Public policy debates about solving the Postal Service’s financial crisis have largely focused on reducing costs by cutting service such as Saturday delivery, transitioning from brick and mortar post offices to alternative retail sales channels, or limiting other functions performed by the Postal Service. There has been less talk about the costs of meeting delivery service standards, which were reviewed following the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. Can the Postal Service relax some of its requirements to save money in transportation or processing costs? Right now, its goals are to deliver First-Class Mail in 1 to 3 days and Standard Mail in 3 to 10 days. A slight adjustment of these standards in particular areas might make it possible to save a great deal of costs. Instead of developing the goal first and trying to reach those levels, no matter how costly it is, maybe the Postal Service should closely analyze its infrastructure and develop goals that allow for reaching the greatest efficiencies. For example, if the service standards for bulk mail from Chicago to Los Angeles were given an additional day the Postal Service could avoid the expense of trucks and instead utilize economical rail transportation. A First-Class Mail package that currently travels by air could be carried by truck if given another day. By relaxing service standards, the Postal Service can move further towards a hub and spoke network, which could result in substantial savings. Currently, plants may have lots of half-empty, smaller trucks fanning out to a multiplicity of plants only once or twice a day. Under this new strategy, many trucks would go to a mail consolidation facility, which consolidates the mail and ships it on larger, fuller trucks to the destination facilities throughout the day. This design has the additional benefits of network stability and is capable of scaling up or down with changing mail volume. The bottom line is that the Postal Service and its stakeholders need to decide what service standards are worth the cost. The Postal Service should have an honest and informed discussion about the cost savings that it can pass on to the public by relaxing some of the present delivery service standards. Do you think the Postal Service should adjust its delivery standards to cut its costs? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
on Apr 19th, 2010
in Delivery & Collection
| 152 comments
on Apr 12th, 2010
in Post Offices & Retail Network
| 40 comments
The Postal Service is required by law to “provide, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Consequently, the Postal Service has the largest retail presence in America with more than 32,000 leased or owned facilities located across the country. Today, alternate access channels are widely available. Customers can purchase stamps and access services at the Postal Service’s website www.usps.com, self-serve kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately-operated shipper locations. Meanwhile, in the past decade, business and household mailers have increasingly turned to electronic media to transmit correspondence that was formerly sent through the postal system. In addition, a weakened economy has resulted in declining mail volume and revenue. The combination of the availability of alternative access and declining revenue requires the Postal Service to re-evaluate its retail network to eliminate growing excess capacity, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. In May 2009, the Postal Service began a national initiative, known as retail optimization, to consolidate its retail stations and branches in urban and suburban areas. Unlike some other retailers, the Postal Service can’t close their stores without generating public reaction. Closing just a small percentage of postal facilities can affect thousands of people and communities and is often questioned by those communities involved. As a result, there is a need for the Postal Service to work with stakeholders to balance their interests and optimize resources. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Network Optimization Team.
on Apr 5th, 2010
in Ideas Worth Exploring
| 42 comments
According to a New York Times article, nearly 10 percent of Americans do not have bank accounts. These and other underbanked people may be taken advantage of by lenders, check cashing facilities, and pawnbrokers through excessive interest rates and fees. Fortunately, in this country, there are many options for consumers to choose, including prepaid debit cards. What if the Postal Service explored partnering with prepaid debit card providers to sell prepaid debit cards at post offices, just as they are now sold at other retail outlets? While the Postal Service explored similar products in the past, the current economic climate calls for a reexamination of the product. The Postal Service’s current experience conducting financial transactions in the form of money orders and Dinero Seguro would aid in the introduction of prepaid debit card services. Offering the cards could create a new revenue stream for the Postal Service and earn interest on the cards’ float, the money residing in cardholder accounts. That money may be invested prior to its use by account holders. The Postal Service might also benefit from increased sales of other products due to an increase in store traffic. The Postal Service has two core market advantages that would aid it in successfully offering prepaid debit cards. First, with the second-largest retail network in the country, the Postal Service could sell prepaid debit cards in areas with limited private sector retailers. Second, customers may be more likely to come to a Post Office to purchase prepaid debit card transactions because of their trust in the Postal Service brand. Legal and regulatory constraints, however, currently prohibit the Postal Service from offering prepaid debit cards. Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the Postal Service cannot offer new nonpostal products. Private sector interests may also work to prevent the Postal Service from competing against them by offering this product. Finally consider that given the robust variety of financial institutions already in this country, the Postal Service should evaluate whether offering prepaid banking card services would provide valuable options to customers while making a profit for itself. What do you think? Why did you answer yes or no to the poll question? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).