on Oct 14th, 2008 in OIG | 31 comments


The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) plays a key role in maintaining the integrity and accountability of America’s postal service, its revenue and assets, and its employees. The USPS OIG achieves its mission of helping maintain confidence in the postal system and improving the Postal Service’s bottom line through independent audits and investigations. Audits of postal programs and operations help to determine whether the programs and operations are efficient and cost-effective. Investigations help prevent and detect fraud, waste, and misconduct and have a deterrent effect on postal crimes.

With $73 billion in revenue, the Postal Service is at the core of a $900 billion mailing industry that employs more than nine million people. The 800,000 employees and contractors of the Postal Service comprise the largest civilian federal workforce in the country. The employees of the Postal Service impact every American on a daily basis.

We are sponsoring this blog and related discussion forums to facilitate an ongoing dialog on relevant issues affecting the U.S. Postal Service. We intend to gather and enrich ideas from a large number of perspectives to address emerging issues and attack critical challenges facing the U.S. Postal Service. We will also use this tool to explore complex Postal issues that are sometimes misunderstood.

We invite participation from Postal Service employees and customers, other Inspectors General, as well as colleagues from international posts and their audit and investigative organizations. Our goal is to add further value to the U.S. Postal Service. We want to hear from you!

  • What are some critical challenges facing the Postal Service that you would like to see us explore through this blog?
  • What could the Postal Service do to improve its service to you?
  • What could the Postal Service do to increase its revenues?
  • Do you view the Postal Service a business or a public service, and why?
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Where to start?

First, this is a great idea. The Postal Service isn't made up of a board of goveners and district managers. It is an organization of thousands of employees. No one person's voice is more important than another.

This is a bit bitter sweet for me, as I will be retiring after 28 years of service within the next half year. Most of my career has been in maintenance with the bulk of that being an Area Maintenance Technician. It has been a good career and I've been fortunate to be associated with some great people in the Postal Service.

As an AMT, I get to hear a lot of different view points. Not just those of the large office where I report to, but down to the small offices that consist of a single employee. It can be quite educational.

Most of what I hear, is that the organization doesn't hear. What does this mean? Most craft employees and a large majority of EAS believe that their voices are irrelevant.

Too many policies are enacted with the attitude of "It's good for the Service," while the employee has to deal with the repercussions of something that makes his or her job much more difficult in order to facilitate an operation somewhere else. It seems that within the past year, especially, that more work has been put upon Postmasters, while taking away their clerk hours.

Some talking points:

CBUs - Absolutely not cost effective.
EAS as timekeepers - Is it really necessary to have two programs for one operation (Tacs & Erms)
FSSP - Or, "let change it so it's even more user un-friendly.
Micro managing spending authority - Pay $1500 dollars for a CBU (plus installation & maintenance costs) and cripple the spending authority for building maintenance.

Again, after twenty eight years, I have a lot of input, but I would like to see the above issues talked about and maybe even addressed.

Again, I want to say this is a good idea, and a great resource for those who are willing to listen.

Is the Postal Service exploring the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in our delivery vehicles? MARTA in Atlanta is using CNG, Cobb County Transit is using CNG, Cobb Electric Membership is using CNG, and there are many more companies using CNG. They report a substantial savings on fuel costs. There are several reasons to use CNG to fuel our vehicles: 1.Cost effective. 2. Enviromentally friendly. 3. Reduces the dependence on foreign oil.

I agree, this site is a great idea. Could you define 'CBUs', 'EAS' and 'FSSP' for us less-familiar with the AMT job?

And congrats on the upcoming retirement!!

I would just like to know what everyone thinks about going to no Saturday deivery. I myself feel that it would be a big cost saver for USPS. This would been a better avenue to look at then 16000 lay offs. And how different the USPS then private companies when it gives the top dog an $87k raise and then talks about lay offs. All I got was a cost of living raise along with my fellow workers. Why wasn't that good enough for the PM and his VP's?

The Postal Service is crazy if they do NOT do this. It makes perfect sense given the amount of money we would save. This is unlikely to happen though because Headquarters is consumed with our public image. We'll be out of business before that happens. Not only that, the less number of employees, the less number of EAS are needed to watch over them. It is a domino affect. Less people, less EAS level, less pay...are you getting the picture? "They" are allowed to run amok with wasting money, giving each other performance rewards (bonuses)and are now grasping at straws to save our company. Method of laying off is wrong too. Here, a 30 year employee will be unassigned depending upon the area he works in while a 12 year employee will have an assignment if he works in area where people are needed. It is crazy & an unfair way to pick who becomes "assigned" and who becomes "unassigned". These are peoples lives at sake. What are "they" thinking? Very sad to see the disenigration.

"Is the Postal Service exploring the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in our delivery vehicles?"

This is a great question. It appears (via google searches) that the USPS has been a leader in testing alternative fuel vehicles including ethanol E85, compressed natural gas, propane, electric, hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell, clean diesel, and biodiesel. Over 40,000 vehicles have been tested. Market availability has proved challenging for the E85 and CNG. Interesting USPS presentation on the govenergy.com site: http://www.govenergy.com/2007/pdfs/strategy/Rios_Strategy_track_S8.pdf

Great idea---if you understand it. Recently I attended a PM meeting. I offered services to those at my table if they had problems setting up eFlash. I have gotten calls of all sorts. I would like to remind you that not all post offices that have computers have employees that are computer literate. Today someone wanted to know what a "blog" was. This idea will be alot more successful if you guide people into it. Many people who don't know the "lingo" are afraid of it and probably won't check it out.

Responding to "what the postal service can do to increase revenue". While they keep encouraging us to upsell and offer only our expedited products, the fact remains that people's mailing needs are pretty constant from month to month and year to year. Upselling has not been the ticket to survival for us. Unless we can offer new and different services or start charging more for the ones we do offer, we'll never make it.

This leads me to some recent ideas for revenue generation. I will admit that they have not yet been well-thought out, but I believe they are worth throwing out for consideration in case there are any HQ people listening.

1) Why do we deliver the mail for free? What if we start charging an annual fee for delivery. If anyone does not want to pay it, they have the option of coming to the post office to pick it up. The mail is already sorted and the post office is already staffed so there is not additional cost to us to have the customer pick up their mail. Those who don't want to pay for delivery could be flagged at the carrier case and left in the building for pick-up. Those who want delivery would have to pay a small annual fee for that service which we would increase each year! Of course this would trigger some changes i.e. route reductions is the first that comes to mind, which would be a cost savings. Hmmmm....additional revenue plus cost savings. I would bet that if FedEx or UPS were handling first-class mail there would be no free delivery or free forwarding, which brings me to my second revenue generating idea......

2. Why do we forward people's mail for free? I don't know how much revenue Premium Forwarding is bringing in, but the revenue would be alot more if we charged every customer a set fee if they wanted their mail forwarded. I find it irritating that the public expects these services for free and then don't hesitate to call and complain if we make a misdelivery or a forwarding error. If we have to resolve their complaints, it should at least be for a service that they are paying for. I'm talking about letter mail here and not packages. Surely, .42 an ounce is not near enough to cover all that is involved in the processing of a letter. We need to first, determine what it actually costs us to deliver a letter and then pass that cost on to the consumer - just like every other viable business does!

3. My third idea which is least practical of all - but these are desperate times - is to start selling products and services that we currently don't offer. Here is where some creative thinkers might jump in. What can we offer in our post offices that people need and want that we don't currently offer. We've tried phone cards - we were on the right track but they did not prove fruitful. I'm not sure how much revenue OLRP brings in. Maybe we could start offering a fax service like Staples does, or a copying service. What about milk, bread, gas, car wash, daycare, pet sitting - I know this sounds outrageous at first, but what conveniences can we offer to the customer while they are at the post office that won't incur extra expense but will bring in revenue. Any ideas out there?

As a final thought, I give our management alot of credit for the incredible strides that we have made in my 27 years with the postal service. The vision, foresight, fortitude and intelligence that it takes to steer such a huge organization in a positive direction is to admired.

Before we are quick to complain about upper management, one should ask himself not only how he would manage the same incredible task, but also if he really has what it takes to endure the long hours, the stress and pressure, the travel, relocations, criticism, the politics, the risk of failure - all of the things that come with being in management - things that typically go unseen by the average postal employee.

I would like to see Post Masters used more effectively...Some manage offices with 20 routes or less while others do 75 or a 100...Have them manage at least 50 routes each...The savings across america could be $500,000,000... Or small offices use Part time supervisors or (rotateing)Like a Part Time Flexable employee..Again the savings is in the millions...The carriers do most of the work I think its time to go after some other areas

Hey heidiho, who says we deliver mail for free? The sender pays us to deliver it, not the recipient. You are right about forwarding, we should charge a small fee. Keep thinking and you will hit the million dollar idea.


Hmmmm.....wonder if this story will be covered on this blog?

How to increase revenue? Where do I begin?.....
I keep hearing about the number of craft employees that have been let go, yet the number of managers stays the same. Just think how much money could be saved actually reducing management numbers. Yet we read weekly how a new V.P. position has been established, even though supposedly we are losing money.

You really want to generate some revenue? Sell advertising to be placed on carriers clothing, much like Nascar drivers. Sound ridiculous? I'm sure there are companies who would love to have that kind of advertising being seen by the public on a daily basis. Or just have one company "sponsor" our uniforms or trucks, paying a one-time upfront fee. Sell the naming rights to all post offices; Such as the Anytown "Best Buy" Post Office.

Hi, I'm replying as a USPS business customer - my annual postage purchases are approximately $80,000. I used to ship via FedEx and UPS but now ship 95% of my packages via USPS (the other 5% are requests from customers to ship via their preferred carrier)

The main reason why I switched to USPS is because of the low cost and reliability of the postal service. Some of my major annoyances are:

1. High frequency of lost packages - almost 1 in every 10 package always gets lost. Somehow my packages never make it from the local post office to the san bernardino processing center. Or maybe they make it there.. but get misplaced in that center?

2. Delayed processing of international priority mail packages - 90% of the time, international priority mail packages take about 5 days just to leave the United States.

3. The MOST important annoyance - primitive tracking system. Yes, USPS has given us business customers some benefit with the USPS Scan Form (so our impatient customers will know that the package is in the system)

There are so many times when signature confirmation/delivery confirmation does not work. For e.g. if a package is delivered to someone, the tracking will still show (even after a month) "Package is at post office on so and so date and this time" or "We attempted to deliver package but no one was available. Please pick up from post office" something like that.

When customers file a credit card dispute, I lose out when the tracking does not show that the package was delivered (even though it was)

Reliability of tracking is a major concern. Lost packages is a major loss of revenue - and I don't understand how any insurance claim would be valid. For e.g.

If I ship an international package (endicia supplies no SCAN forms for international packages) - the carrier picks it up.. and after 7-10 days the tracking shows 'USPS has received date for shipping package. This does not indicate actual receipt by usps'

Now say the package is lost. Will my insurance claim be valid? USPS might say that 'Hey, you never shipped out the package because tracking does not show anything' What am I supposed to do then? Video tape every package going out and being handed to the carrier?

There have been times when I handed over international packages to the retail clerk at the post office - those get lost, and the tracking shows nothing.

So if the USPS wants to boost it's revenues - instead of raising prices, they need to update their tracking systems and ensure that there are no lost packages (or at least a reduced incidence) 1 in 10 packages being lost is quite a high rate (during the holiday season this increases even more - i switch to fedex during nov-december)

Apart from these major concerns, I love everything about the USPS. I love the free carrier pickup service, and major props to the patient USPS employees! Thanks.

Dear USPS Customer: The issues you have will tracking individual mailpieces should be greatly alleviated once the Intelligent Mail Barcodes are operational. They will allow tracking at every step of mail processing.

I thought the Intelligent Barcodes coming in may were only going to be applied to letters and flats for now. He is commenting on tracking Parcels. I have been working a nonmachinable parcel unit for 10 years and I agree there could be a more efficient way to process this manually handled mail. You would think that a manual volume unit at a processing plant would be well staffed but the entire staff for all 3 shifts is 10 people. You figure in days off and we are down to 4 people most weeknights. And one of them gets tied up with the latest attempt to track mail the Surface Visibility scanning. Which I will address in a separate posting.

In reply to "Hacksaw" - thanks for the feedback. I undestand what you are saying about the sender paying for delivery. I guess the point I was trying to make is that .42 cents in now way covers the cost to deliver a letter. I say we deliver to the destinating post office for .42 cents and make the customer come and pick it up, or charge an annual fee for delivery to their home. When my customers complain about the rate increase I say, "Well if you think about it, you can't even start your car these days for .42 cents. Actually I can't think of anything else you can buy for .42 cents - not a pack a gum or a candy bar, nothing that I can think of." You should see their expression change as they leave the post office realizing they are getting a very good deal. People value home delivery and I think they would be willing to pay for it. I would be willing to pay for it.

In reply to "Concerned" - what a great idea you have about selling advertising rights on our carriers uniforms, mailbags and LLVs! I hope it flies.

One more idea I had while lying in bed last night - I guess my blood really is postal blue after all these years - I was thinking about when you go to the airport how there are so many other services besides transportation offered there, such as car rental, shoe shine, nail salon, coffee shop, etc. What if we would be willing to sublet part of our owned facilities for services that are convenient to our customers such as a local credit union, hair salon, etc. What they would pay us in rent could contribute to the cost of running our facilities. It may be a little far fetched but all great ideas start somewhere.

And kudos to the Inspector General for asking for our input and realizing that some of the greatest ideas come from those of us who work the mail.

I'll stop blogging now as I don't want to use more than my fair share of space and allow some others to jump in. See ya!


A CBU, is a Cluster Box Unit $(1500.00 plus). They are put out on the street in lieu of a customer supplying their own box. In the past year or so, the Postal Service has at least been having the contractors that build houses to supply their own unit which is a big plus for us. On the negative side, we have to install arrow locks, (the main access lock the carrier uses and parcel locker access). Depending on the unit, this can be up to three locks, and depending on where the unit is located, can take up to two hours or more. We also maintain the parcel lock access to these units. It is a favorite action of the local kids to break the keys off in these units. Again, more maintenance. Also, by breaking into the carrier access, the I.D. thieves now have access to up to sixteen boxes. The construction of these units by Auth-Florence is less than desirable and sometimes down right dangerous. They are also a favorite target of graffiti and gang signs.

EAS are the managerial staff.

FSSP is a program instituted about three years ago that funnel a postmaster's request for maintenance through a central location and determines maintenance responsibility, either of the Post Office, or the lease owner. In that respect, it has been successful, forcing a lease owner to take responsibility for buildings that we pay a considerable amount of rent for. In other respects it has created a bottle neck and taken away much of our ability to do "while you're here" work. And lately, with cost cutting measures, we have been severely hand tied on making simple purchases to help out an office.

This Blog is a great idea. I served 7 yrs with the USPS as a window clerk, and mail clerk, and wish we had this when I was active. Right now there is much controversy over the EID stamp and its re issue. Many Americans are outraged with its release "as a Christmas" stamp with the war continuing to claim our US Soldiers. Is there any comment the USPS has on this. I agree, it is bad timing.

Especially bad timing for the reissuance of the EID Stamp, since it celebrates Ramadan, which is already over. Otherwise, it is a beautiful and righteous stamp.

I think this blog is an excellent idea. I think a blog like this is going to do a good job at getting employees to open up and voice their opinions in their own words. The concept of VOE is a good one, but I think that it has limitations in what it can do.

Here is something that I am hoping someone would explain to me:
Why hasn't anybody in upper management notice that the gaping difference in expense between delivering to a PO box and curbside delivery is significant enough to consider offering customers a free PO box in lieu of curbside delivery? Yes, you would lose the $42 in revenue from the box rental, BUT you would be saving over $100 per delivery point a year by not delivering to the curbside address. In this case, it would be the expense side of the equation that would benefit, and if only 1 percent of delivery customers took up this option, USPS would save over $100 million in delivery expenses. In addition, if many of these PO boxes were used at level 11-13 office, there would be a significant increase in employee productivity.
Because the PO box would be free, the customer would still have a free form of delivery offered to them. If they wanted curbside delivery and the PO box, then they would pay for the PO box.

What do you think?

Skippy, sounds like a good idea but how would the USPS keep up with which form of free delivery a customer was getting ?
Customers could go to several small post offices and claim it as their free box ?

I don't think we have advanced enough on the computers to be able to link all post offices and compare all names and addresses for more than one free form of delivery. Not yet. Maybe one day.

I would love to see a blog chain started discussing Surface Visibility Scanning logistics (unless the powers that be think that needs to be addressed internally). I am part of the team working on it at my plant and the numbers I see from across the nation tell me that no plant is achieving consistent 100% compliance with this new system.

With the recent postal employee reductions, we are seriously short handed for implementing this time consuming process. My plant is struggling to get all the Placard Assigns done let alone scanned onto every local truck. And I have no idea how management expects us to meet the scanning "requirements" onto the trucks during morning dispatch and meet the dispatch deadlines when we are shorthanded and the bulk of the mail comes at the last minute.

Yes, I know there is internal resistance, however, we have been told it is here to stay. I would love to see a string started discussing how people are handling the challenges of this new system or sharing ideas for improvement.

I think when the system is up and running the way it is "supposed" to it will address the concerns about tracking parcels expressed above by USPSCustomer. And it would be wonderful to be able to track a parcel through USPS like I can through FEDEX. Then maybe he wouldn't feel the need to switch shippers over the holidays. However, we have a ways to go yet.

Whose bright idea is it not to case dps up in the morning? CLerk cut off time at the station is 10:30, adn they eat, talk, read, and use the phone to draw it out to that time. Meanwhile the carriers are up and waiting for the last few letters and flats to be thrown. Noting to do because the pp clerk is in on it and dones not get done till then also. So carriers have to wait when dps could be cased and save street time. Some nut who has never carried mail thinks they know how. You want to save money ask a carrier. When there was no automation we started at 6 a.m. left about 9 back around 3. There were 2 supervisors and 1 on Sat. The place ran great, we helped each other all was fine. Now the place is going to hell in a hand basket.

I heard a rumor that due to the bailout (one of the many billion-dollar bailouts) the USPS (OIG and IS included) is getting sub-compact cars that no one in the general public wants. And they are all the same color. These are all left-overs from 2009. It won't be too hard to see the OIG or IS investigators coming or watching someone (imagine 4 cars-all the same make, model and color... following a suspect). But I'm sure some bureacrat in DC will pat himself on the back for making this deal. Where's the leadership on this? In the dealership?

Does anyone thought of combining the mail handler's union and clerks' union into just one union for function 1? Why not rewrite the contract so that it applies to both mailhandlers and clerks. This will help the managers understand and apply the contract effectively. It will be less confusion, less grievances and most of all we can maximize the use of our employees. Of course we can reduce the union stewards in our facilities who most of the time spending their time soliciting grievances instead of performing their jobs. We don't have to deal with different Union stewards who themselves are confuse of their own contract. And the worst part, shop stewards asking for monetary settlement with their ridiculous grievances. Don't they think they are part of the problem why Post Office is now in this situation?

I have the same concern about international packages. We also create the labels via Endicia. Up through the end of July 2009, if our carrier individually scanned the international packages, they at least showed up as having been accepted into the mailstream. Now they no longer do, even though our carrier still has been scanning them.

This really makes us look bad, as our customers think that we never actually MAILED their packages!

Yes, I know that for $1 I could purchase "proof of mailing"... but that's not really the point. If a barcoded label has already been created, what's so hard / costly about just doing an acceptance scan? It makes such a big difference to the sender, and also the recipient!

Excuse my impertinence, but I thought the USPS OIG was supposed to be an independent entity that weeded out fraud, waste and abuse, at ALL levels. Why does it seem like your office is only gunning for rank-and-file workers, who for the most part, are only where they are because of management? Why don't we ever hear about waste at management level? Hasn't anyone looked into the practice of detailing EAS to other offices for no other reason, it seems, than to collect per diems, that I know must range into the millions of dollars annually. Or has anyone questioned how a RIF could occur in the EAS ranks, yet no one actually lost their job (according to the NAPS website)? It seems you are just trying to fulfill the PMG's goals of slashing the people that actually process the mail while bad managers just get moved around.

In cambridge mass our office used to operate in one building with a postmaster and approx.6 to 7 supervisors. We now have less employees due to cuts of at least 20craft jobs over the past 19 years Ive been there,better technology, and lower mail volumes.Now we operate with 3 Managers and at least 15 supervisors and another building to pay for rent. We all heard of the RIF planned for cutting management but none has yet to be cutting any management jobs. I served and love my country and used to be proud of the USPS now however I feel we greatly lack in providing services(the whole meaning of our existance). The postal service needs to be investigated by the Audit team or any outside entity and finally all the dead weight at the top will relieve some pressure from our operating costs. We cannot keep cutting services to the public or we will lose even more$$. When will Postmaster Potter finally step up to the plate and do a RIF in management. Thankyou

Thanks a lot!!!!

Turn over the postal system to private companies and cut loose all the employees to where they are all private. This way attitude and service will improve along with productions and this way it can show a profit not losses. The new postal system is really a joke no one is held accountable and the tail is waging the dog. This has to be stopped I certainly hope Fed Ex or UPS takes it over then maybe things will run efficiently and there will be employee accountability. The postal employees specially the ones doing customer service need to understand that their jobs are not a ten year that they can be there for ever and retire even if they do a bad job.

With the way mail is changing why should we keep the way we vote on stamps. I respect all the past people and things honor on the stamps but what if every state could have a way of honoring oridinary people as well as the federal. Honoring someone when they are dead does not make sense they could enjoy what their leagacy was. I don't mean honoring serial killers or criminals hard working people who derserve to know what they did when they were alive. For example Bobby Bowden,Derek jeter I have alist of oridnarty people I would love to see on stamp. Wy is it that Government refuses to change when it is them in the wrong,

The USPS offices in Laredo, Texas have the worst service, unfriendly and no customer service at all. No one ever answers the phones to help customers . The passport service is always closed . They don't post when they are not going to open so we won't waste our time driving over there. It is the Worst government agency in Laredo,Texas. They need to go to a seminar to teach them friendliness and customer service.
Please help do something about this.