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.

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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 (82)

  • 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

    They are not responsible for anything they do or don't do. They are the government. It's that simple. They cannot go bankrupt and out of business either. The taxpayers subsidize them. Trump wants to raise rates. He can join the rest of us and hold his breath too.

    Dec 29, 2017
  • 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
  • anon

    i understand why they were taken out, they were decades old, but if you take them out replace them with something that will speed up peoples wait times. people hate the post office because of the lines, now they have to stand in a line to buy one stamp? come on, have some common sense. why is this even a question? just do it.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    Equinox..........apparently you have never shopped at Walmart or Sam's or Costco............

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    - Bring back vending machines - Bring back 24 hour lobbies - Bring back Sunday Express Delivery - Bring back Sunday AO sortation - Bring back offices closed in communities - Bring back the "Jr. Postmaster Program" - Bring back school visitations to Post Offices - Bring back visiting schools with postal truck and select carrier represenatatives - Bring back Postmasters living in the community in which they serve - Bring back Postmasters actively participating in community groups, clubs and civic affairs - Bring back VOMAs to fix the filthy old LLV's - Bring back standup desks to get the supervisors off their butts - Bring back life to the US Postal Service and quit trying to destroy it from the inside with negative rhetoric. ++ Confessions of a Former Station Manager ++

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    anon #2: You keep forgetting.... its the POSTAL SERVICE not POSTAL INC. You can't have it both ways.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    It seems like a no-brainer that stamp machines would benefit USPS and its customers. And why not have them in other venues as well, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and banks?

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    with so many voting to return the vending machines are they coming back, or is this more blowing smoke?

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    Bring them back. Yes, many would say they are not cost effective but we've reduced personnel EVERYWHERE, we're cutting back on window hours and now DC wants to cut one day of service. I thought We're supposed to be "servicing" the customers, not making it difficult to buy our product(s) and services. Taking them out was a big mistake.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    give me a vending machine over a clerk any day.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    yea I love dealing with long lines and and notoriously rude clerks to buy stamps.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    have been around a long time(25yrs) and taking the vending out of lobby was a bad idea. many customers used it while window was closed for lunch. And anon 2 must not work window as a PM, I sell one stamp at a time all the time, rural america. As for maintenace on vending, last one I had for 10 years and never spent a dime on it. Maintenace came and took mother board out and had me put the case and working insides in the trash, instead of recycling.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    Automated stamp selling of some sort is absolutely required! It doesn't have to be available after hours really. It just makes the average occasional stamp buyer's life better not having to stand in those god awful PO lines! I'll never understand the massive line ups at PO's. No for-profit business would ever make VALUABLE paying customers stand in line that long.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    Vending machines cost nothing but trouble with offices that the lobbies are open 24/7 they are a target for thieves, never raised enough revenue to justify the hours spend accounting for the stock, monies and breakdowns that required a maintenance person to drive to the PO calling for service and even customers claiming that they had lost moneys in them and as a PM for 4 years never saw a customer just buy one stamp and I do not think the selling of one stamp for the convenience of "poor people" justifies the expense and "poor people" do not buy one stamp. Good Lord don't you have other issues to look into; leave Operations to Operations.

    Jun 28, 2010
  • anon

    Getting rid of stamp vending machines was a mistake that has led to customer's reevaluation as to whether or not they want to bother even visiting the PO. When the hassel exceeds the need, customers will do everything possible to avoid using the USPS. Everybody loses.

    Jun 28, 2010

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