Over the weekend, I mailed two packages and purchased First-Class letter and postcard stamps — and I never left home. I printed and paid for the package labels, requested Carrier Pickup and ordered postage stamps right from usps.com.
Electronic messaging and bill pay have put a big dent in the volume of mail the Postal Service is processing and delivering — from 203 billion in fiscal year 2008 to a projected 175 billion in fiscal year 2009, which ends September 31.
But the same online technology is helping USPS offer its products and services in one of the most convenient ways, online.
The Postal Service, like every other business, has to continually meet its financial obligations and the needs of its customers. USPS is not supported by tax dollars.
To offset revenue declines due to the loss of First-Class Mail and advertising mail caused by the recession, the Postal Service is looking at many ways to increase revenue and save money.
New construction has been halted, early retirements have been offered to eligible employees and mail processing operations are being consolidated.
The current line item USPS is looking at is underutilized stations and branches in large cities. Formal in-depth studies include input from customer surveys or community meetings, as well as financial information as it reflects on each office under consideration.
Automated Postal Centers are self service mailing kiosks designed to process 80 percent of the transactions normally handled by a retail employee at the window.
But, along with streamlining its operations, USPS is continually finding new ways to make it easier and more convenient for customers to use its products and services. Currently there are more than 70,000 alternate access points outside of the traditional Post Office. This number includes the grocery stores and ATMs offering stamps for sale at face value.
There also are nearly 1,000 Contract Postal Units (CPUs) nationwide. A CPU is a Post Office that is located inside a retail establishment and operated by the retailer’s employees. A CPU is ideal
A USPS Approved Shipper is another way customers can mail their packages without going to a Post Office. An approved shipper is a private packaging and shipping retailer providing a variety of shipping services including postal services and competitor services. There are more than 2,000 approved shipper locations nationwide.
Another easy way to order stamps is with Stamps by Mail. This service allows customers in city delivery areas to purchase stamps by ordering them through the mail. The order form is incorporated into a brochure and includes a postage paid envelope. Customers can pick up the brochure at their local Post Office or request one from their letter carrier.
Rural carriers —often referred to as operating a "Post Office on Wheels" — can offer every postal product and service from selling stamps to mailing packages and fulfilling money order requests.
Many Post Offices are now equipped with Automated Postal Centers (APCs) in their lobbies. APCs are self service mailing kiosks which are designed to process 80 percent of the transactions normally handled by a retail employee at the window.
Because they are located in Post Office lobbies, APCs are available any time the lobby is open even if the retail window is closed — more often than not, 24 hours a day.
With the APC, customers can use their credit or debit cards to buy stamps, weigh and mail packages, look up mailing information and ZIP Codes, prepare Express Mail forms and Certified Mail return receipts, and purchase Delivery Confirmation.
In addition to offering an easy way to order stamps and mail packages, usps.com, the Postal Service website, offers other alternatives to going to the Post Office. You can put your mail on hold, fill out a Change of Address form, rent a Post Office Box, look up ZIP Codes, calculate and print postage and find out how easy it is to design customized mailpieces — all from the comfort of your home or office.
And, you can always pick up the telephone to order stamps at 800-STAMP-24.
So even if your local city station or branch is consolidating with another location nearby, the Postal Service offers many alternative ways to buy stamps, mail packages and look-up a ZIP Code.