You’ve probably heard that the U.S. Postal Service has the nation’s biggest retail network, with more than 30,000 post offices — about as many nationwide locations as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmart combined. Just what does that mean in terms of customer visits, though?

We were curious, so we decided to take a close look. The Postal Service officially lists 877 million customer visits in fiscal year (FY) 2016, but that’s just the number of transactions. It turns out that most visits don’t include a transaction. Instead customers may check their PO Box, grab free shipping materials, or stick a letter in the slot. Add all those non-transaction visits in and you get an eye-popping number: 2.7 billion visits in FY 2016 — about triple the official “visits” figure.

Our white paper, Billions Served: Foot Traffic at the Post Office, breaks down how traffic varies across the network. Spoiler alert: It varies a lot. The average foot traffic for the 450 busiest post offices — dubbed “mega” post offices — is more than 10,000 visits a week, or as much as Best Buy stores. The next 7,000 busiest are “large” and on par with CVS stores. The “small/medium” post offices (about 8,000 locations) see about as much foot traffic as average bank branches. Half of post offices are “micro” locations.

We also did a survey on who visits post offices, how often, and for what purpose. Among the surprises: Millennials actually visit post offices more often than previous generations, though they are less likely than older folks to complete a counter transaction or drop off mail/packages. They are, however, much more likely to use a self-service kiosk, check a PO Box, or pick up a free Priority Mail box. This suggests post offices might need to adjust to accommodate the changing mix of actions.

Our report suggests USPS could take a cue from private sector retailers and use foot traffic information to help improve customer service and sales. For example, USPS could use more lobby assistants during peak foot traffic times, which may differ from peak transaction times. Foot traffic information also could provide a better sense of a particular post office’s value — both to its community and to the Postal Service. USPS also could use the information to assess potential new retail partnerships or initiatives, many of which may only make sense at locations with sufficient foot traffic.

What is the Postal Service missing by not fully measuring retail foot traffic? Should it start tracking it? Does it surprise you that Millennials visit post offices more often than other generations, or that foot traffic varies so much across post offices? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

Comments (9)

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  • anon

    There has been no flag flying at the United States Post Office in Beaver, Arkansas for well over a month. Though we have made repeated requests to the Postmaster to please put up a flag; there has been no response. There are many veterans in this area that fought for the American Flag. Why can't we get a flag???

    Sep 14, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Vicki, thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day Post Office maintenance issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service.

    Sep 15, 2017
  • anon

    The gross incompetency of USPS is almost unbelievable. I mailed a 1st class, certified, return receipt envelope last week (9/5) to a destination about 40 miles away. The estimated delivery date was 9/7, 2 days later. As of today (9/12) the envelop is still in transit, held up by Irma? This is due to the fact that USPS routed the envelop to a distribution hub in Coppel, Tx, 2000 miles away. So, a delivery 40 miles away is taking a 4000 mile trip, apparently by truck. There is no indication that this envelop will make it to it's destination by 9/13, it's required date. This will likely cause me to have to pay an additional $120 a month in healthcare premiums for the next year, since the documents in the envelop (all originals required by the SSA for the appeal) will not be available for the appeal cut-off date. So, given all this, the original 2 day estimated delivery time was either a deliberate fabrication, or USPS is just grossly incompetent, or both.

    Sep 12, 2017
  • anon

    Grossly incompetent. Can't even deliver the mail in my neighborhood. Disgusting actually. The time and money innocent people are out because the USPS can't do their core service properly. Shameful

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    Today, September 11, 2017 I went into the Shokan, NY Post Office. I spoke to two personnel stating that the Amwrican Flag should be at half staff for Patriots Day. One person said he didnt know, the post master said thank you. This was at 11:00 a.m. At 3:00 p.m. the American Flag was still at full staff. As a citizen, 9/11 responder and veteran I take exception to the United States Posral Service having the attitude they do for this tragic day in American history

    Sep 11, 2017
  • anon

    Hello Carl, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day Post Office issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website.

    Sep 12, 2017
  • anon

    Things inside of your jurisdiction are not handled properly or ethically. Including false statements to law enforcement by Postal employees. There is no separation of duties, or responsibility taken by the USPS. Absolute immunity or something close.

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    Out Of your Jurisdiction? Really ? The OIG is Who should be ensuring that everyone "under them" are performing to the Standards! Call Customer Service what a joke you wait on hold for more than an hour and then get disconnected! 3 days to talk to someone! Then told a package would get redelivered on August29th 2017. Its still not there and the incompetent staff actually said that the usps customer service line is NOT a part of USPS! These are the people you have working at the Postoffice. Complete Imbeciles! Garrett in Tacoma, Washington! Aren't you in charge of operations of the United States Postal Service?

    Sep 15, 2017
  • anon

    I live in WA state as well South of you. No mail delivery in my neighborhood. Well some, to less than half the houses. So the USPS forces you to fund PO boxes, and come to the post office. It's a form of extortion, to get your mail.

    Sep 15, 2017

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