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 Money is withdrawn bi-weekly on a pre-tax basis from your regular income and deposited into an account in your name.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.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Keeping it Casual



Uniforms and business attire are the norm for many people in offices around the country. They keep the look and feel of the organization professional in the eyes of the public and can prevent potentially disruptive logos or slogans from giving others unwanted messages. One popular exception to standard dress codes for some has been casual Fridays.

Casual Fridays started its long tradition in Hawaii in the 1940’s when the local government suggested it as a way to keep employees cool during the summer months. It gained interest in the years following until it skyrocketed in popularity in the 1970’s. Ever since then, businesses have used casual Fridays as a way to boost employee morale and reward good performance.

Dressing down on Fridays does have limitations. Tank tops and cut offs are not generally accepted casual attire. Neither are flip flops or t-shirts with suggestive remarks. Jeans and a comfortable, tasteful shirt are usually the norm. Some casual days have specific themes such as wearing Hawaiian shirts, athletic jerseys, or t-shirts with funny sayings. Themes can give casual days special meaning to those in a particular office, and perhaps even reduce absenteeism as employees look forward to dressing in a particular outfit at work.

If you were able to pick one theme for a casual day at work, what would it be? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Faxing Away Identity



The concept of fax machines has been around since the mid-19th century. While they existed in one form or another through the mid-20th century, they weren’t widely adopted until the 1970’s. In recent years, the graphical devices have taken on another role – that of borrowing your identity for nefarious purposes.

Letters have appeared in the trays of office fax machines that vaguely describe a mutually beneficial business proposal. The text identifies a situation where the offspring of a very wealthy leader requires help to gain access to an extremely large inheritance. The reader is urged to provide personal information so remove the money can be routed through them in order for the offspring to gain access to the cash. The money would then be shared by both parties.

The only thing shared between the target of this scam and the con artist is a one way ticket to trouble. The perpetrators of this scam will take the identities they acquire and use them to their own financial benefit. Victims will spend countless hours afterward gluing together the pieces of their good names. Don’t let this happen to you.

As with all scams, awareness is the key to prevention. Some of the questions asked in this particular scam include:

-         Name(s) in full
-         Residential address
-         Home number
-         Mobile number
-         E-mail address
-         Marital status
-         Date of birth
-         Name of employer
-         Position held

A scammer can cause a lot of harm with this information, so keep it guarded at all times.

What other facsimile scams have you received?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Future of DVDs in a Digital World



Netflix is a widely known entertainment distribution company that offers DVD and streaming content to its subscribers. As tablet PCs, fast Internet access on cell phones, and Smart TVs continue to work their way into more homes across America, does DVD distribution have a place in the modern world? Let’s take a look at Netflix’s most recent financial report to find out.

Content is the bread and butter of Netflix’s core value. To understand the importance of DVD content in their lineup, let’s peek into the valuation of its media assets.

The value of its total content library consisted of $3,434 million streaming assets vs. $552 million DVD assets as of June 30, 2012. Netflix has made a dramatic shift toward more streaming content since the end of 2011 when the value of streaming content consisted of $2,552 million and DVD content was $599 million. That’s an increase of nearly 35 percent in streaming content and a drop of 9 percent in DVD content in the first half of this year.

Total subscriptions for Netflix services as of June 30, 2012, consisted of 23.9 million for streaming and 9.2 million for DVD.

Netflix has heavily emphasized the expansion of its streaming business segment. As a result, its subscriber base has shifted in a way that reflects its efforts. As of the fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2012, its streaming subscriber base has increased by 528,000 while its DVD subscriber base has decreased by 840,000. The trend of Netflix’s subscribers is clearly moving more toward its streaming content and away from hardcopy DVDs.

DVDs are far from extinct, however, as they still generate healthy revenues for the company. Streaming revenue consisted of $532 million for the three months ending June 30, 2012, while DVD revenue consisted of $291 million.

In addition to expanding its streaming service domestically, Netflix has also expanded its digital content to service other parts of the world including Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, the UK and Ireland. It has no visible plans to introduce DVD distribution to these areas.

What do you think about DVD distribution in the modern movie market?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every Door Direct Mail Helps Author Find New Readers


“An answer to my prayers,” said Carole Scott (right)
about Every Door Direct Mail.

It’s a great postal story that bears retelling – and no, it’s not fiction.

Author Carole Scott wrote a book, “Bears for Young and Curious Minds” that demystifies one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures.

Despite the positive reviews about the text and illustrations, she was having a hard time marketing the books from her small town of Crawford, CO.

Office-in-Charge Marvel Simineo had a simple suggestion for the author–  sponsor a book signing and promote it with Every Door Direct Mail.

Simineo explained to the customer how the process would work – create a mailpiece and then sent them to customers in the local communities for as little as 14.5 cents each.

Using the online tool, Simineo showed the customer the rural routes and PO Box counts for the local office and surrounding areas.

In just a couple of weeks, the customer brought in a mailing of 810 pieces promoting the signing at the local library.

“This is an answer to my prayers,” said Scott. “I needed an inexpensive way to get the word out about my book.”

The signing was a success, with about 100 books sold and a steady stream of potential readers waving their Every Door Direct Mail flyer as they walked into the door.

"This effort by Marvel just illustrates a boundless magnitude of creativity," said Acting Business Development Specialist Diane Brown, who helped facilitate the mailing. "We can express that to business owners for their marketing needs when promoting Every Door Direct Mail”.

Does your business or a postal customer have a great idea? Contact your local USPS Business Development Specialist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Service Like No Other



Retrieving mail from a mailbox is a routine many people enjoy each day. The box is opened with curiosity, its contents extracted, and the mail is riffled through it to see what’s interesting and important. The Postal Service offers its customers a close, personal relationship with correspondence from around the country. That contact presents a unique connection between people that digital alternatives cannot provide.

Mail is tangible. It’s something that can be held in a pair of hands, felt with eager fingers, and connected with using more senses than any digital media can offer. It doesn't get blocked in an e-mail filter or ignored as a banner ad on a webpage. Information from mail cannot be stolen by hackers half way around the globe or sold by anonymous Internet identity thieves looking to make a quick buck on someone's good name.

The next time someone suggests the Postal Service is no longer an important part of modern day America, remind them of the value it still offers. Be sure to let them know that mail is an important part of the communication flow in this country and that it's here to stay. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The 2012 Combined Federal Campaign



It’s time for the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season. This is the only opportunity for charitable organizations to solicit federal employees for donations in the workplace.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the CFC program. Since its inception, the campaign has received more than $7 billion in employee donations to thousands of charities across the world.

Last year, federal employees donated $272.7 million to the many charitable programs participating in the campaign. The deadline to submit contribution forms is December 15, 2012.

Do you think the program should be expanded to include participation by other groups such as state and local government employees?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Graduating with the Postal Service



Graduating from college is a major accomplishment in life. It combines detailed knowledge with unbridled potential to create a new path for success. Receiving that coveted diploma from a letter carrier makes the moment even more special.

For Marian Barry of Mesa, AZ, receiving her master’s degree from Grand Canyon University was one of the most special days in her life. When she finally received that coveted document in the mail after all of her hard work, she asked her letter carrier to present it to her. Before accepting the degree, Marian walked quickly back to her home and returned shortly thereafter wearing her cap and gown. Her mother snapped a photo of the event to record the cherished moment.

Marian still shows that photograph to everyone she knows, and her letter carrier is happy to have delivered such a valuable and rewarding experience to her customer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Military Mail



The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) is an extension of the United States Postal Service. Its primary mission is to provide the same postal services available stateside to service members around the world. Bringing people from around the world together through the mail is no easy task. It requires the coordination of all branches of the military, USPS, and commercial carriers to ensure that our service men and women can stay in touch with loved ones wherever they might be.

Each branch of the military previously had its own independent mail system. Segregated mail service changed in 1980 when the Department of Defense chose the Secretary of the Army to manage the mail of all military members. That’s when the MPSA was created to handle this function. The MPSA is required to follow the rules and regulations of the USPS as well as all federal and foreign laws when handling military mail through the more than 85 countries it serves.

When someone sends a service member in a foreign country mail, it’s called Prograde Mail. Such services include Express Mail Military Service, First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Military Ordinary Mail parcels, Parcel Airlift Mail, Space-Available Mail, surface, second-class, third-class, and fourth class mail.

When someone receives mail from a service member in a foreign country, the mail is called Retrograde Mail. This includes Express Mail Military Service, Priority / First-Class Mail, Parcel Airlift Mail, Space-Available Mail, and Military Ordinary Mail parcels.  

Many of the special services the USPS offers are also available to military members with the exception of Signature Confirmation and Collect on Delivery. Delivery times can vary substantially from location to location. A First-Class letter sent to Germany can take anywhere from seven to nine days to arrive. That same letter would take 11 to 13 days to arrive in Iraq.

Mail sent to service members is not censored; though there are restrictions on what they can contain depending on the area of deployment such as narcotics, alcohol, and pork. Always be sure to check what is appropriate for the country of delivery before sending an item in the mail to a service member.

What interesting items have you sent to a member of the military stationed overseas?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scammers Use E-mail to Target Businesses



Scammers are looking to feed their voracious appetites for ill-gotten gains by sending out e-mails asking for confirmation of certain financial account information – and they aren’t limiting their approach to just personal accounts.

Unscrupulous bandits of today are hoping that business employees with access to corporate financial accounts are lax in their security precautions. They think that employees of businesses are more likely to be forthcoming in sharing account information because they feel safe behind the corporate shield. Are they right?

Don’t give scammers the chance to find out. Whenever an unsolicited e-mail finds its way into your inbox asking for ANY kind of financial information, call your financial institution directly to find out if the request is genuine. Don’t use any contact information provided in the e-mail. Either use information already in your possession to make the call or look for contact information on the company website.

Protecting personal and business account information is increasingly important in a world with a growing number of cyber crime thieves fishing for free cash. Be sure to slam the door on their illegal pursuits by depriving them of their reason for staying in business.

What other measures do you think people can take to limit unauthorized access to account information?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Falling for Postage




Did you know you can order custom postage through the Postal Service? Available now on USPS.com is the fall line-up of custom postage stamps designed by Zazzle.com. Each sheet of 20 stamps has a fall-themed image to imbue postcards and envelopes with the rich colors of autumn.

Included in the collection are pumpkins, leaves, fruits of autumn, Thanksgiving and Halloween themes, candy corn and more. Each sheet of $.45 stamps ships in one business day and can spruce up any mailing with the vibrant colors of the changing season.

What images have you selected for custom postage?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saving Money and the Environment




This month is National Energy Action Month, and the Postal Service is continuing to champion the cause of going green. Using low and no cost methods to reduce energy has saved USPS $22 million alone in 2011 through 1,000 energy reduction projects. It has also reduced energy use by more than 25 percent since 2003.

Working towards a more environmentally friendly world begins on the local level. Switching off lights when not in use, shutting down computers when away for extended periods of time, and using more energy efficient light bulbs are just a few ways to reduce costs without breaking the bank. Many opportunities to reduce energy consumption come at the inexpensive price of simply being aware of how to use resources more efficiently.

The Postal Service has specific goals to help reduce costs and improve efficiency even further including:

  • Reduction of facility energy use by 30 percent by 2015,
  • Reduction of water usage by 10 percent by 2015,
  • Diversion of 50 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2015, and
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Everyone plays an important role in reducing costs and protecting the environment. The Postal Service will continue to encourage employees to find even more ways to help make its environmental footprint even smaller. 

What other green suggestions do you have for reducing energy use and landfill waste?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Recycle Old Electronics and Possibly Make Money Doing It




Recycling old electronics is nothing new. Many companies have offered recycling services for old cell phones, fax machines, desktop computers and other electronics for many years. What is new is the increase in cash return offered for those electronics – and a strong partnership with the USPS.

The Postal Service has partnered with MaxBack, an electronics recycler, to offer an easy way for customers to recycle their small, used devices. Interested individuals can go to https://www.usps.com/ship/recycle-through-usps.htm to access the USPS recycle website. Once there, customers can find their way to the MaxBack website, locate a particular item from a list of desirable electronics, and then determine how much the device is worth. While not all electronics are eligible for cash payment, customers can still send in their devices for environmentally friendly recycling. The program offers free Priority Mail shipping to MaxBack for recycled devices.

Prior to sending electronic devices to MaxBack, customers should be aware of the following restrictions and requirements:

- The number of electronics sent to MaxBack are limited to two shipments per calendar month containing no more than five devices per shipment.
- Electronic Service Numbers (ESN), an individual item code attached to each device, must be valid. A device can acquire a bad ESN if it was lost or stolen, or if the account attached to the phone has an unpaid balance. An ESN must be in good standing before a device can be accepted.
- Devices should have any lock codes removed prior to shipment.

Do you think the Postal Service could expand the program to include larger electronic devices in the future?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Overcoming Adversity



Jamie Blackburn, was born with inner ear nerve damage, and has a severe to profound hearing loss. She received her first pair of hearing aids at only 10 months of age and learned at three years of age to lip-read. Jamie states that the hearing loss “…does not limit me in pursuing the things I enjoy in life. I have always told myself I could do what any hearing able person could do.” She indicated that she does not want to be defined by her hearing impairment.

After working in the Loa Post Office as a Post Master Leave-Replacement for six years, Jamie was appointed to the position of Officer-in-Charge at the Post Office in Bicknell (Her home is also in Bicknell, where she resides with her husband and children). At work Jamie uses a streamer which connects her hearing aids to the telephone for more clarity in conversations and she lip-reads to understand hearing customers. She said that she loves her work at the Postal Service and has gained a great deal of confidence and enjoyment from interacting with and serving the public.

Mary Ellett, Officer-in-Charge at Loa, indicated that Jamie “has many wonderful qualities” and that she “displays courage in the fact that she boldly goes forward and doesn't shy away from challenges”. She described Jamie as an employee who defuses problems in a calm and caring way and that “…all of the customers appreciate her hard work.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

World Post Day



In 1969, the Universal Postal Union established October 9 as World Post Day. On this day, postal organizations are encouraged to engage in activities and promotions to increase awareness of the role the Postal Service plays in the lives of the world’s population and businesses.

World Post Day is considered to be a working holiday by more than 150 countries across the globe. It’s an opportunity for postal organizations to teach citizens the valuable and integral relationship mail still has with the citizens of the world, promote new products and services, and conduct public tours of postal facilities to show how Post Offices work their delivery magic.

The Universal Postal Union itself was established in 1874 to facilitate the worldwide flow of mail. It became an agency of the United Nations in 1948 and continues to promote the importance of mail in an increasingly digital world.

Do you think public awareness of World Post Day is a valuable tool in promoting the Postal Service?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Find Your Inner Philatelic



Hello all, Benny here. Did you know that October is National Stamp Collecting Month? It’s a great opportunity for me to check out my own personal collection to see what I’m missing, and you can too.

One of my recent purchases is the USS Constitution stamp pane. I love the classic frigate design. Back in my day, I traveled in these from time to time, and seeing this ship on a stamp brings back some great memories. You can get your own collectible pane and souvenir envelope here.

There are also a few other interesting items that caught my eye when I was perusing usps.com such as The 2012 Stamp Yearbook and the Play Ball! softbound book. The yearbook makes collecting all 2012 stamps easy and includes lots of little extras that really pull someone into the stamp collecting experience. I also enjoyed the Play Ball! book. It’s a good way to learn more about the legends that made baseball such a fun sport to enjoy.

There are plenty of other options on the USPS website to enhance the stamp collecting experience, but I’ll let you find out those for yourself. Be sure to stop back here after you check out the postal store to let me know what you find.


Benny 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banking Fees Waived…with Conditions



Banking fees are on the rise as financial companies look for ways to gain additional revenue in a struggling economy. One such charge is a monthly account maintenance fee for individual checking accounts. While this fee isn’t new, many banks have re-introduced it to increase their cash flow. Signing up for direct deposit is a way to avoid this fee, but what if someone has more than one checking account? This is where paycheck allotments can be a valuable addition to a financial repertoire.

Each bank that charges a maintenance fee usually has a minimum monthly electronic deposit requirement that will qualify an account for free checking. That sum is usually in the $250 to $500 range, but can be greater or lower, depending on the individual bank. If postal employees want to maintain multiple checking accounts at one or more financial institutions, they could log onto PostalEASE and sign up for monthly allotments to distribute their paychecks among different accounts.

If someone wanted to deposit only the minimum amount necessary each month to maintain free checking in a second account, they could divide that requirement by two (two paychecks per month) and set up a bi-weekly allotment to match. If the minimum requirement is $500 per month, then the bi-weekly allotment should be $250.

For more information on allotments, go to http://liteblue.usps.gov.

What other ways can you suggest to reduce or eliminate extra fees at a financial institution?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fake Postage Plagues Shanghai



In a tough economy, many people look for ways to cut back on expenses. For an unscrupulous few, those ways include counterfeiting postage stamps. Shanghai Post has had a rash of fake stamps coursing through their system, denying the organization of much needed revenue.

Most of the phony postage involves shipments overseas. To combat this revenue erasing plague, Shanghai Post has installed special equipment in 12 strategically identified offices to spot counterfeit postage. Anyone looking to send items overseas with stamps already affixed to the package prior to arrival at a post office will need to take their item to one of these locations.

Packages with overseas destinations can still be dropped off at other postal facilities so long as postage is purchased on-site.

Do you think counterfeit postage is a major problem in the United States?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Best Alternative Fuel



As gasoline prices continue to stare into the face of $4 per gallon, many companies have started the process of switching to alternatives. Options such as biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane have been used in an attempt to reduce costs and protect the environment. So far, none of these options seem to have taken a dominant role as the next generation power source for our automobiles.

The Postal Service is one the nation’s leaders in exploring alternative fuels. It currently has 44,000 alternative fuel capable vehicles on the road using energy sources such as natural gas, liquid propane, biodiesel, and hydrogen. USPS is also testing options from different companies to develop battery powered alternatives to its LLV fleet.
One of the major obstacles in adopting alternative fuel vehicles, however, is the limited availability of refueling stations.

In most neighborhoods, local refueling stations provide only two options: gasoline or diesel. Limited availability of fuel would make it very difficult for someone looking to power their alternative energy vehicle. While the network of alternative energy stations is currently sparse, it is growing every year. According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, there are approximately 9,915 alternative fuel stations presently available in the United States.

Cost is another factor that could limit the expanded use of some alternative fuels. The following is a breakdown of average fuel prices per gallon and gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) prices for July, 2012, in the United States:

-         Gasoline - $3.52
-         Diesel - $3.75 (3.36 GGE)
-         CNG (natural gas) - $2.05 (price already in GGE)
-         Ethanol - $3.24 ($4.59 GGE)
-         Propane - $2.64 ($3.64 GGE)
-         Biodiesel - $3.83 ($3.50 GGE)

Most alternative fuels provide a different amount of energy per volume compared to gasoline. This difference is accounted for in the gasoline gallon equivalent conversion price. As far as value per dollar, CNG currently offers the best option among those listed on the U.S. Department of Energy website. The catch is that there are only 511 stations across the nation (excluding private stations) that offers CNG as an option.

What alternative fuel options do you think the Postal Service should consider for its fleet?

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Birds-eye View of the Latest Stamp Issue




The latest stamp issue has a perspective rarely seen on a stamp – images of earth’s wonders from a birds-eye view. From this perspective, the rich and vibrant details of common marvels take on a new life rarely seen from ground level.

The natural scenes in this 15 stamp collection were photographed from airplanes and orbital satellites high above the earth. First day of issue postmarks can be obtained through December 2 by affixing the selected stamp on an envelope and placing that envelope inside a larger envelope addressed to: 


Earthscapes Stamps
Postmaster
7600 Ora Glen Drive
Greenbelt, MD 20770-9998

What other locations would you like to see on an aerial-perspective stamp?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pieces of Retirement



One of the great adventures in life is seen as the transition to retirement. This is usually considered by most to be the best time to enjoy many of the things we’ve been putting off throughout our working years. The opportunities to go on long vacations, to see the different wonders of the U.S. and the world, to volunteer with charitable organizations and enjoy new hobbies sound like terrific ways to spend a retirement. Why wait until retirement to enjoy them?

There are many reasons we may put off such great adventures. The lack of money, time, and the inability to get away from particular obligations can be some of the reasons why we stick to our daily routines. We keep these dreams in our back pockets, hoping that someday, when we’re retired we’ll be able to enjoy everything we’re putting off. The only catch to that is the uncertainty that comes with the future.

We never quite know what to expect from the future. Will we be healthy enough to enjoy these adventures? Will we have additional responsibilities in retirement that will continue to keep us from pursuing our dreams? Will we really have the money we think we will in retirement? The reasons we have now for putting off our desires today may continue to consume our time and resources in the future.

There are things we can do now to enjoy small pieces of retirement without breaking the bank. These can include taking small weekend trips to parks, zoos, museums, air shows, and festivals. We can take an online course in an interesting subject at a local community college to learn about something new and exciting. We can volunteer our time in small increments to worthwhile organizations that we’ve longed to support. We can take up painting, drawing, writing, gardening, and other hobbies that can be enjoyed whenever we want in whatever increments of time we choose.

It’s easy to say we’re going to do something in the distant future, and then never get around to actually doing it. The real trick is to enjoy pieces of retirement now before time is no longer on our side.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to enjoy a family vacation as inexpensively as possible?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scammers Target Your Investment Dollars



There are many new and creative techniques thieves are using to get their hands on your money. One of the latest scams, however, doesn’t directly involve you at all. It involves those who manage money for a living, and thieves are seeking big dollars from these professionals that have access to their clients’ money.

Instead of contacting those with money directly, scammers are sending fraudulent e-mails to money managers posing as their clients. The ‘client’ then requests to have cash in their investment account transferred to an account elsewhere. Unless money managers verify this request with contact information on file at their firm, cash in an account could be unwittingly transferred to an unscrupulous individual.

For federal employees with money in the Thrift Savings Plan, this isn’t an issue. The TSP has many layers of security that prevent unscrupulous people with a slick e-mail or a convincing phone call from gaining access to money in these accounts.

There are still precautions you should take when setting up any account online. Here are a few tips you can use to help keep scammers out of your affairs:

-         Never use the same password for two or more accounts. Make each one unique.
-         Never use a password that someone can guess by checking out your social media profiles.
-         Never click on any link sent in an e-mail.
-         Never open a file sent to you from an unknown individual.

While these tips may not completely shield someone from a focused attack by a thief, they could potentially limit the damage. To learn more about some of the latest Internet scams, go to: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams.

What additional ways can you suggest to protect others from Internet-based scams?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There’s a New Shutl Coming to Town



Soon to make its debut in the U.S., Shutl is a delivery service that gives its customers the opportunity to receive an item purchased online within 90 minutes of ordering it. It’s a large boast from a service that has yet to begin operating in North America, but it’s a strategy they’re counting on to increase revenue.

Shutl currently operates throughout the United Kingdom. In addition to a quick delivery, the company offers customers the opportunity to choose a specific one-hour block of time in which to receive their packages. The service is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week including holidays to make deliveries more convenient for customers.

Unlike most of its competitors, Shutl doesn’t maintain a sizeable distribution network. Instead, the company chooses to partner with couriers to pick up deliveries from retail stores and deliver them to customers nearby. It’s a system designed mostly for short-range purchases close to a customer’s home, but it’s a tool people can use to get what they want from a local store without the burden of carrying it home themselves.

Do you think this would be a potentially profitable service in the United States?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Noble Guardians

Mailboxes in Lake Minnetonka, MN, by Jelieta Mariveles-Walinski Ed.D

Can you imagine a more picturesque landscape to deliver the mail? This beautiful location in Lake Minnetonka, MN, is home to lush landscapes, a gorgeous lake, and these terrific rustic mailboxes. The original design for these tunnel-shaped boxes was created in 1915 by postal engineer Roy Joroleman to standardize the more unstable and dysfunctional mailbox designs that scoured the land. 

What do you think mailboxes of the future will look like?