on Jun 28th, 2013 | 59 comments
 

Postal customers often choose to stand in line at the counter of their local Post Office, even as an open self-service kiosk sits nearby. In some cases, customers might prefer to interact with a window clerk, perhaps to make sure they purchase the right service or because they want to buy a specialty service not available from the automated kiosk.

But some customers might be unaware that they can get many of the same services at a kiosk that they get from the window. For example, they can buy postage; weigh and send packages; use the ZIP Code lookup feature; and obtain fairly large quantities of First-Class Mail stamps (up to 100 self-adhesive packets). With about 2,500 kiosks in 2,300 retail locations and many of them accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, kiosks are convenient and fairly simple to use.

Consumers have grown so accustomed to using self-service kiosks, including automated teller machines and airline ticketing kiosks, that many people barely remember a time before them. In grocery stores across the country, customers are now choosing to scan and bag their own groceries at self-service checkouts, even though it saves them no money to do it themselves. Yet, consumer backlash against completely automated customer service is growing, especially in some industries such as banking. For example, TD Bank now promotes itself as a bank with “humanity,” using the catch phrase “bank human again.” It seems customers want choice: automation when it’s convenient and human interaction when it is needed.

Does the Postal Service have the right balance of automated options and the human touch? Should it consider expanding the use of self-service kiosks to retail locations that will be operating at reduced hours (less than 8 hours per day)? What could the Postal Service do to increase public awareness and use of self-service kiosks units? Or do you think the public prefers working directly with a person at the window?

If you have been to a Post Office with a kiosk, but opted to wait for a clerk instead, what was the basis for your decision?

Unaware or unsure of the types of transaction that could be completed on the kiosk
40% (295 votes)
Unsure of how to use the unit
20% (145 votes)
Type of transaction could not be completed using the unit
20% (143 votes)
Needed to complete two or more transactions, one or more of which could not be completed using the unit
2% (17 votes)
Prefer to deal with a person
11% (83 votes)
Other (please describe below)
7% (49 votes)
Total votes: 732

59 Comments


Add new comment

I personally prefer to work with a person, but then I’m of that demographic that grew up without a cell phone and remembers when bank clerks knew your name.

Appreciating the hard work you put into your site and in depth information you present.

It's great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same old rehashed material.
Fantastic read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Both, Clerk and Kiosks. Yes! I feel that the automated options and the human touch thats-the-equally-right-balance.

I much prefer the kiosk. Many employees at my local post office locations are much slower than the computer. I like to save the line for complicated shipments.

I like that the automated postal centers are open in the lobby of my post office after hours. It allows me to run in and take care of my postal needs on off hours. The one downside is that if you are shipping a package that is bigger than what fits in the opening of the kiosk, it requires you to stand in line or at least hand off the package to a clerk. Another nearby post office had a kiosk at one time, but then removed it. I’m not sure why and it is disappointing as that PO had more parking available. But with only one clerk working on many days, it almost always has a long line.

I found the kiosks difficult to use, and SLOW. In many cases, it’s actually faster to go through the line. Also, the interface looks about ten years old, and uses postal terms that I’m unfamiliar with. If the kiosk worked more like the self-checkout systems, I might use it.

I collect hand-cancellation postmarks at every post office I visit. I can’t get those at a kiosk!

I’m actually a big fan of using the online click n’ ship over clerk or kiosk. I can ship and schedule a pick-up right from the comfort of home. I just wish they offered more options to ship and print postage, instead of just Express and Priority Mail.
When I do go to the post office and have tried to use the kiosk, they are either out of order or I get through and find I need to see a clerk anyway. If I have to make the drive, I prefer to use the clerk.

There needs to be a balance between each. The Postal Service is cutting back too much on the retail help, and pushing too much to automated transactions. There are still people that want to buy stamps, or those that only send out a package once in a great while. A self checkout system is not going to do these people much good. However, they should bring back the vending machines in some of the smaller offices. The office in the town where I work had a 24 hour PO box lobby. It would be great to buy just a couple of stamps after hours when I go to pick up my mail, as ordering it online is not instant and the grocery store is a few miles away.

There are no kiosks in my area. I visit the JFK station in Boston, the Charles Street station in Boston and the post offices in Watertown, Mass. and there are no kiosks. About 10 or 15 years ago, there was a kiosk at the JFK station and it vended odd amounts of postage (i.e., several first class stamps and then various odd amounts of postage that didn't add up to first class).

There could easily be a kiosk that vended, say, a roll of stamps or a book of stamps and provide change if you use cash or simply accept a credit card. They do this at any local grocery store but not at the post office. The old kiosks didn't do any of this and remained free of customers while the lines at the counter went on and on.

We don't have any kiosks in my area (downtown Boston). The ones that were around about 10 or 15 years ago gave you some first class postage and then some odd denominations of stamps that were unusable unless you later visited a window. There was no ability to get change.

I hope today's kiosk's can give you books or rolls of stamps and accept credit cards or cash (and give change) like any grocery store. I'd prefer this since many of my transactions are simple but I must wait in the long line.

I was not sure if I could ship my package a the kiosk. There was a postal employee standing at the front of the line answering questions as people got to the front of the line (which doesn't help because I was about 20 people back and not getting out of line!) and she told two other people she didn't know if their transaction could be completed at the kiosk. If the postal employees aren't sure, and there is no one to ask, it takes less time to wait in line then try to figure out if I can ship and still end up waiting in line.

I was not able to tell how to buy a plain stamp, to mail a plain letter in a plain envelope. I tried two times, one time selecting buy stamp, one time selecting mail letter. There are no pictures of what you are buying, and the wording I'm sure makes good sense to people who speak Postal Service, but I don't. In the "mail a letter" process it asks if a printed form would fit, but I don't want to have to fill out a form, I've already addressed the envelope.

The line to see a clerk had too many people in it to wait. I don't find the machines at all well thought out. On my second attempt, the person in front of me also gave up in disgust.

The old machines where you could see what you were buying and push a button right next to it were vastly superior.

Are there detailed instructions online for how to use the kiosks? I hate having to learn to use it with other people waiting in line behind me.

Maybe "buy one plain stamp for one plain letter in one plain envelope" should be an option.

I used the self-service kiosk to mail a package -- followed all the instructions, and the package came back saying postage was not sufficient. Now, I have to go back to the post office and find why the machine failed to give me the correct postage. I have used it before with no problems..but if this keeps happening during the holiday season, that will be why most people will wait in line for a person; people don't want their package to come back for insufficent postage.

Well, this evening I played kiosk roulette. Spent an hour going to 3 different post offices only to find the kiosks in each were out of order. . . Again. I have no time left in my work day and am thrilled with the kiosk concept. I just wish they were reliable or there were more available.

I have used the self-service kiosks many times and they are great when they work but the one at the Gateway Loop P.O. in Springfield, OR is seldom in working order. Today I tried it and it worked, well it worked up to the point of taking and charging my credit card and issuing a receipt but no postage. I had to go to the counter and seek help from the one clerk working at the customer service counter. The clerk left the counter and went over to the self-service kiosk and played around with it for about five minutes and then came back to the counter and gave me a refund request form to fill out while he waited on other customers. When I was able to get back with him he started going through some clicks on his computer screen but had to stop and go look at a manual. At this point twenty minutes had gone by and as there was only one clerk the line of people waiting behind me was increasing. I told the clerk that I thought it was getting a bit ridiculous and that would rather just pay for the postage again and get on with my day. The clerk took my money and issued the postage and told me that if I came back in two and a half hours there would be someone who could help me with a refund then.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this is that when I looked at the receipt for the second postage it had a message on it that read:
“In a hurry? Self-service kiosks offer quick and easy check-out. Any Retail Associate can show you how.”

After this experience I will never use the self-service kiosks again and will warn everyone I know about them.

I think kiosks should be require at every post office. If you work during regular business hours these things are PERFECT!

The stamp packs are uglier than sin. I didn't even realize how much I liked having artwork on my stamps until I purchased these abominations. Stamping and mailing envelopes isn't exactly common place anymore, but I do still send cards, rent, and the occasional written letter. I understand where the US Postal Service is financially, and frankly there are a lot of employees in their facilities near me that I purposefully avoid. Not all of the employees, but certainly a good handful. I do use the kiosks if a line has formed in the lobby IFF I am doing anything that is not purchasing a book of stamps.

They're triple the size, and the graphic design looks like it's been done in Microsoft Word 95. I know these kiosks have limitations on what they're capable of producing, but COME ON. Is this really the only way to vend stamps without a clerk?

It would be very helpful if you would make available a YouTube video that provides a detailed tutorial and how to use the self service kiosks. There is a You Tube video currently on the kiosks but it is not detailed enough. I think a good tutorial would help many feel comfortable in using the kiosks . This would help customers and the Post Office, thanks.

The clerk at the Worthington Ohio post office refused to sell me a $5.60 stamp for an express envelope I was planning to mail when I got home because I could not remember the zip code to which I would be mailing the envelope. She assured me that I could use the kiosk at any local post office. I attempted to use the kiosk after hours at one of the west Columbus Ohio stations. It charge my debit card but did not print the stamp. "No refund" was printed on my receipt. I'm dreading having to fight with the counter clerk tomorrow to get the stamp I paid for. Because of this experience, I will NEVER use the kiosk again. They are obviously not as reliable as ATMs. PS, when deciding what post offices to close, please give special attention to the ones that refuse to sell stamps. Thank you.

Hi, were you successful at obtaining the correct amount stamp/getting a refund?

I encountered a similar situation - I bought international stamps (2x $2.29) and the kiosk printed out 2x $0.49.
I gave another kiosk a try and I bought one $2.29 and it printed out 3x forever stamps ($0.49).

I know it's only a few dollars more but it's frustrating to have to pay more than twice at the kiosk....

I usually go to the Clerk; however, went I went to the local post office today, I noticed the kiosk. AWESOME! All I needed was to send a first-class envelope (non bendable) along with buying a book of stamps. I will continue using the kiosk option in the future! Best thing ever!!! Now, if only fast food restaurants would follow - haha.

The kiosks were out of order for a software update. When the kiosks are down and only for this reason would I ever go to the window. The kiosk offers every service that the window provides. My post office doesn't even do complimentary package taping anymore. I'm told to buy tape for double anywhere else's cost. As for commemorative stamps, I purchase those off of my phone and have them delivered to my house. The person in the window is an overrated experience, and has been replaced by a machine that doesn't need breaks, or an hourly wage, or bathroom needs, or a union representation, and minus a software update delay it is available 24 hours a day. I prefer the kiosk.

Has anyone noticed that you can no longer send things "General Parcel Post" at the Automated Postal Centers? The cheapest mailing option offered includes tracking/insurance (which ends up being much more expensive). This seems like a scam to me. I used to use the APCs all the time, but will now be forced to wait in line for a clerk in order to mail things more economically.

The postage for priority shipping does not have tracking number provided.

My main issue is that the kiosks does not accept cash which is a major flaw in my opinion.

The problem with the kiosks is that if you lose your receipt, you're out of luck. The post office workers are unable to look up a copy of it on the kiosks, but can if you go to a teller. Now I'm stuck with a missing package and can't even get the insurance because of a simple misplaced paper receipt. Unacceptable in this day and age of technology.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention and we are sorry for your inconvenience.

We recommend contacting the USPS customer service office: you can call them at 800-275-8777 or email socialmedia@usps.gov. Once they have received your claim they can look further into this matter.

Another option is to file a complaint online at https://www.uspsoig.gov/form/new-complaint-form and we can then forward this issue to the right department.

Thank you.

U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General

I've also had a problem with the self-kiosk not delivering stamps. Last Wed evening 11/26 before Thanksgiving, I paid $9.05 for a Priority Mail letter w/ certified mail delivery with my debit card at the kiosk at Wight Ave Cockeysville, MD and got a receipt, but no stamps. Since it was after hours there was no help and the kiosk at the nearby Deereco Rd PO had no stamps either. I travelled the next day and I ended up mailing the letter from another state. On my return, I went to the Wight Ave PO this morning and was told by a supervisor (?) that having a receipt was not proof that the stamps were not delivered and there was nothing he could do about it. He didn't explain what specific proof I needed and didn’t appear interested in really looking into the matter. It seemed I was out of luck that I paid for something that wasn't delivered but had no recourse because I had “no proof that it happened” and to my dismay, he agreed with my assessment. Frankly, I felt he did not believe me and this quite was embarrassing but the reviews here tell me I am not alone. Perhaps with time, Post Master General will take note that this is a problem for some customers and create a policy/process that will potentially help and not embarrass them.

Hello Saro,

We apologize for the inconvenience that you have experienced. Your best course of action would be to contact your local USPS Office of Consumer Affairs at (410) 347-4330. They should be able to help remedy the situation.

Thank you.

I often send items to the US Virgin Islands where mail sometimes slip through the cracks when it arrives at our processing center in Puerto Rico so I like to deal with a person and ask questions, and based on the answers I have received from postal employees. I am noting a flaw in the system, I track every package I send and there is no update until the package arrives at the destination even though it is handled by others. However my US mail I use the kiosk.

USPS LOCAL OFFICE HAS A KIOSK BUT IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE LIKE MIS PLACING THE TRACKING#/RECEIPT. NO ONE CAN HELP YOU OR LOOK IT UP!

I recently went to a kiosk on Sunday about 12:30pm. I was able to process two of my mail pieces but was unable to process the third as the machine would not accept it. Also, the package bin was locked. I went to another post office and same thing occurred. Does the machine and bin auto close at certain hours now? I have never had this problem in the past.

I agree with many here who say the kiosks are too confusing, and often slow. After speaking to a clerk yesterday, I went home with a priority mail envelope. When I took it back today, the line was long, so I did use the kiosk. To my dismay, the printed postage label was so large that it almost covered the address label, which I had placed more or less in the center of the space indicated. I managed to place the postage so that it didn't cover the destination address.

Then I was left holding the bag - I mean, envelope - and not knowing what to do with it. It wouldn't fit through the mail slots inside. There was no collection box marked for priority mail. And the line was even longer than when I arrived. Being the impatient person that I am, I interrupted the clerk to ask if I could put it in the regular mailbox outside, and he offered to take it off my hands.

Part of my hesitation was because the clerk yesterday told me that if I purchased regular postage from him, I would have to hand the package into a clerk for anything over 13 ounces. (I had asked about having my mail carrier pick it up.)

There's too many rules that seem inconsistent. And the names that the USPS uses are really confusing, as people here have commented. Priority mail Express and priority mail 1-day? What's the difference? When you find out that priority mail 1-day doesn't mean 1 day, it's kind of makes mistrust all the product names that the post office uses. Which is why people end up going to the clerk, because only they really understand what is what.

Priority mail flat rates actually seem like a good deal money-wise, once you understand them, but I still don't understand the system well enough to find it efficient.

mail is always important to people and we want to make sure it gets initially in the hands of a human, instead of a machine. there's a huge amount of security felt when handing your mail to an actual person at the counter, versus being unsure of the use of the kiosk, especially when most people are ignorant or even in some cases "intimidated" by the many shipping options available. that to me is by far one of the biggest reasons many of us prefer to stand in line and be helped by a human at the counter who has superior knowledge in shipping. our Mail is just that important to us...

I have dropped a package in the drop box after using the kiosk and the package disappeared. Possibly stolen. I have also seen packages that were steal able because the bin under is full. Especially during the holidays. Overall I prefer handing my package over to a usps clerk so that way I have more proof that I gave them the package.

I think the kiosks are great for those of us who work late. I live on the SC/GA border and my local post office in
Graniteville, SC has outstanding customer service but they now close at 4:30, which is upsetting. If they had gotten a kiosk it would make more sense. Why reduce hours without installing a kiosk in either
Graniteville or Aiken, SC. The nearest kiosk is nearly 25 miles away in Martinez, Ga., and that kiosk NEVER has the green cards in it for certified mail and the lobby is closed where you can find the cards after hours. Another thing that doesn't make sense is that the Martinez kiosk is only 1 of 2 kiosks in my entire metropolitan area and kiosk number 2 is less than 3 miles from kiosk 1, which are both in the 3rd largest populated county in my metro area of Augusta. This area could easily support 2 more kiosks in this area or at least move kiosk 2 to either downtown Augusta, Aiken or North Augusta post offices. On another note, I believe the kiosks shouldn't accept cash because some of criminal elements plus you can have two records of your transaction purchases if you are using your credit/debit cards, i.e., the receipt and monthly statement. Basically, we are asking for more kiosks or better placement of current kiosks. My two cents.

If the line is long I will use the self-service kiosk. However, there is no option for "media mail" rates at these kiosks. This option would be very much appreciated.

Also, during regular post office hours, there is no place to put kiosk-stamped parcels that will not fit in the bin provided.

The clerks are helpful at the LeFleur Station in Jackson, MS. They will get someone to help you bring in heavy boxes or they will help you themselves.

I live in Burbank, CA. I have used or tried to use the USPS kiosks in each of the three USPS stations in Burbank. Every kiosk has been unable to help me in recent months because the card ( credit / debit) reader rejects my cards. I regularly use my cards in restaurants, bars, retail stores, ATMs, car washes, parking meters and garages, markets and service stations, but these same cards have been repeatedly rejected by the USPS kiosks. EVEN WHEN THE SAME CARDS ARE ACCEPTED BY THE CARD SWIPING DEVICES AT THE USPS SERVICE WINDOWS.

If the USPS is unable or unwilling to provide kiosks that operate properly or to maintain the kiosks as required, then the kiosks are a waste of tax funding, and the USPS should remove the machines from the post office stations.

Your complaints might be valid in terms of the machine operation, but the USPS does not use tax money, so your wrong in saying that they "are a waste of tax funding." I use the kiosks all the time and have never had problems with credit card acceptance, even when using older scratched up and bend cards.

I've experienced the same thing with all of the credit cards in my wallet lately. Ever since the issuers sent me replacement cards with the new technology (embedded chips), the USPS kiosk readers can't scan them. When this problem first arose, I still had one card that had not been replaced and it worked. Now none of mine will work. I don't know why I tried again today. Like you, I never have a problem with these same cards anywhere else. I don't expect a fix very soon, since they have so many they'll have to retrofit.

The kiosk offers little to no variety of stamp images.
I cannot buy a single domestic post card stamp from the kiosk.
If I need to purchase a stamp for a heavy domestic letter, but it costs less than a dollar, the kiosk only offers to climb the purchase into the $1+ qualifier with duplicate purchases rather than a quantity of forever stamps.
The kiosk cannot help me with all me international shipping needs.
The kiosk occasionally has trouble explaining what it offers in detail, leaving me to worry that I will spend my money on something I can't or don't know how to use.

The only situations I trust the kiosk for are domestic items I just need postage for and nothing else. Such situations are extremely handy in the middle of the night!

Standard shipping was not an option on the kiosks. Why is this?

Online or kiosks. And if I must then person.
The post office workers in my area do not like the job, not afraid to get fired, and treat the customer like crap. I was not born in this country and look white. At fist my thoughts were
"Reverse racism". The realized no, pretty much
Everybody gets treated equally with standard "CRAP"

The self-service kiosk has worked for me when I've tried it, but I'm frequently shipping eBay items and have already bought postage through there. I use the clerk to accept my packages so I can be sure the tracking number is activated.

No proof of actual mailing from a Kiosk. It's technically not even shipped until someone scans it. So the Kiosk is great for an after hours emergency, but otherwise never.

I do use the kiosks often and have had good experiences UNTIL NOW. I mailed a package on March 14 at the branch post office 10009. It vanished from the face of the earth for 10 days--not a mention on the tracking site, even though it was insured (extra) and placed in the drawer provided. I sent an email asking for help, and was given a case number and told I would be contacted in 3 days--BUT NEVER WAS.

Then, a miracle of sorts--on March 23, I checked the tracking site and saw that it had been sent to GUAM. (It was addressed to Santa Barbara 93105 and on the receipt as such.) How the heck did that happen??? It left Guam on March 24 and spent several days on the Pacific, arriving in Honolulu on March 27. It finally arrived in Santa Barbara on March 30. I have no recourse because Priority Mail is not guaranteed, but this seemed really out of the realm of acceptable Post Office delivery. I'm glad it wasn't stolen, but because of this ridiculous route, my niece's 16th birthday gift arrived way after the event, which was deeply disappointing for my mother, who was hoping to give her the present the package contained.

I'm glad it wasn't stolen. But I just wanted to let someone know that no one ever responded to my initial email after promising to do so. And I wanted to let someone know that my package was sent to GUAM. I mean, what even goes to Guam??? Not a lot, I bet. Aaargh.

Thanks for listening.
Barbara

I tend to do a number of certified letters and prefer to have the information completed before arriving at the post office. If you indicate you have prefilled postal forms you do not have the opportunity to enter the tracking number into the machine. As a result if the letter / package is lost how would you prove that you mailed it.

Why was the package bin locked this morning at Arlington Texas and at Irving Texas P.O.? This is very frustrating!

Pages