• on Feb 2nd, 2009 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 19 comments

    The Postal Service lost $2.8 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2008. This year, the Postal Service is concerned its loss could grow to $6 billion or more. Since the Postal Service is limited by law from borrowing more than $3 billion per year and the Postal Service started 2009 with only $1.4 billion cash on hand, there is a danger the Postal Service could face a liquidity problem as payroll and benefits alone are about $54 billion a year.

    Last Wednesday, Postmaster General Potter testified to the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service. (Click here to view that testimony.) The Postmaster General asked for two forms of relief:

    • Moderation of payments for retiree health care — Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), the Postal Service must make annual payments (more than $5 billion each year) for the next 8 years into a special fund for future retiree health care benefits. In addition, the Postal Service must pay separately for current retirees. The Postal Service requested the ability to start paying for current retirees out of the retiree health care fund now rather than in 8 years as called for in the PAEA. The large annual payments into the fund would continue.
    • Optional 5-day delivery — The Postal Service would like the Board of Governors to have the option of reducing delivery from 6 days a week when circumstances warranted.

    What do you think of these options?

  • on Jan 26th, 2009 in Products & Services | 4 comments

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    More than 31 million ballots were expected to have been mailed in the recent 2008 election — nearly twice as many as in 2004. Voting by mail has expanded as more states offer “no excuses” absentee ballots or conduct elections through the mail. Oregon has voted by mail since 1998 and has saved 30 percent of its election costs by eliminating polling places.

    To respond to the vote-by-mail movement, the Postal Service developed a national Election Mail program that offers training to help local officials use mail to increase voter turnout. The Postal Service and the Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee designed an Official Election Mail logo, which is available only to election offices. The logo ensures that Official Election Mail is easily identifiable. In the 2007 update of its Strategic Transformation Plan (click for link), the Postal Service also suggested developing new features — such as pricing that includes return postage and tracking using the Intelligent Mail Barcode — to encourage voting by mail.

    Supporters point out that voting by mail can increase voter turnout (between 2 and 10 percent), that voting from home allows more careful consideration of complicated referenda and initiatives, and that voting by mail is an answer to help infirm or handicapped individuals. In Oregon, more than 80 percent of citizens polled said they preferred voting by mail and rated it positively. Detractors, however, raise the possibility of undue influence on voters in private or outright fraud because the remote voting process cannot be monitored. One potential concern for the Postal Service is that it may come under pressure to deliver ballots for free.

    What do you think about voting by mail? How can the Postal Service provide the best service for Election Mail? Please comment below.

  • on Jan 16th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 14 comments
    A recent presentation by Deutsche Post describes the German delivery and logistics company’s efforts to transform its retail network. One particularly interesting innovation is self-service Packstations. Like the U.S. Postal Service’s APCs (Automated Postal Centers), these kiosks allow customers to ship packages. However, Packstations also provide 24-hour access for parcel pickup. Customers can register to receive their packages at any packstation in the country. When the package arrives, the recipient receives an e-mail or text message. Rather than rushing to the post office before it closes, customers can use their card and pin number to retrieve it at any time. This convenience is particularly helpful for people who have no way to get to a post office when it is open.

    Deutsche Post already has 1,500 Packstations in Germany and is planning to add 1,000 more. What do you think about Packstations? Would you use one?

    Should the U.S. Postal Service look into providing 24-hour parcel pickup? If so, how? What about combining APCs with parcel pickup?

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