggravating to get an email or text message stating ÔÇ£Your package was delivered at X time,ÔÇØ and after running outside you find absolutely nothing. I have to call customer service and open cases every time a false scan appears. Most of the packages end up being delivered eventually when my regular carrier returns to the route. This only affirms that there was never an attempt to deliver in the first place. One time I drove down the street and found the replacement carrier and asked why would my package show delivered 10 minutes ago. He told me that he is not delivering any packages but only providing assistance with the letter mail because the regular carrier is on vacation. He said another employee is doing the packages for the route and she is a few blocks away. I asked him why it would be scanned as delivered when in fact it is not. He claimed that the scanners run out of batteries so the assistant carrier scans them delivered ahead of time to make sure they do get a scan. I told him thank you but I didnÔÇÖt quite buy the explanation. My regular carrier doesnÔÇÖt seem to have that problem. I think educating all delivery personnel that accurate scanning at the point of delivery is vital in the shipping business and customer satisfaction. All personnel should ÔÇ£ownÔÇØ the responsibility to deliver and scan accurately at the point of delivery. This includes the regulars, replacements, assistants, supervisors and managers alike. Constant reminders of the importance of accurate scanning should be encouraged at all post offices. In todayÔÇÖs shipping business, delivery companies are expected to provide reliable and efficient service. It doesnÔÇÖt take long for customers to shift to a different operators and perhaps pay even more if they receive the expected service and factual tracking. On the positive side, there are some good postal workers out there who work their butts off and provide excellent service. I only hope they are not endangered species.

    May 05, 2016
  • anon

    Thank you for your comments and critique of your package delivery service. The causes for delay, misinformation and errors in tracking are numerous. It's understandable that purchasers want to know where their packages are and when they will arrive. The retail markets are trending toward blending the traditional brick and mortar sales experience with ecommerce sales and the consumer is expecting not only value but the same immediate gratification. To view the processes fairly and comparably, one must analyze each process individually. For the brick and mortar sales experience, you personally must get in your car, drive to a store, view products and choose from their limited selection, purchase the product, drive back home, and finally you have the product in hand at your home. For the ecommerce sales experience, you sit at your computer, view a multitude of websites and choose from a plethora of selection, purchase your product, sit back and then wait while a delivery service transports your product to your home, and then after delivery you receive your gratification of finally having the product in your hand. The time gap is what most purchasers are wanting to eliminate so to bring the two experiences into one where the product is physically in hand. In efforts to accommodate the desires of the consumer, past delivery competitors have joined forces to create frienemy delivery services with the US Postal Service delivering the bulk of the "last mile" packages. The last mile concept is where the US Postal Service carriers deliver the packages to the doorsteps or mailboxes for frienemy delivery services for a minimal fee of $1.00. Regardless of what you paid the competitor delivery service, no matter how BIG or small, the US Postal Service is paid $1.00. That $1.00 fee is how ecommerce retailers offer Free Shipping. Addressing your comments about inaccurate scans. The US Postal Service uses multiple different scanners and scanning software throughout the packaging process. Some data is real time while other data are delayed by different intervals. The USPS data is coupled with competitor's data through data server exchanges in reciprocal fashion in most cases to give the information the purchaser wants to see and track. Both the USPS and their firenemies through their software, generate System Generated automatic messages. So what you see and are tracking may not be true or accurate. Quite often and more so now than say 6 years ago, delivery routes are split up and different carriers deliver different portions that they are not familiar with. With all the portioning to complete deliveries, manpower and equipment, meaning scanners that work properly become short in supply. Monitoring through software by USPS District and Area level management causes local delivery units to be adaptive, thus exaggerating what you see and track may not be true or accurate. So for the carrier to say a battery was running out of charge was probably a truthful statement. And though all delivery units nationwide should have made the switched to the new cell based scanners, many old scanners are still in use out in the field and they require cradling before data is uploaded. Owning responsibility to deliver and scan accurately at the point of delivery is the easy task, surmounting the larger systemic issues of closing the time gap to offer the purchaser the gratification of product in hand as immediately as possible is the challenge. Don't forget, all of the 3 major delivery services offer overnight delivery service including weekends and holidays for additional charge.

    May 10, 2016
  • anon

    Hey Oldtimer you use a lot of big words. I'm an oldtimer too but I'm going to use some smaller words and a smaller post that gets to the point-- batteries don't run out of charge. There are only ONE scanner per route so if two carriers carry one route---ooops one carrier either doesn't scan, scans late or scans early. "Cradling" before data is uploaded means the carrier must bring the scanner back to the office after all the scans are complete and download the data at the end of the day. (Duh? Oldtimer-- say it so someone can understand if you're going to say it). This is why the information you see sometimes is late. Now let me translate "the postal service data is coupled with competitors data through data servers exchanges in reciprocal fashion" (dang I got confused just typing that!) Anyway what that means is that UPS and FedEx are paid to deliver parcels. They scan parcels with their own equipment and then decide that many of those are too expensive to deliver themselves so they drop them on the doorsteps of the postal service and merge their own scans (whether accurate or not) into the postal service database and say bye bye to the parcels. Now there was an important word in that last sentence--accurate, actually three words, accurate or not. Many times UPS and FedEx will scan than an item has been dropped off at a post office when in fact in was not or was left at one 500 miles away. Now this is when those crazy scans start. Its here. Its there. Its coming from 500 miles away. How? It was here yesterday. But back to Oldtimer--the postal service has soooooooo many analysts and managers making spreadsheets and monitoring scans (accurate or inaccurate) that moving a few of these to productive positions would free up funds for buying extra scanners.

    May 20, 2016
  • anon

    new scanner batteries do die by the end of the day,especially with a lot of use.we have resorted to taking a pic with our personal cell phones of bar code,then upon return to office,scanning all pics with another scanner.the fraudulent or false scans can be directly attributed to new hires bringing back mail and mgmt scanning all parcels delivered or attempted.an easy audit tool would be to look at times and place on rt of these scans. they would mostly be all after 5pm and all in last hours of rt.the attempts are all associated with one 3849.in addition,every morning,delivery supervisor brings sheet of missed scans to rt and tells you to manually input delivery for yesterday.oig should follow up the chain to see who wants this 100% result to the detriment of our credibility and service.

    Jun 11, 2016
  • anon

    The USPS in Gold Beach Oregon 97444 has deiced they will no longer Scan Anything!. They just send it along to Portland that might scan it if they have time. ! So anything Shipped from here is our of Compliance the moment we give it to this PO. Please Fix this.. All mail needs to be Scanned at All points of the chain. Especially at the Drop off!.

    May 03, 2016
  • anon

    Scanning has improved business for USPS from FedEx and UPS. Cutting corners to scan before or after the delivery point will lose business. Need Trust. The customer is paying for a service and expect that service. Scanning is used for Certified/Return Receipt. This area needs to be audited. Couriers are not scanning at point of delivery either because they have not been equipped with the scanner or they are in a hurry and don't take the time. Once item is dropped off, USPS loses the chance to make completion of this service. In turn, causing more paper work to issue a claim and more people to track and investigate why and where the mail piece is and was it delivered. This is a process that needs more attention. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to make a comment.

    May 03, 2016
  • anon

    Scanning is important, however - falsification of scanning is on the rise to achieve these numbers. As a customer I have received many messages stating my mail has arrived stating "scanned as delivered" over the last 9 months only to find out the package is still sitting at the post office and hasn't even left the building. If this is happening to me and the carrier knows I am a postal employee, how often is this taking place in the field to our customers? ... all to achieve a score. The eye needs to be taken off the score and put on the actual physical attribute of what is taking place in the field...reality... anyone can scan a package, but is it really in the hands of the customer??? Mine were not 9 out of 10 times.

    May 02, 2016
  • anon

    Lisa, I don't think you work for the USPS. If you did you wouldn't have made the accusation that the carrier is falsely scanning your packages as delivered. You would KNOW that it's the supervisors who practice this behavior to cover their rear ends when mis-sorted packages fail to make it to the street because the carrier has already left the building when these mis-sorts are discovered. I also can't believe you when you say nine out of ten times. You clearly are full of it. My guess is it's happened to you three times out of about 150. While I agree it shouldn't happen at all, exaggerating your problems only hurts your argument. As to the question about scanning in the article, I think the postal service is getting carried away with this idea of visibility. They're working on a product most customers don't want. I often deliver parcels and scan as delivered only to find they sit for several days before the customer retrieves them. Obviously they're not all that concerned with tracking the package if it sits that long, not getting notifications or if they are don't care too much. Personally I find tracking info useful when I'm expecting a delivery, but all I really want to know is expected delivery day and when it's arrived. I don't need a specific predicted delivery time window like we've all heard is in the works. Seems cumbersome, unreliable and unnecessary to me.

    May 03, 2016

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