The Automated Postal Center (APC) is a self-service kiosk typically placed in Post Office lobbies to provide customers with a convenient alternative to the full-service counter. APCs offer customers a wide range of postal products, services, and information.

Based on the user’s direction via touch screen and PIN pad, APCs can weigh and rate letters, flats, and parcels up to 70 pounds. APCs dispense variable rate postage in any denomination for Express, Priority, First Class, International (under 1 lb), and Parcel Post Mail. APCs also provide customers the option to purchase Delivery Confirmation, Signature Confirmation, Insurance, Certified, and Return Receipt services. APCs allow customers to print Express Mail forms and perform ZIP Code lookup. APCs accept debit, credit, and EBT cards for payment and generate a receipt.

Many APCs are available 24 hours, 7 days per week. There are 2,495 APCs in use today. In its Strategic Transformation Plan, the Postal Service set a goal to double the percent of retail transactions conducted at alternative channels, such as the APC. However, in many cases consumers avoid the APC, and continue to come to the retail counter for transactions.

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What would motivate you to use the APC kiosk or the internet to purchase Postal products?

What other service options could make it easier for you to mail a letter or package?

We invite you to join our discussion by clicking the "Comments" link below.

Comments (215)

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  • anon

    It took me a while to want to try the APC. I am one of those guys that wants hands on service. What got me to use it was the lack of desire to stand on the long line at my "work" office and also the long line at my "home" office. I then started looking for the "small" local offices, figuring that I could get in and out. One was handling the overflow of my work office and the other had a clerk who did a lousy job. I decided to buy a book of stamps from it and it worked out very well. I sent a package from it and that worked out well. I sent a small package once that had me make an extra purchase in order to get the postage for the package. I didn't understand why. I asked around and no one could come up with an answer. Needless to say I will not use that particular machine again. Overall I am happy with my limited experience with the APC and will continue with it, because I don't want to wait on long lines. I think we would be crazy not to put APC's all over the place like ATM's. The potential for revenue is there. Someone walking by would say, "oh yeah, I need some stamps." There are probably more people like me who don't want to stand on long lines. Some one made the quote about businesses, that I think we'd be smart to listen to, "Grow or die!"

    Oct 21, 2008
  • anon
    Answer Man

    Thats no exaggeration if you know 12 people who like the same fruitcake! I agree that locating APCs in grocery stores makes alot of sense, especially if the store is co-located with some anchor stores or at a mall. Do you think stores would advertise they have an APC since it might attract enough traffic to increase sales?

    Oct 20, 2008
  • anon

    One place where I could see them advertising that an APC was available would be at Gas stations. They have a primary product (the gas) that most people buy with credit/debit cards. The stations are trying to draw peole through the doors to buy their impulse/grocery items. So advertising that an APC was available might help get people to come inside. And the customer doesn't have to make another stop. The same reason many of them advertise money orders.

    Nov 12, 2008
  • anon
    Answer Man

    I know what you mean Teeef. I use a vending machine at the Rosslyn station in Arlington, and if I didn't know a kid who collects those dollar coins, I probably would have mis-spent them as quarters by now! Thanks for your comments about the machine at Preston King, and your experience with the window clerks. I was wondering if the machine you used was a vending machine or if it was an Automated Postal Center (APC). The reason I ask is, as far as I know, the APC only accepts credit and debit cards.

    Oct 20, 2008
  • anon
    Teresa Whelan

    I use these machines most of the time. They match my schedule, are always available and are easy to use. Here's an idea to enhance the use of the machines 1) Add a vending machine that offered Christmas and Birthday type envelopes, with stickers that say " do not open until _______", then, I could shop and wrap, quite easily 2) Installing APC's in the Grocery Store and Costco would take advantage of my normal family routine and eliminate the need for special trips. Just think of going to Costco, getting a dozen fruit cakes, popping them into decorated bags, adding an address, mailing them, and eliminating the need for carrying them out to my car. Maybe a bit exaggerated as an example, but the concept works.

    Oct 19, 2008
  • anon

    Or how about 24 hour grocery stores, high volume during the day and convenient for those who do not work traditional hours.

    Nov 12, 2008
  • anon

    These machines so far have been notoriously unreliable. The one at Preston King station in Arlington has finally been removed. The long lines at the windows have built up again. Many problems: first, they are useless for most package mailings, which is what requires most people to go to the window. Second, they are off line often. Third, the money-changing mechanisms do not work well, and when they do, they produce change in dollar coins, which are unwieldy. Finally, the window clerks don't seem to pay any attention to them until a customer comes in to complain, and then sigh heavily with greater burden of their jobs when asked to do something about them. The whole experience is time consuming and inefficient. Easier and far more pleasant to go to the local package services store, where a more entrepreneurial attitude reigns.

    Oct 17, 2008
  • anon
    Sharon

    I think you have the stamp vending maching mixed up with the APC. The APC does alot more than offer stamps! The APC can mail packages via priority mail, first class mail, express mail! Further, one can get zip codes, insurance, and delivery confirmation, In addition, they only accept debit and credit cards so there is no money-changing at all! The APC is very reliable. I would ask that you try an APC. I think you will be impressed!

    Nov 06, 2008
  • anon
    Answer Man

    Ingenious ndf! Advertising and placing five APC's at the mall during holidays when the place is packed would meet customer needs and at the same time educate a large audience. Ideally, the Postal Service would place the APCs in malls with high percentage of foreign shoppers since they would most likely be shipping packages back home. Great idea! Look out FEDEX and UPS!

    Oct 17, 2008
  • anon

    expanding on the above: Can imagine the amount of people that would use the APC during Christmas time if there was a row of about 5 of them at the mall??? I can see the lines already! In Puerto RIco there used to be a post office in the mall and people would purchase and then stand in line. So its a no-brainer. Of course a lot of cost would go into educating the public, but that is only in the beginning. Nothing a few commercial announcements during the holidays and a few posters in the mall entrances wouldn't cure. Honestly I read the questions and I use APC ALL the time. I prefer not dealing at the counter :) Its much quicker and i know what I want. What would make me use it and the internet services more ??? a discounted price!!! And if the postal service arrives at savings due to the use of APC (and less need for postal clerks) or offering services online, then they SHOULD pass on the savings to the customer! If USPS offers discounts by using the Internet services even more people (especially small businesses) would prefer to mail their products in such a manner. Fed-Ex does not offer this convenience, neither does UPS. Therefore, USPS should bank on this and expand.

    Oct 16, 2008
  • anon
    bze

    It was nice kowing that the APC's are available. I had a great experience using it. Also, I have to agree with one of the comments that a smaller version should be put in an apartment complex for those who are at work and cannot necessarily get to the post office. Great way to make posting easier.

    Oct 16, 2008
  • anon

    I love the "stamps at the mailbox" idea! Plus if prices are lower online and slightly lower on APC (thanks to cost savings when not needing so many postal handlers at the counter) more and more people would go online and to APC for their mail sevices. I think in major malls/shopping centers these APC's should be the norm. I can see 5 APC's in a row and people in line to mail out their just purchased and wrapped presents. Its such a time saver!

    Oct 16, 2008
  • anon

    I think these machines are a great service. In fact I would like to see them replace mailboxes, they should be placed in every large apartment complex throughout the country. In fact a smaller model should replace all the blue mailboxes. I should at least be able to purchase a stamp at a mailbox rather than having to go to the post office just to mail a letter. How easy would it be to swipe a card and have a small adhesive stamp dispensed right there at the box.

    Oct 16, 2008
  • anon
    Answer Man

    Yes, I agree. The Postal Service has a great self service machine that is underutilized. Do you think customers who visit the Post Office shun the APC because they came to get personal window service? What places should the Postal Service locate APC's (grocery stores, malls, college campus, airports)?

    Oct 16, 2008
  • anon

    Postal Leadership forgets we are a government service, we provide a vital communication service to all at a set rate, we are unlike are competitors, UPS, Fedex. They can pick and choose what services they want to offer and to whom. APC should be in all offices and any place people gather to buy items. The smaller the post office the more the reason there should be an APC there. They should learn a lesson from the banking industry, when they first brought out ATM's people had to coaxed to use them, I remember tellers standing next to the machine with ATM cards so people could try them before activating them to there accounts. I am sure it was years before they turned a profit for the banks. I find it maddening that I have go looking for and APC because Postal management keeps moving them. Recently I had to mail a package I tried to generate a label with postage on a PC, but due to printing problems I had to cancel the label, I would have preferred to got to the closes PO, Bakersfield 93380, and use the APC, but several months ago it was removed, I will end up holding the package to this weekend, and delivering the items my self, another loss opportunity and loss of revenue. The APC shouldn't been seen as competetion to the window clerks but as help, to take care of the easier transactions so the clerks can work with the customers that really need help and to bring in revenue when the lobbies are normally closed.

    Oct 15, 2008

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