Friday, November 23, 2012

New Place, Same Great Posts


Hi folks, Benny here.

Your Postal Blog has moved over to WordPress, so please join us at our new location, http://www.yourpostalblog.com.

I look forward to seeing you there!


Benny

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, Gobble



Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the centuries-long celebration of the Autumn harvest.
The original Thanksgiving event occurred in 1621 when Plymouth colonists shared a feast with the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the first successful corn harvest. While the celebration lasts for one day in modern times, it lasted for three days during the original festivity.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday, and it remains a celebrated event to this day.

What is your fondest memory of Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Good Way to Pay for Medical Expenses



When open season starts on November 12 for Federal Employees, will you be participating in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program?

The FSA gives federal employees the opportunity to save pre-tax dollars into an account used for the sole purpose of paying for qualified medical expenses. Money is withdrawn bi-weekly on a pre-tax basis from your regular income and deposited into an account in your name.

When signing up for the program, you can designate how much you’d like to deposit into the account for the year. That amount is then divided by the number of paychecks you’ll receive for the year and the appropriate amount is transferred to your FSA account. The money can be used to pay for such expenses as doctor’s visits, contact lenses, first aid kits, immunizations, pregnancy tests, reading glasses, hand sanitizers and more. A complete list of qualified items can be obtained here.

If you know of any upcoming, out of pocket expenses in the following year where qualified FSA dollars can be used, be sure to deposit at least that much into the account. Someone with a $1000 medical expense in a 25% tax bracket would have to essentially pay $1,250 to receive the necessary care due to taxes on the $1,000. That $1,000 transferred to a FSA would only amount to $1,000 in costs for the same medical care. A savings of $250 for medical expenses is hard to come by, so plan ahead and take advantage of the program.

Keep in mind that any money left in a FSA at the end of a year does not roll over to the next year. All money deposited into the account must be used by March 15 in the year following the year of FSA coverage. If you sign up now for the 2013 FSA period, you have until March 15, 2014 to use the money in the account. Be sure to keep good records of how much money you’ve spent throughout the year and deplete the account before it vanishes.

Unlike a healthcare plan, FSA enrollment will not carry over from year to year. You must enroll in the account every year you want to participate in the program.

Keep the FSA in mind this open season when planning for next years expenses. For more information on Flexible Spending Accounts, click here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Expanding Global QR Code Interest


The use of Quick Response (QR) Codes in Post Offices around the world is continuing to expand. The popular 2D image has recently been introduced for the first time in Russia in anticipation of an upcoming special event.

Russian Post has introduced a stamp to celebrate the XXII Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia. A QR Code is placed on the back of the stamp series and will take the eager scanner to the official Sochi Olympic website. Though the Winter Olympics aren’t scheduled to begin until February 2014, this latest stamp issue could draw enough attention to the upcoming events to satisfy the insatiable appetite of local fans.

Other countries to issue QR Codes on the back of a stamp series include Taiwan, Spain, Croatia, and the United States.

Do you think QR Codes should be used on more stamp issues?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mail Gives Hope to Japanese Tsunami Victim



The Tsunami that washed over Japan in March 2011 left many individuals searching far and wide for their lost possessions. For one 77-year-old man, his search expanded to the United States – with a little help from the Post Office.

As unlikely as it may seem, items from the Tsunami have made it across the Pacific Ocean and washed ashore on the west coast of the United States and Canada. One of those items even included a motorcycle that made it ashore in British Columbia. In the hopes that some of his possessions would be among the ones discovered, the 77-year-old Japanese citizen sent a letter to the mayor of Aberdeen, WA, explaining what he had lost.

Aberdeen isn’t located next to the ocean, so Mayer Bill Simpson alerted several nearby towns along the shore to be on the lookout for items that may have washed up. While none of the items found thus far belong to the Japanese man, he continues to remain hopeful.

What discoveries have you made while walking along a beach?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pack and Ship



Time is a precious resource that seems to become scarcer with every passing year. Increasing demands on our time and greater reliance on staying plugged into our technology leaves fewer opportunities to enjoy many activities that were once part of a full lifestyle. One of those activities receiving less attention every year is packaging items for shipping.

Whether it’s sending a sweater, a new DVD, or the latest tablet PC to a friend or loved one, finding the time to come across the right gift and buying it is difficult enough. Finding the time to package and ship it to its destination can be almost impossible for people with multiple demands on their time. Gift card sales have been on the rise as a result, though they lack a personal touch that finding the right gift to send to someone can offer.

A pack and ship service could be an option for busy people who would like to send something more personalized than a gift card. An individual could take an item to a retail counter, hand it to a associate and pay to have the item packed and shipped to its destination. It saves the individual the time it takes to package the item and it would ensure it was packaged correctly to prevent damage.

FedEx and UPS currently offer this service at their retail locations to ensure its time-conscious customers can still send packages even with heavy demands on their schedules.

Do you think this is something the Postal Service could offer?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Postal Patchwork of Stamps and Service

Coloradans John and Jim Wark take aerial photographs from their Husky airplane. Five of Jim's photos are featured in the new sheet of 20 Earthscapes Forever stamps, available now at Post Offices and at www.usps.com/shop.


The November edition of Your Postal Podcast takes us into the wild, blue yonder to learn the stories behind several of the photos used to create the new Earthscapes Forever Postage Stamps. You'll meet the photographer responsible for five of the bird's-eye-view landscapes used on the stamps.

You'll also hear how a Missouri business owner for whom the saying, "A stitch in time saves nine" rings true after he discovered big savings by shipping his company's quilting supplies via Priority Mail.

Head over to YourPostalPodcast to listen to these and other interesting stories. While there, be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win collectible stamp. 

One of the stamps is a surreal view of a geothermal spring at Yellowstone National Park.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Open Season is Here



Yesterday marks the beginning of open season, the time when federal employees can enroll in various healthcare programs. It’s a benefit to all career Postal Employees, and it’s not one to be overlooked.

Healthcare plans change from year to year, including coverage and the costs associated with them. Many people keep the same plan they’ve had for years because of a high satisfaction level or even lack of use of the benefits. Without specific instructions to change or stop enrollment in a plan, an individual is automatically enrolled in the same plan the following year, if available. While this is an easy approach to dealing with healthcare coverage, it could be worthwhile to check out how a plan has changed from the previous year.

Coverage for specific parts of a plan may have been altered or costs for the coverage may no longer be competitive, so it’s important to see how your plan has been modified. Check out the benefits other healthcare plans offer and the costs associated with that coverage to make sure you’re getting the best deal for what you need. Also be sure to take a look at the satisfaction rating of the healthcare provider by other customers. Sometimes a less expensive plan is that way for a reason, but that may not always be the case. A satisfaction rating can provide an extra resource for determining if a plan is a good fit for you.

Open season runs from November 12 through December 10, so be sure to make any adjustments to coverage within the window of opportunity. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Competition and Opportunity



When shopping for the best price on a needed service, many people receive a collection of estimates on the work that needs to be done. Whether it’s installing a sprinkler system for the yard, laying down new carpet in the house, or replacing a transmission in a car, receiving multiple offers on the proposed job can help someone identify the best service for the best price. Recently, the Postal Service announced that it was going to seek bids from other companies in providing air transportation service as its contract with FedEx expires in September 2013. The transition to a competitive bidding process has domestic air services salivating at the opportunity.

UPS is particularly interested in the opportunity to work with USPS and is assembling a proposal that will seek to be the most competitive on the table. FedEx would like to remain partners with USPS and is working on its own proposal that it hopes will maintain that relationship. Other smaller companies such as ABX Air, ASTAR USA, and Atlas Air are among those that may also be interested in the opportunity to work with the Postal Service and could offer bids that they think will beat out the competition.

No matter which contract USPS accepts, the offer is likely to be the best combination of service and cost. The new partnership will help ensure that the services offered to USPS customers are as timely and affordable as possible, allowing the Postal Service to remain one of the most efficient carriers in the world.

What do you think about the request for proposals by USPS?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming to the Postal Service


Hello all, Benny here. Can you feel the chill of winter nipping at your nose yet? That can only mean one thing. The holidays are coming!


I always look forward to the holidays. The lights, the festivities, and all of the delicious food are enough to keep my spirits warm throughout the entire winter season. Another perfect complement to the decorations adorning my home this year is the holiday ornament collection from the USPS.

Last year’s White House ornament is still available, plus there’s an all new version for 2012 revved up and ready to go onto your tree. This year’s version features President William Howard Taft riding in a White Motor Company’s Model M in 1909. There’s also a Letters to Santa ornament featuring the latest holiday stamp release starring Santa Claus himself and his eight trusty reindeer.

I already have the 2011 ornament, but there will still be plenty of other spaces left on my tree for more. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to fill out my order form so I can get the latest two ornaments in time to brighten my tree when I put it up. You can get your own order form here or buy the ornaments directly from the Postal Store.

Stay warm!


Benny

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Million Dollar Lead

George Mignosi, National NALC, Matt Damian, Carrier Branch 4405, Jose Negron, Arvada Postmaster, and Roger Bledsoe, Region 4 NBA for the NALC, celebrate a million dollar sale.


Colorado’s first million dollar Customer Connect Carrier Matt Damian submitted a lead for FulCircle Fulfillment after his long-time friend and owner JR Jones asked him about shipping with the Postal Service.  Damian informed Jones of our product and services, and put him in touch with CO/WY Customer Connect Coordinator Jeffrey Frey.  Jones met with Mailing Solutions Specialist Patrick Reynolds and Shipping Solutions Specialist Laurie Hanna soon thereafter, and worked out the details of the new partnership.

FulCircle was interested in filling orders for a client who sells video games. Impressed with our Regional Rate “A” box weight capabilities, and the cost of First Class parcels, FulCircle is now sending 11,000 parcels for their client with an anticipated growth of over ten times that number.

Estimated annual revenue from this sale is $ 1,181,265.00.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whistling Could Be Key to Happiness



For many people, happiness is something that’s synonymous with the weekend. For one letter carrier in Normal, IL, it’s a regular part of his routine.

Ken Kemp’s daily work routine includes more than delivering mail. He’s regularly heard around town whistling Broadway show tunes, musical pieces from Frank Sinatra, and many more melodic sensations.

Kemp’s whistling not only brightens his own day, it also helps put a spark of pleasure in the lives of those he comes into contact with along his route.

Studies have shown that whistling not only lifts moods, it also has the potential to increase lung capacity, lower blood pressure and reduce the release of stress hormones.

While whistling seems to be a lost art, Kemp hopes to make it more mainstream again. If he continues to further his success in sparking whistling intrigue, the world will be a happier place for it.

How often do you whistle to brighten your mood?

Monday, November 5, 2012

What does our SSA deduction buy?



Among other deductions from our paycheck, Social Security takes a portion of our income and contributes it to a government retirement benefit program. We see this deduction each and every time we peek at our paystubs, but what does this contribution buy?

The amount an employee contributes into Social Security is only a portion of what gets paid into the system. For 2012, employees pay a total of 4.2% of their earnings into Social Security. Employers contribute an additional 6.2% on top of that amount for a total of 10.4%.

As much as we might like to see that money accumulate into an account set aside just for us, contributions into Social Security are used to pay current retiree benefits. We add money into the system with the expectation that when we retire, we’ll receive a lifelong stream of income guaranteed by the government. How much income an individual receives depends on several variables:

-         How much you earn.
-         How long you contribute to the program.
-         What age you intend to retire.

The greater these figures are for each category, the more money you’ll receive in retirement. For example, let’s assume an individual born in 1950 that started working in 1968 is earning $50,000 this year. He earned a consistent stream of income throughout his working life that increased at a rate of 2% per year. If that person were to retire this year at age 62, his monthly income would be $1,012 per month. Waiting until age 66 to retire would yield him a monthly benefit of $1,413 per month. If he waited until age 70 to retire, he would receive $1,962 per month.

You can perform your own calculations more specific to your situation by going to the Social Security Administration website.

What do you see as some of the major challenges facing Social Security going into the future?

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Novel Adventure




Spare time seems to be a rare luxury these days after a hard week of work. Still, for some, even small bits of spare time can accumulate into large accomplishments. That’s the story behind Bill Hatcher’s new book, The Marble Room.
Bill is the Officer in Charge at the Villa Grove, CO, Post Office. He works with customers every day, often acting as a bartender when customers visit him and go over their problems. He always maintains a positive attitude when it comes to his job and working with customers, no matter the situation. “I learned to try and be forever receptive and happy,” Bill replied when asked how he manages the ebb and flow of customer relations.
The Marble Room is Bill’s first foray into book writing, though he’s been a freelance magazine writer since 2007. The idea for the book originated with his time in the Peace Corps in the 1990’s. During that time, he spent two years in Tanzania, a country located in East Africa, and lived among its people as a teacher. The experience taught him to look at the world differently, and that human interaction is invaluable. When asked about the difference between his life in the United States and his time in Tanzania, Bill stated that, “Our souls get lost in things here – things they don’t have in Tanzania.”
Like many, Bill has a limited amount of spare time to commit to life outside of work. Even with many demands on his time, he still finds the opportunity to contribute to something he has a passion for. Like the bricks that form the structure of a house, Bill assembles his literary building one piece at a time. The end result is something he can be proud of, and others can enjoy reading.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Workplace Shuffle



For many people, the workweek begins and ends at the same place. We program our minds to get us to work at the same address every day and reverse the process when we go home – almost as if we’re on autopilot. For employees of Japan Post Group who work in remote locations, that autopilot will have to come with an off switch.

To save money, Japan Post is looking to reduce the number of days its offices in remote locations are open. Rather than reduce the weekly hours of their employees to compensate, Japan Post is planning to rotate its workers among offices that are open on a given day. Under this option, an employee might work at one location Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and work at another on Tuesday and Thursday.

Japan Post has plans to eventually go public and sell shares on the open market. To make sure those shares are well received and priced accordingly, rotating its workforce among different offices is one strategy among many to increase profitability.

Do you think this is a good idea?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat




Hello all, Benny here. Today is Halloween, the day when all the ghouls and goblins come out to party with jack-o-lanterns and candy treats.

Back when I was a kid, I remember reading about children in other parts of the world dressing up and going door to door to collect food and coins. Though I never put on a costume of my own, I was fascinated by the idea of becoming someone else for a brief period of time. That could have been the reason why I became so enthralled with writing. Back then though, as interesting as Halloween sounded, I never imagined that it would grow into the popular festival it is today.

Like many people out there, I enjoy giving out candy to boys and girls dressed as superheroes, celebrities and cartoon characters. Can you imagine my surprise when I actually saw someone dressed as me once? That was a real hoot!

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a small timeline on its history. There really is a fascinating story behind this day, and you should learn more about it when you get the chance.

As for me, I need to pick up a few goodies for the kids coming over tonight. I don’t want them to leave empty handed. Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Benny


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scaring Up a Decorative Halloween



Dressing up for Halloween to celebrate this spooky time of year is nothing out of the ordinary. For one particular Post Office in Wampum, PA, a certain Halloween costume is anything but ordinary.

The town of Wampum introduced a competition this year for businesses to dress up a scarecrow for Halloween. Many businesses such as convenience stores, diners, and insurance offices participated in the event. Also stepping up to the creative plate was the local Post Office.

For its submission, the Wampum Post Office dressed up a scarecrow in a ‘Simpler way to ship” t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans poised on top of a stuffed horse carrying a small mail satchel. The display, entitled “The Pony Express,” won top honors in the competition.

The event was successful enough this year to spark conversation about expanding it next year to include residents of the community.

What other creative Halloween displays have you seen at a Post Office? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Supporting the Fight Against Breast Cancer



October is breast cancer awareness month, bringing focused attention to the mission of finding a cure for this global disease. The Postal Service supports this mission by continuing to offer the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp.

Since its introduction on July 29, 1998, the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp has raised more than $75 million. The proceeds are distributed between the National Institutes for Health and the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense in support of breast cancer research.

For more information on breast cancer, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/breastcancerawareness/.

To purchase a Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp, go to: usps.com.