A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment, such as supermarkets, card and gift shops, pharmacies, and colleges. CPUs are operated by the retailer’s employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office. The Village Post Office (VPO) concept was introduced earlier this year and is similar to the CPU in that they are retail postal facilities operated by community businesses. However, they provide limited postal products and services. CPUs and VPOs lower U.S. Postal Service expenses, primarily because they use already existing retail stores. The Postal Service does not have to rent its own store and hire dedicated staff.Read More
The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it would study approximately 3,700 postal retail facilities which are candidates for consolidation. Many policymakers and Postal Service customers have expressed concern over the effect these potential consolidations will have on access to postal services and as well as the social life of rural communities where the local post office acted as a gathering point for the community.
In an attempt to address some of these concerns, the Postal Service revealed plans to offer its services through authorized third party vendors, including drug stores, grocery stores, and office supply stores. These Village Post Offices (VPO) would be operated by the vendor and sell popular products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.
The Postal Service’s primary benefit would be lower labor and facilities maintenance costs from replacing traditional, free-standing post offices with Village Post Offices. There are also potential benefits to consumers. First, postal services could be more conveniently accessed by customers who already patronize the third party vendors. Second, the co-location may actually help to strengthen community ties. Third, the VPOs may be open longer hours.
Think for a moment about your most recent visit to a store. How late was it open? Where was it located? Now think about the last time you visited a Post Office? Were there any differences between the two experiences?
While retail and the society at large have changed tremendously in the last 40 years, the size and distribution of the Postal Service retail network today is not that different from the network that existed in 1971. It has not changed to reflect the changes in where and how Americans live today.
Why is this? An OIG paper issued today, Barriers to Retail Network Optimization, highlights some of the obstacles to change:
• Statutory restrictions prevent closing Post Offices for economic reasons and impose requirements for notice, consultation, and appeal procedures.
• Regulatory procedures and interpretations create burdens on the Postal Service’s ability to make adjustments.
• Political obstacles to rightsizing result from the natural inclination of affected groups to protest the loss of local Post Offices.
• Institutional barriers within the Postal Service prevent action. These include a lack of sustained focus over time on retail optimization, problems with the availability and quality of data, past dependence on a highly decentralized bottom-up process, and the absence of a well-articulated strategic retail vision.
What changes would you like to see to the Postal Service’s retail network? What do you think are the biggest barriers to change? We want to hear from you.
This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).Read More
In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Postal Service spent more than $149 million in manufacturing, shipping, and fulfillment costs for Express Mail® and Priority Mail® packaging supplies. The Postal Service, like FedEx, provides these supplies at no cost to customers and the public.
The packaging is Postal Service property and, therefore, should only be used to send Express and Priority mail packages. However, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes and in some cases, customers use the packaging to mail items using the Postal Service’s competitors. This adds additional costs to the Postal Service and violates federal law. The question is balancing the desire to control costs with maintaining the convenience that customers desire. Read More
It’s a couple days after Christmas and all through the house, still no creatures are stirring. Well, some of us are. After all, it’s back to work for most of us. Postal employees were especially busy this time of year. In the holiday season, the Postal Service delivered nearly 16 billion cards, letters and packages across the country and sent mail around the world.
Post Office lobbies were also a busy place, with 97 million customers visiting. But more than 47 million customers skipped the trip to the Post Office this holiday season and took advantage of the Postal Service’s online shipping at www.usps.com.
The Postal Service touches everyone regularly, but even more so during the holiday season. We would like to hear about your “Mail Moment” experience with the Postal Service over the past few weeks. What made it memorable? Was it a positive experience? If not, how can the Postal Service improve?
The economy has changed dramatically over the last 12 months. The Postal Service’s financial situation has changed, as well as its target markets and the fortunes and requirements of its customers. If the Postal Service gathers appropriate data to fully understand customers’ needs and desires, and offers relevant solutions, customers are more likely to choose the Postal Service as their primary supplier of mail products and services.Read More