Objective

The Postal Service offers no-fee post office (PO) box service to customers who do not receive any form of carrier delivery. Customers apply for the no-fee PO box service by completing an application and providing identification to a Postal Service employee. Retail personnel determine customer eligibility and enter data into the Web Box Activity Tracking System (WebBATS), a web-based application that allows retail personnel to manage PO box inventory.

As of March 1, 2018, the Postal Service had about 21.2 million PO boxes at 33,034 retail units. This included 1.3 million no‑fee PO boxes at 12,556 retail units. We estimated the total rental value of the no-fee PO boxes was about [redacted] million annually.

We visited three retail units in the Western Area to obtain an understanding of the no-fee PO box process. We expanded our coverage by statistically selecting 205 retail units that offered no-fee PO boxes. Using high‑risk analytics, such as multiple boxes assigned to one street address and unpaid fees for additional boxes, we visited an additional 12 retail units from the statistical sample of 205 retail units to validate the data. Finally, per management’s request, we visited an additional two retail units.

In total, we visited 17 retail units and reviewed 1,731 no-fee PO boxes corresponding to those units from October 24, 2017, through January 19, 2018.

Our objective was to determine whether internal controls over no-fee PO boxes were effective to ensure only eligible customers received the service.

What the OIG Found

Controls over no-fee PO boxes were not always effective to ensure that only eligible customers received the service. Specifically, out of 1,731 no-fee PO boxes reviewed, we found:

   ■ Retail personnel used ineffective methods to determine whether a customer’s street address was eligible for a no-fee PO box. As a result, personnel issued 22 no-fee PO boxes to customers at five retail units whose street addresses were outside the servicing PO’s delivery boundaries.

   ■ Retail personnel entered invalid or duplicate street addresses in WebBATS. Specifically, personnel issued:

       ● 996 no-fee PO boxes at two retail units to customers with invalid street addresses;

       ● 38 additional no-fee PO boxes at four retail units to customers with the same street address without charging the rental fee for the additional PO box.

   ■ Applications for PO box service and annual verification forms were either missing or incomplete for 171 no-fee PO boxes. Specifically, we found:

       ● 49 no-fee PO boxes at eight retail units had no source documents to support customer eligibility or data in WebBATS;

       ● 122 no-fee PO boxes at nine retail units had incomplete information on customer applications or annual verifications.

As a result of the issues identified during our audit, management could not validate or confirm customer eligibility for all no-fee PO boxes.

These issues occurred because the Postal Service did not have consistent guidance to determine delivery boundaries, and WebBATS did not detect invalid or duplicate street addresses. Additionally, the Postal Service does not currently require retail personnel to retain source documents confirming customer eligibility.

Having effective manual and automated controls is critical for managing the no‑fee PO box service, particularly to ensure the service is provided only to eligible customers. We estimated a 1‑year revenue loss to the Postal Service of about [redacted] million, based on the site visits and the value of 1.3 million no-fee PO boxes in inventory as of March 1, 2018.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management:

  • Develop consistent guidance for retail personnel to determine whether acustomer address is located within the servicing PO’s delivery boundaries.
  • Enhance WebBATS to identify different street address formats and disallow invalid addresses.
  • Implement procedures to ensure customer application and annual verificationinformation is completely documented and retained, manually or electronically,to support customer eligibility and WebBATS data.

Read full report

Comments (12)

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  • anon

    I wan't to apply for a no fee Post Office Box because I don't wan't my mail stolen

    Aug 20, 2019
  • anon

    I have been denied a PO Box at no charge. The small community I live in has no carrier service. I own property, but I rent a home my house is built. I have taken a copy of my rental agreement, my land deed, and a utility bill for my land. The rental property is all bills paid. I have been told I still have to pay for a P.O. Box. I need some assistance in getting a P.O. Box for no charge. I am not the only one in this community that cannot get a P.O. Box at no charge. If you rent a home then you do not get a P.O. Box at no charge. This problem really needs to be resolved

    Aug 05, 2019
  • anon

    Funny how the no fee PO BOXES, in my little town, was referred to as "TRIBAL BOXES", which has been recanted as the new girl who works out post once was not aware of the rules and regulations for reasons why ONLY TRIBAL MEMBERS have to ON A YEARLY BASIS CERTIFY that they INFACT live here. When home delivery is available less than 1/4 a mile from that post office. It seems that the common saying to anyone wanting home delivery, or complains about having to bring 2 forms of ID to certify is... "It could be worse, you could be getting your mail in a town 6 miles away. I am not going to drop this issue, because until I pointed it out to the nice young lady, whose only fault is not knowing the continued institutionalized racism, did she realize, calling them TRIBAL BOXES, was discriminating, and had no real explanation as to why we get told that, but the people who live less than a 1/4 mile away from the post office, likely would never be told they would have to get their mail 6 miles away, because they don't have to use the POST OFFICE TO CHECK THEIR MAIL.

    Aug 01, 2019
  • anon

    My question is this, My understanding is that I have to have a P O Box, instead of having a physical mail box because I live within 500 ft from post office Is this true, I can’t find any documentation on this rule. Another note What happens when the post office moves and now further away from its last location Which happens now to be more than 500 feet Thank you for your time Tom Vinton

    Jul 26, 2019
  • anon

    I am one who is forced to have a PO Box because no residential mail delivery is offered to the whole (tiny) town. I am sick of my packages and mail being returned. Many businesses including banks and credit card companies require a physical address. I feel this is nothing but DISCRIMINATION as there are no choices. I pay taxes and deserve the same mail delivery options that other constituents are offered for FREE!!! The local post office has reduced hours and even though they know very well each of us as we are forced to visit every day to get our mail they return it to sender. Again this is not our fault that USPS is subjecting us to unfair and discriminatory practices. The PO Box policy is written for those that have a CHOICE! Which we clearly do not have! Further the USPS does not advertise the requirements for a free PO BOX - I had to pay the the first 5 years I lived in this town - as I did not know that a free PO Box was offered! Where is my refund???? I just want to be treated like everyone else....mail should come to my house or options should be equal to those that receive this service!

    Jun 04, 2019
  • anon

    Are there any good estimates of how many customers are eligible nationwide vs how many are receiving the service?

    May 22, 2019
  • anon

    Are there any good estimates of how many customers are eligible nationwide? No, I’m not aware of any report that shows the number of people eligible nationwide. We performed the audit to determine the number of eligible customers. This is because a customer must meet several requirements to qualify for a no-fee PO Box. Thus, we had to audit each PO Box to determine whether the customer was eligible or not. Are there any good estimates of how many are receiving the service? Yes, the Postal Service have various nationwide admin reports on their website that provides the number of no-fee boxes rented nationwide. This maybe a good estimate in determining the number of customers renting a box. Visit usps.com and search for no-fee PO Box.

    May 23, 2019
  • anon

    I pay BOX rental fee at 78352. I live in 78370. The post office in 78370 has returned packages that I paid for federal express shipping. They claim that I do not have BOX rented in ODEM nor do I have a mail box on the curb at my home in ODEM. I am 65 yrs old and I do not have the tools and materials to put a mail box on the curb. It's the law and my right to receive my mail to my home because ODEM is a city and I'm not living out in the county. The post master woman and the man at the post office gave me a slip of paper with specifications required for the curbside mail box. This is ridiculous!! You need to instruct them to come do some community service and install me a curbside mailbox being that they are such experts on this matter. How do I get a no rental mail box?? I already pay for a box fee in EDROY 78352.

    May 04, 2019
  • anon

    There is no reason to make us go through this every year. There are ZERO other delivery options offered at many of your facilities. If i am still getting my mail at my no fee p.o. box, then it means that I have no other choice. My facility is open for very short hours , including only 2 hours on Saturday. I am aware of another p.o. box only facility that is only open for 1 hour on Saturdays. Do you have any idea how hard it is for some people to get their mail? Clearly, you have not thought about working people, it's really hard for some people to get there when you are open. Nobody would keep these boxes if they another choice, and it's hard to show up once a year with the required documentation. We have better things to do than cheat you out of these boxes. Once you offer delivery then it would be fair to document eligibility. You have no idea how much we hate the special rules too. If your not going to offer delivery then we should not have to pay to use the facility address for package delivered by you.

    Apr 27, 2019
  • anon

    i was denied a po box because my address was out 30 miles radius my identification wasn't proof enough.this never happen to me before i had no problem in the past getting one.

    Apr 19, 2019
  • anon

    I qualify for no fee PO Box, however, the post office doesn't give me my box free. Another postal program I have been defrauded from, has been reported, OIG has done nothing No Honor

    Apr 18, 2019
  • anon

    Hello, Steve. Thank you for your message. If your issue has not yet been resolved by the USPS Office of Consumer Affairs, please file a complaint with our Hotline. You can access the online complaint form at uspsoig.gov/form/file-online-complaint. This will allow us to look into the matter for you.

    Apr 18, 2019