For decades, the Postal Service offered vending machine service to supplement its retail operations. Vending machines meet the needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line. While the lack of stamp vending machines has resulted in customer frustration and a surprising number of newspaper articles, the problems are particularly acute in economically depressed and more urban areas. Although Automated Postal Centers (APCs) provide many services including the sale of stamps and directly applied postage for First-Class letters, APCs require credit cards, which people in economically depressed areas often do not have. In addition, some customers find APCs to be intimidating to use. Finally, APCs sell only booklets of stamps or individual stamps in denominations of $1 or more, yet many disadvantaged customers may want to buy just one First-Class Mail stamp.

[poll id="112"]

So with an apparent need for simple vending machines, what should the Postal Service do? In the past, the Postal Service had problems with the legacy machines it owned. They were costly and difficult to maintain and operate. The answer may be to contract this activity out. Commercial vending machines, like those selling soda and chips, are generally not owned and operated by the organizations on whose property they are located. While Postal Service unions and management associations may have concerns, private operators might be very interested in acquiring stamp vending machine contracts for a percentage of gross sales (or similar) while taking sole responsibility for vending machine maintenance and support. In addition to the convenience vending machines would offer, they might also help window clerks operate more efficiently. Diverting low-value stamp sales from windows would increase revenue per labor hour and allow the Postal Service window clerks to focus on more important functions. With shorter lines and happier customers, the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve. This idea could be a win-win for all concerned. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments (63)

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  • anon

    Totally skewed rational for taking machines out of post offices. If someone needs and only will buy 1 stamp, or if someone does not have a credit card to use in the machine, then unfortunately they will have to wait in line. Why tho, is the other 90 % or so,of the population penalized and inconvenienced because a few can't or aren't able to use the machines. It doesn't make sense and the thought process behind this decision is totally and unbelievably unreasonable and beyond comprehension.

    Apr 18, 2016
  • anon

    As a window clerk, selling individual stamps is grossly inefficient, especially in a POS or RSS office. First we need a type of stamp that the system will allow us to sell individually. Then we need to manually tear that many stamps off the sheet, go through the motions of POS or RSS, for a dollar or less in revenue. That's an awful lot of clerk time and customer waiting time for a 49-cent transaction (and there are many of those in the course of a typical day). Even if not with a dedicated vending machine (which many customers -- and probably the union -- don't like), I think this can be made more efficient for the customers and clerks to make the individual stamp-buying process about as quick as buying a book or 20 or a roll of 100. If the window were equipped with a device that could reliably dispense individual stamps off of a large perforated coil, it would be easier than trying to tear individual stamps off of a sheet of Purple Hearts (for example) which often have weak perforations that can tear through stamps. I would imagine the time needed to process this transaction would go down rather dramatically.

    Mar 13, 2016
  • anon

    Went to my local post office in Tucker, Ga 30084 and purchased postal stamps from the self serve postage machine (inside post office), I paid $4.90 for 10 stamps half the sheet printed with the postage on it and the other half only has the flag these were to be the forever stamp. I assume I can go to the post office to rectify this discrepancy.

    Jan 23, 2016
  • anon

    I like the Post Office and believe that the need for it will never disappear. But using a post office location is often a grind and a joke. Buying stamps is these days the biggest pain in the rear going. At the post offices in my area the only option for getting the stamps we want in time to use them (ex. Christmas stamps) is to stand on long slow lines to see a rushed, harried counter worker. Otherwise, all we have available is what's stocked in the APC, grocery stores, etc., usually Liberty Bell or Old Glory 'n' Fireworks. Or we might have to settle for the ridiculous jokes called "designs" printed out as self-adhesive stamps at the APC... my God but those are awful! It was always so nice to just be able to step into the P.O. lobby, buy a book of stamps (including holiday), pop my outgoing mail through the slots and move on with my day. And yes I have tried buying stamps from USPS online, and I'm here to tell you it was definitely NOT worth the extra expense for shipping plus the week+ it took them to arrive. PLEASE put the vending machines back in the lobbies!!!

    Dec 19, 2015
  • anon

    I would like to contract postage vending machines and use them for supplemental income.

    Dec 16, 2015
  • anon

    What can the citizens of Los Alamos, NM zip code 87544 do to encourage the Los Alamos Post Office to install an Automated Postal Center (APC) machine? With shorter lines come happier customers and yes the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve.

    Dec 14, 2015
  • anon

    This should be a no-brainer - even if the machines are only available during post office hours (inside the secured area), this would be worth it. Here's a perfect example why: Today, I went to get 2 books of holiday stamps (the Peanuts series) at my local branch, and had to wait in a pretty long line, about 20 people back, with only 2 people working the 4-person counter.. There are no self-serve kiosks or vending machines for stamp books, and no one staffs the counter area where, once upon a time, people could just buy supplies like tape, stamps, etc., So, I had to wait almost 40 minutes just to do my less-than-2-minute transaction of buying 2 books of stamps. That's an unnecessary waste of time (and, the line didn't get shorter after it was my turn, either - it had grown longer during this stretch). I get that not everyone can have a credit card, but, a lot of people can have debit cards (even pre-paid), or can pay with their phone, or - here's an idea - have actual cash. And, if there's a concern about keeping cash on-hand to dispense change, you could take a page from Coinstar, and offer alternatives likes gift cards, or maybe have it dispense as a postal money order. The point is, there are ways to make this work, and it shouldn't be this hard. Seriously.

    Dec 11, 2015
  • anon

    DEAR SIRS: STAMP VENDING MACHINES CAN BE VIABLE JUST AS ATM CASH MACHINES ARE NOW.. THE ATM SYSTEM CAN BE APPLIED TO STAMP VENDING MACHI8NES. I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN PLACEING THEM IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS ON A CVOMMISSION BASIS. WOULD THIS APROACH BEST BE HANDLED BY THE POST OFFICE OR THE ATM MANUFACTURES ? PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK . SINCERELY YOURS, MR. ANTHONY MALANGA

    Dec 09, 2015
  • anon

    Irvine Main Office APC 1 15642 Sand Canyon Ave. Irvine, Ca. 92619-9998. Re: Postage dispensing machine is not printing stamps. My credit card was charged $19.60 on 12-3-15 at 6:57 AM. Is there any way to fix this? Thank you, MaryLou Goree

    Dec 03, 2015
  • anon

    you can purchase stamps at many other places such as Walgreens, gas stations, Wal-Mart, Bank Drive thru's, CVS and other drug stores. I hope this information helps.

    Nov 04, 2015
  • anon

    i travel with my job and have seen over the years how rediculous it is to go to some lame post office out in the middle of knowwhere and the sales desk is closed but the rest of box area is open and all the stamp machines have been removed and theres no way to buy a stamp to mail letter even in the last 10 years how u guys removed all the stamp machines from walmart ,my wife works for post office and she told me why and thats because YOU hire so many lazy obama voters and when u send THEMB out to collect money from machine and replace stamps it takes one of THEMB 6 hrs to do one machine or when u send them out to mail delivery route THAY cant even get done with half of THERE mailroute and call in screamin fo help ,so the office sendss out a girl to help THEMB whos done ran there route plus 2 other routes all of tha tha zoo antics comin outa THEMB is ridulous and when ya drive down road and pass THEMB THERE tryin to deliver mail while THERE on cellphone this is exactly why the whole postal system nation wide has become a huge obama bot FAIL

    Oct 03, 2015
  • anon

    I doubt any private vending machine company will be willing to use machines that accept pennies. Unless the postage rate is made to be a multiple of 5 cents, or stamps are only sold in multiples of 5, the machines the rest of the vending industry uses will not work to sell stamps, and custom machines will need to be made that accept pennies and give them as change, or laws that do not allow the mark-up of stamps will need to be relaxed to allow those cents to be overlooked. I suspect this is why custom machines had to be used in the past, and why those machines proved less reliable than standard vending machines. I have an emotional attachment to pennies, but if we as a nation want stamp vending machines in our post offices, we may have to, as a nation, say goodbye to the penny. :(

    Jul 16, 2015
  • anon

    Stamp Vending Machines are horrible. Today not only did the machine fail to issue my stamp after putting me through the complete transaction and crediting my debit account, but when I went to the post office staff for a refund, the estimated weight by the machine was $0.65 under priced. So not only did the machine not issue my stamp, the scale was not working correctly and eventually my package would have been returned to me.. This is what happens when you try to replace machines with people. MACHINES CAN NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF PEOPLE. THEY CAN’T THINK.

    Mar 03, 2015
  • anon

    This poll is over two years old and has 87% yes. When are these fools going to bring them back. (Writing this while in a very long line in one of my rare visits to post office -- rare because of lines.)

    Jan 23, 2013
  • anon

    @Mel Holden: Stamp dispensers in grocery stores? You can already buy stamps in most grocery stores - all you need to do is ask... no extra 5 cents per stamp needed! ;-) Why would we need a dispenser as well? Seems a bit redundant to me....

    Jan 20, 2013
  • anon

    Needed stamps this a.m., had to wait behind about eight other customers, didn't help that one of the postal clerks was a 'chatty Cathy'. If they had a stamp dispensing machine, I'd have been in and out in about a minute. I'd even pay an additional 5cents per stamp if dispensers were put in grocery stores, like soda vending machines are. We used to have stamp dispensing machines available.

    Jun 19, 2012
  • anon

    does pepsi make vending machines available to rich and poor alike? why not try applying some free market principles to come up with a solution for postage vending machines that take both cash and credit, for as little or as much stamps you need to buy, and place them in logical places where people go to buy stamps. after all, it's not rocket science.

    Sep 02, 2011
  • anon

    I think that the stamp vending machines should be brought back if they are in the budget...it doesn't sound like they are. I am all for convenience and speedy lines, but I would rather see the money go towards more postal workers keeping their jobs. That's just my 2 cents...

    Sep 01, 2011
  • anon
    Howard

    I checked. It was removed because it didn't generate inimum revenue required.

    May 23, 2011
  • anon

    The Sierra Madre, California 91024 post office removed the coin-based machines and installed credit card-based APC. I liked it a lot. But a couple of weeks ago they removed the APC and they say they are not going to replace it. Why?

    May 09, 2011
  • anon

    And where does one find the nearest APC since I don't know of one in my area and don't have the time to waste standing in a line at the post office that moves at a snail's pace to buy air mail stamps???

    Jan 24, 2011
  • anon
    rsheehy

    You can find an APC using the Postal Service's Post Office Locator at http://usps.whitepages.com/post_office.

    Jan 24, 2011
  • anon

    yes every poat office should have vending machine becouse sometime customers just want to buy one or two stamps only nobody wants to stand in a line just to buy a stamp.

    Jan 17, 2011
  • anon

    The removal of vending machines was a big mistake because the reasoning to remove them was faulty. Management said they break down too often so instead of finding a machine that did not break down, they removed all the machines. Excellent machines that seldom breakdown are easily available. Hundred of millions of dollars of snacks and drinks are sold through machines this way. Plus, management removed machines from all post offices instead of just the post offices with low sales. That's right, profitable high selling machines were taken out. The USPS' own study said stamp vending sales were very profitable in in 76% of the locations. I would fire the management personnel that used this line of illogical reasoning. Dollar coins make the use of vending machines very convenient. Bring vending machines back in the locations that have the traffic to support them

    Dec 18, 2010
  • anon

    Yeah, but vending machines MUST be on a premise, where a security camera MUST be observing, and the firewall MUST be off installation campus!!!

    Nov 22, 2010
  • anon

    Bring them back. I hate standing in line for such a simple thing and then getting treated rudely by Post office workers when I don't want one hundred dollars worth of stamps..

    Nov 18, 2010
  • anon

    That or better advertise things like printed postage. Ticket venues have had tremendous success with this technology and it's better for the environment all around. James

    Nov 05, 2010
  • anon

    this should of been done a while ago, i even stressed the importance of having this be marketable and associated with so many people, instead of controlling it within a certain timeframe.

    Nov 03, 2010
  • anon
    Anna Lanoue

    Hey, I am a San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker, and am curious about the USPS stamp machines. We have a script that was written about one and we didn't realize that they had taken them all out. Does anybody know a place where there still may be one, or where I can find one? Thanks!

    Oct 27, 2010
  • anon

    Yes, I know where you can get a stamp vending machine like you would see at a convenience store. It mounts on the wall.

    Sep 28, 2011
  • anon

    There are none left. USPS will, however, be reinstituting them, but I don't know when.

    Aug 24, 2011
  • anon

    You can only find a stamp vending machine in convenience stores and they are privately operated for profit selling stamps for more than face value.

    Dec 18, 2010
  • anon

    the machines were a fine idea. Everything involved in the implementation sucked. for instance, the janitor installed the machine that was in our lobby. It should have never been put into service for security reasons. I believe it was never inspected by the inspection service or someone else as ok(from a theft standpoint) It was held to the wall by a 2X4 with 2 lag screws.Even after the ist break-in attempt ,it was put back in place with the 2X4 and 2 lag screws. So it was broken into a second time. It was not cleaned properly and funds taken from it were not accounted for properly.

    Oct 11, 2010
  • anon
    Ramona

    Before investing in a certain stock, be sure to check their rating. Many big-name companies actually have questionable ratings. Some have been found guilty in the public's eye in the past of falsifying their earnings, while others are just unstable financially. Look into the credibility of a company before you choose to invest in them to keep yourself safe.

    Jul 17, 2013
  • anon

    humans aren't use now. i think this machine had not need

    Oct 07, 2010
  • anon

    I think they're great they will speed up the post office. But im sure there will be people who dont like them or can't figure them out.

    Aug 08, 2010
  • anon

    Hi there, I wonder if this will really be a thing for the postal system to work properly. There are a lot of cases when idle minds just think they can get away with postal service using machines. I wish there are a lot of industrious people.

    Aug 05, 2010
  • anon

    Do not bring back vending machines.Not worth the cost.The simple solution is to buy a book of 18 forever stamps from the APC,this is not rocket science. The markets and Costco also sell forever stamps. Maybe that will make Jessica happy so she won't have to bother the rude clerks.

    Jul 19, 2010
  • anon

    this is great Vending machines that really needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line.

    Jul 15, 2010
  • anon

    I am still fuming at the incompetence I experienced at the hands of the USPS today. I needed an original document from London. The London party paid 6 pounds to send it special air delivery registered. I stay in my home/office all day to make sure I would receive it. At about 4 pm, I check my mailbox. There was a note "Sorry we missed you!" Nobody missed me! The carrier was too lazy to ring my bell and take the elevator (not even stairs) up to the 5th floor to get my signature. I immediately called and asked for redelivery today but was told that was impossible. Now I have to go to the post office before my morning meeting to retrieve this document. No wonder people prefer FedEx. This has happened to me with USPS before. This would never happen with FedEx. This is one of the reasons the USPS is losing business. It deserves to lose such business. FYI the tracking # is 5293 0280 8780 5045 and the article number is LY 5550 7957 3GB. Is that carrier going to keep his/her job?

    Jul 13, 2010
  • anon

    The comment about the dollar coin requirement is correct, but only if on federal property. USPS would need to locate vending machines elsewhere, and of course there are lots of places that would make sense.

    Jul 06, 2010
  • anon

    Dollar coins should someday replace the paper dollar bill and save taxpayers $700 million. We are about the only country left in the world with a one dollar bill or equivalent. The paper bill lasts about 13 months before wearing out. The dollar coin can last for 30 years. Our lack of political courage or lack of attention to waste is costing us way too much. Using the dollar coin means fewer coins in your pocket or purse. Don't forget, it takes the place of two quarters, two dimes, five nickels, and five cents-14 coins in all!

    Dec 18, 2010
  • anon

    I just love how the OIG filters out completely appropriate comments that they just don’t like most popular

    Jul 04, 2010
  • anon

    I just love how the OIG filters out completely and it is very helpfull

    Jul 04, 2010
  • anon

    Vending machines and APCs are not comparable for several reasons, foremost being that only a hand full of post offices will ever reach the retail threshold HQ has assigned to justify one. The OIG should really be focusing on the losses associated with an alternative access retail strategy that was short sighted and poorly implemented. The discussion on contracting out vending should have been had before we sunsetted the program, not after the customers have migrated to other services.

    Jun 29, 2010
  • anon

    Didn't Congress pass a provision which would require the USPS to dispense dollar coins as change in vending machines? Think about how costly this would be should we return to vending machines.

    Jun 29, 2010
  • anon

    Dear Tin Man, As a matter of policy we review all comments on the OIG’s blog. Given the need to manage Federal resources effectively, however, we review comments and post them from 9:00 am—5:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. We read and post comments submitted after hours, on weekends, or on holidays as early as possible the next business day. Please refer to our Comment Policy page for details at http://blog.uspsoig.gov/?page_id=102 Your previous comment has already been posted. Thank you for your comments, RARC Host

    Jun 29, 2010
  • anon

    Vending Machines, Postal Stores and Mobile Post Offices were eliminated after APC's were installed because they were competition for the APC's. Only 2 options now when you go into a PO now, wait on the LONG line or try the APC. Sorry the third option is to walk out of the PO, which I see a lot of customers doing.

    Jun 29, 2010
  • anon

    Vending machines, as they used to be, should not be returned to service. The Postal Service wrote off huge losses in vending machine shortages, because arbitrators ruled the servicing clerk could not be held accountable when they did not fully control the credit. Vending machines also proved extremely attractive to embezzlers; even when we proved those cases, the Inspection Service never recovered all the missing funds because the embezzler couldn't pay the money back. Alternatives could inlcude configuring the APC to sell 5 stamp or 10 stamp booklets, or usng a slot to accept standard weight and size postcards and letters, whose postage would be printed inside the machine on the mail piece, and then deposited in a collection tub in back of the APC.

    Jun 29, 2010
  • anon

    Yeah. I just love how the OIG filters out completely appropriate comments that they just don't like.. Why have a blog if you only post what you want to hear? Just like other Postal Management, it's controlling information to achieve goals, whether ethical or not.

    Jun 29, 2010

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