• 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?

  • on Jan 12th, 2009 in OIG | 17 comments

    Keeping the Mail Safe

    Even though the holiday season is behind us, as the old saying goes, “crime takes no holiday.” In fact, as the economy dips, crime generally moves in the other direction. A recent crime data report by a retail trade group showed an 84 percent increase in shoplifting as the economy weakened, with retail security experts saying the problem grew worse over the holiday season. Shoplifters are taking everything from CDs to gift cards. The Postal Service is not immune from this trend. Many valuable items travel through the mail. People send their friends and family presents, gift cards, and checks. They order merchandise online. The vast majority of these items arrive safely at their destination, but some do not.

    Because mail can contain any number of valuables — not just jewelry or other expensive items, but personal and financial information — thieves will try to steal it. Postal Inspectors investigate mail theft committed by those outside the Postal Service; Special Agents from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) focus investigative attention on postal employees who steal the mail. Successes by both of these law enforcement entities contribute to maintaining public confidence in the Postal Service and the mail.

    How can you help?

    First, if you suspect your mail has been stolen or have any information about a mail theft, contact the OIG’s hotline at 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644).

    Second, if you have any suggestions about how the Postal Service, Postal Inspection Service, or the OIG can better ensure the security of the mail, please share them. We can all play a role in keeping the mail safe.

  • on Jan 5th, 2009 in OIG | 4 comments

    As we start a new year, those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog thought it would be fun to reflect on the past year and pick our top 10 list of postal stories from 2008. We would like to hear your views. Take a look at the list and tell us what you like or don’t like. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to know your pick of the top postal story for 2008, so take a minute and vote for the most important story by participating in the poll below.

    And now in reverse order . . . our top 10:

    1. Postal Service flexes pricing muscles — The Postal Service used its pricing flexibility under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) to offer new discounts for competitive products.
    2. Periodicals go web-only — Major publications such as PC World and The Christian Science Monitor decided to drop print editions in favor of electronic versions.
    3. PAEA-mandated reports hit the street — A flood of reports intended to lay the groundwork for the Postal Service’s future regulatory environment were released by the Federal Trade Commission, Treasury, Postal Regulatory Commission, Postal Service, and others.
    4. Voting by mail takes off — Prior to the 2008 election, it was anticipated that more than 31 million people would vote by mail, double the number in 2000.
    5. Postal Service announces VERA (Voluntary Early Retirement Authority) and a hiring freeze — In response to lowered revenues, the Postal Service took action to downsize and lower costs.
    6. Prefunding retiree health benefits — Anticipating large losses, the Postal Service, its Board of Governors, and other stakeholders urged Congress to allow the Postal Service to start paying current retiree health benefits from its dedicated retiree health fund now rather than in 2017.
    7. Gas price swings — The price of fuel, a major expense for the Postal Service, rose to record highs and then dramatically fell back.
    8. Greening of the mail — The Postal Service and mailing industry took steps to respond to concerns about mail’s environmental impact.
    9. DHL leaves the U.S. market — To stem large losses, DHL abandoned its effort to become a competitor for U.S. domestic parcel shipments.
    10. Postal Service mail volume declines — The weakening economy led to a decline in mail volume.

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