Our objective was to assess the effectiveness of the Postal Service’s management controls for arrow keys.

The Postal Service uses a universal key, known as an arrow key, to access collection boxes, outdoor parcel lockers, cluster box units, and apartment panels. Supervisors assign these keys – generally one per route – to letter carriers for use on over 300,000 delivery and collection routes each day. Carriers and collectors must always keep arrow keys secured and attached to their belts or clothing by a chain while on duty and return them at the end of each day.

Supervisors are required to manually document the issuance and collection of keys each day using Postal Service Form 1628, Individual Key Record. Each facility must also maintain an inventory log to account for all keys and conduct a semiannual inventory review in January and July.

Employees must report missing, lost, or stolen keys to the Postal Inspection Service immediately. Employees order new keys electronically using the eBuy system. Management restricts ordering capabilities to approved users including postmasters, officers-in-charge, and station managers.

Our fieldwork was completed before the President of the United States issued the national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020. The results of this audit do not reflect process and/or operational changes that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic.


The Postal Service’s management controls over arrow keys were ineffective. Specifically, the number of arrow keys in circulation is unknown, and local units did not adequately report lost, stolen, or broken keys or maintain key inventories. Further, the Postal Service did not restrict the number of replacement arrow keys that could be ordered. Ineffective controls over arrow keys increases the risk that these items will be lost or stolen and not detected.

These issues occurred because:

  • Postal Service policies do not require a master key inventory, which would include all keys issued by the supplier and reflect keys reported as lost, stolen, or broken by the units. Semiannual reconciliation to a master inventory by units would provide enhanced accountability and security over these keys.
  • Postal Service policy did not establish a maximum number of key quantities for ordering replacement keys and the number of unassigned keys a site should maintain in inventory.
  • The eBuy system did not have automated controls to prevent sites from ordering large quantities of arrow keys.

New technology and innovation opportunities exist with keyless locking and key tracking to improve management controls over arrow keys. The Postal Service has tested some technologies, including key cabinets in Pacific Area facilities, which were used to automate the daily issuance and collection of arrow keys.

Additional technology such as keyless lock options could utilize electronic keypads and fingerprint readers. Key tracking options, which could significantly reduce the amount of manual daily tracking, include Radio Frequency Identification and barcodes with built-in tracking intelligence.

Keyless lock options and key tracking can operate as standalone solutions that do not require broadband capability, which may not always be available in certain areas. Incorporating new technology and innovations could reduce the time to manage keys daily and increase the security over the keys. Overall, this could significantly reduce the risk associated with lost or stolen arrow keys and enhance the security of mail receptacles.

The Postal Service issued a Standard Work Instruction for Arrow Locks and Keys dated April 2020 and updated the eBuy system to require requisitioners to provide justification when ordering arrow keys in eBuy. In addition, requisitioners must add required approving officials to place the order. These controls will provide additional oversight and, as a result, we will not make a recommendation regarding these issues.


We recommended Vice President, Delivery Operations:

  • Create and maintain a nationwide arrow key inventory and ensure units reconcile their local inventory semiannually to ensure key accountability.
  • Develop and issue guidance regarding a maximum key quantity for ordering replacement keys and the number of unassigned keys a site should maintain in inventory.
  • Evaluate technology solutions and take appropriate action to reduce risks associated with lost or stolen arrow keys and enhance the security of mail receptacles.

Read full report

Audit Resolution - Recommendation 2

OIG Response


Comments (13)

  • anon

    Arrow keys / gas cards/ have been lost at station with no one caring?...door entrance as well is broken allowing entrance to building with no issues.

    Aug 18, 2021
  • anon

    We have been waiting for over a year to receive an arrow key from our post office. How many keys are we eligible to have in our inventory?

    Jul 26, 2021
  • anon

    Our property has installed a new mailbox cluster in California. What needs to happen to get the post office to install an arrow lock?

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon


    Apr 15, 2021
  • anon

    I am having the same problem. I called the post office, and their giving me a hard time. Have not gotten mail for over a month now. They said they put us on a list. I asked how long, a month, 2 months,? They said they don’t know, but we’re on a list. I am furious about it. I am going to call them again, and when I go to get my mail from post office, I am going to ask again. How long did it take, before the post office, put your arrow lock on your mail box? I am assuming you have it already.

    Aug 29, 2021
  • anon

    I have video of what appears to be an Amazon delivery being made by someone not in a usps uniform using an arrow key.

    Apr 11, 2021
  • anon

    This management system is worthless if arrow keys are already circulating in the wrong hands. Thieves have hit numerous buildings, many of them multi-units, in Chicago, stealing mail and merchandise, gaining access with arrow keys.

    Mar 16, 2021
  • anon

    I found one of these keys outside on my sidewalk. I don't know what to do with it or how to return it.

    Mar 15, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Michael. Thank you for your message. Please return the key to your local post office.

    Apr 12, 2021
  • anon

    How do I get the arrow lock on my cluster mailbox fixed. The carriers can not get their arrow keys to open the cluster mailbox lock

    Dec 29, 2020
  • anon

    Our office has a key log which is used daily and I have been confronted when I returned it but didn't sign it in. If we have a carrier that has possession of an arrow key which is not on the log sheet which he doesnt sign and management is aware....who do I report this to. This carrier never gets in trouble for things every other carrier would.....I need to know who can fix this problem

    Oct 20, 2020
  • anon

    My office just started enforcing The arrow keys rules to attach it to your belt loop. I have a log where I sign in sign out dated. The clerk said I must put them in her hands in the afternoon if not they must go on a lockbox. We did not do this during mail account do we keep track of our time daily is my question?

    Oct 17, 2020
  • anon

    Sounds intresting

    Oct 17, 2020