Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Horse sense

Western New York's Cattaraugus Country recently celebrated its 200th anniversary with a Bicentennial Wagon Train Run, including a horse-drawn "postal wagon."

More than 25 wagons traveled 241 miles to 18 towns during the two-week journey.

Two postal employees joined the run -- West Valley Postmaster Gerald Tatlow and Salamanca Rural Carrier Vicki Raecher. Tatlow's wagon sported the Postal Service flag, reminding community members that it wasn’t just the stage coach that united folks two centuries ago -- it was the mail.

"The ride gave me an appreciation on how things like the mail could make such a difference to people separated by vast distances," Tatlow said.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Professor and the Postmaster

If you watch any television (an invention not around in my early days), you would recognize John Scherer from his TV commercials promoting his company and its educational products.

Scherer is the founder and CEO of Video Professor Inc., which is the industry leader in self-paced computer software tutorials to teach computer skills via CDs and online. The company also provides educational offerings targeted to those who want to learn about as digital photography, wireless networking, booking on-line travel, and eBay buying and selling.

Recently John Scherer and his company were honored at one of my favorite events, the National Postal Forum, held in Washington DC. The event is the mailing industry’s premier national trade show. More than 5,000 mailing industry professionals attended.

Video Professor's John Scherer received the national Corporate Business Achievement Award from USPS Chief Operating Officer Pat Donahoe and President of Mailing and Shipping Services Bob Bernstock.

"We are pleased to honor John and Video Professor for their innovation, creativity and leadership," said Bernstock. "By using Priority Mail Flat-Rate Boxes and other mailing products and programs, they have produced winning business results."

"All of us at Video Professor are gratified to receive this recognition from the United States Postal Service," said Scherer. "This is a great example of how government and private enterprise can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals."

Video Professor Inc. Founder/CEO John Scherer met with USPS Postmaster General John Potter at the National Postal Forum.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

For the love of books

I love reading. And apparently in Eau Claire, WI, postal employees there love it too.

They teamed up with school kids to provide U.S. troops in Iraq with a little -- OK, a lot -- of reading material.

Operation Paperback began as part of a monthly service project at Immaculate Conception School. The war has personally touched several students and staff, who have relatives serving in Iraq.

Chuck Slobodnik is a mail processor at the Eau Claire P&DF whose wife, Mary, teaches first grade at IC. When he heard of the project, he figured "if the kids can do it, we could also get behind it."

Slobodnik spread the news among co-workers and did some soliciting on his own. Local branches of the APWU, NALC and NRLCA teamed with American Legion and VFW posts to cover the cost of postage, estimated between $540 and $720. In all, 36 boxes of paperbacks and magazines have been sent to Iraq for the troops to enjoy.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Did someone say, "sale"?

Out with the old, in with the new.

That’s the approach the Postal Service is taking in restocking the retail products it sells in Post Office lobbies across the country.

What this clean sweep means to customers are some big-time discounts on select in-stock USPS-branded merchandise such as matted and framed artwork and stuffed animals.

Discounts on select Postal Service-branded items are available until August, when discontinued items will be removed from sale.

Later this fall, customers will find enhanced product displays and a different mix of merchandise in Post Office lobbies.

Some of the sale items include:
• Mailing and shipping supplies, such as ReadyPost boxes, mailers, tape and bubble wrap.
• Mail-related merchandise, such as scales and stamp dispensers.
• U.S. Postal Service-branded and promotional merchandise, such as passport holders.
• Philatelic products, including stamp yearbooks, stamped postal cards and stationery.

Many items are for sale at 50 percent off right now and some will be reduced to 75 percent off in July

Postal news you can hear

Now posted for your listening enjoyment: The 13th edition of "Your Postal Podcast." Access is easy: Go to yourpostalpodcast.com and click on the "Listen Now" arrow icon from any computer.

This month's podcast includes stories about a Wisconsin postmaster's thrifty uniform program; Arizona employees' participation in a special marrow donor drive for an Indiana collegue, and a group of Minnesota postal veterans and retirees who've banded together for the love of music.

Missed any of our previous entertaining podcasts? All 12 are available at yourpostalpodcast.com.
You can also download the employee podcast to your mp3 player each month via iTunes or a similar audio feed catcher and listen to it anywhere. Simply type "Your Postal Podcast" in the search box. In addition, the audio shows are available online via the Western Area's blog page, which is updated daily at yourpostalblog.com.

Have story ideas for future podcasts, or just want to share comments? Please email them to us here.

Listen to the podcast and drop me a note here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My favorite customer

If you work a retail window, are a small-town Postmaster, or deliver mail, you have all kinds of customers.
Since we deliver to everyone, we get the full pie of Americana. Some customers we rarely see -- putting mail in a box at the end of the cul-de-sac. Others meet us every day. We all have our favorites.

My favorite was Ebenezer Snell. He owned the farm down the road and still had time to work his way to my office every day. He couldn't quite get over the whole split with England -- he still loved his crumpets and was upset that the price had gone up.
But he loved getting his mail, especially when his Victor's Secret catalog of fashionable wigs for men came in.
And his son, Jebediah, who was selling stoves in Virginia would occassionally write, which would send Ebenezer into a cackle about his son "the smoke peddler."
He also spoke lovingly about his Great Dane, named "Princess" and his herd of goats that always find their way into the town square.
Who's your favorite customer? Don't name names, but tell us a little about them and why. Click here or send an email here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Swearing off mail - Some customers going all digital

Earth Class Mail is a Seattle company that is trying to change the landscape. And it could mean a change for us in the future.

For $11.95, the company will assign an internal box number where a customer can have all the mail sent to the company's address. Earth Class opens the mail – letters, bills, catalogs and all – then scans and uploads it to the Web so all the correspondence can be read online.

The company then shreds, recycles or forwards the mail to the customer. Packages are sent directly to the customer's home or to one of 23 U.S. Earth Class Mail Centers.

The convenience has a cost: The $11.95 fee includes 50 pages scanned a month and unlimited recycling and shredding. Each extra page scanned costs 25 cents.

Read the Forbes article here.

What do you think about this? Comment here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not legal tender, but stamps for change not a bad idea

Addy, WA, OIC Jennie Moyle sent me a unique suggestion for increasing sales, one stamp at a time.

For each customer who pays with cash and has change coming back, she offers to give some of their change back in the form of stamps. For example, 90 cents in change would equate to two stamps and two pennies.

And many customers are taking her up on the idea.

What do you think about this? Comment here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Save a job. Buy a stamp."

Kathy Blair gets a little bothered when she reads bills from companies that tell her, "Save a stamp, pay online."

The Bulk Mail Technician from Columbus, OH, scratches out the words and writes her own retort, "Buy a stamp! Save a job!"" on the envelope.

What do you think about paying bills online? Do you pay all of your bills through the mail? None of them? Some of them? Why? Let me know by clicking here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Senior pranksters use and abuse the Postal Service

I'm all for having fun. But a recent senior prank by a high school in Grafton, OH, High School has "pushed the envelope" and has the gained the unwelcome interest of Postal Inspectors.

The 19 graduating seniors decided to go out with bang. They went to usps.com and ordered a few free Priority Boxes. (Actually, they ordered more than a few.) They click and shipped a total of 5,100 boxes, then stacked them in the hallway from the floor to the ceiling. Students and teachers tried to report to class, but were met with a postal sea.

To their credit, they didn't trash the boxes and are returning them to the Post Office. But Inspectors are bringing the kids in for a stern talking to and a reminder that postal products are to be used for postal uses.

Read the story here.

Who says the younger generation doesn't use the Postal Service? How do you think we should we handle this? Got any ideas on Turn a bad situation into something good?

Comment here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Wear

Every Wednesday, career craft employees are wearing T-shirts to help promote Priority Mail.
The message, “A simpler way to ship,” is now being seen by millions of customers each day.

How’s it going?
What is the reaction of your customers?
Do they like the shirts, the commercials and the ads?

Tell Benny all about it here.

(photo courtesy Marcy Earley)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music in the air

After more than 60 years, the St. Paul Postal Band is still making sweet music.

The all-volunteer ensemble entertains about 30 times a year at senior residential centers, care facilities and community events like the Twin Cities Marathon. They perform waltzes, marches, popular standards, early jazz and much more, tailoring their show to the audience’s tastes.

The appreciative response of residents and their families is evidence that the St. Paul Postal Band delivers the Postal Service message of service deep into the Twin Cities East Metro community.
The band made up of approximately 30 amateur musicians.

Membership is open to employees and non-employees alike.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Postal Barbie

Frances Holloway, who works in Maintenance in Phoenix, AZ, has a unique Barbie Doll. She's a letter carrier.

Her outfit is made from old carrier uniforms, so the the fabric is authentic. She has a key chain and that Barbie look.

Now, I'll bet there is a Ken doll out there. Pictures? Comments?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Millions of miles -- times four

They're not riding the horse and buggy of my days but the Longmont, CO, Post Office recently honored four of its employees who together have a combined 135 years of postal vehicle safe driving. A presentation ceremony was held at the Longmont Post Office with their co-workers and city officials.

Earning Million Mile Safe Driving awards from the National Safety Council were Longmont city letter carriers Ron Knopp, Paul Gartenmann and Henry Zamora along with vehicle maintenance worker Terry Samuel.

Letter Carrier Paul Gartenmann

Longmont Mayor Roger Lange and Traffic Sargeant Mike Bell from the Longmont Police Dept. helped present the award placques and honored these safe driving postal comrades. (They would have had the town sheriff or marshall on hand in my time.)

There are tough requirements to achieve recognition from the National Safety Council to become a member of its elite Million Mile Safe Driving Club. The employee must have driven at least one million miles in their postal career, or have accumulated at least 30 years service in an occupation that regularly requires safe driving, without being involved in a preventable vehicle accident during that period. The Million Mile Safe Driving Award is coordinated through the National Safety Council.

"It is a very safety-conscious, well-earned and prestigious award to achieve," said Longmont Postal Supervisor Luke Grant. "Especially for our letter carriers and postal motor vehicle operators, who drive miles and miles every day. They have to practice safe driving in all kinds of traffic, weather and conditions. We are proud to honor Henry Zamora, Ron Knopp, Paul Gartenmann and Terry Samuel for their many miles of safe driving and dedicated service to the Longmont community."

I wish I had these safe riders delivering the mail in my day. I bet they can all handle and ride a horse safely.

Letter Carrier Henry Zamora

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Direct Mail -- the end is not in sight?

A recent study predicts a 39 percent drop in Direct Mail spending in the next four years. The study, by the Borrell group, says that annual spending on Direct Mail will drop from $49,7 billion in 2008 to just $29.8 billion in 2013.

The study suggest that Coupons, catalogs and credit card offers will find other ways of getting into consumer's hands.

What do you think about this? Comment here.

photo courtesy Carla DeKalb

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The buck stops here

Downtown Minneapolis is full of life -- cars, bikes, pedestrians.

But last week a deer stopped off at St. Olaf Church, then wandered over to the bank and grill. then it finally stopped at the Post Office.

Just doing errands!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Newspaper turns to USPS for delivery

The Junction City (KS) Daily Union laid off more than 30 news carriers. The cost of home delivery was just too much.

Like many other papers, the Daily Union is struggling financially. But in order to continue publication, they will mail the newspaper to subscribers.

Of course, back in my day, that's why the Post Office was so important -- to make sure that the free expression of ideas, the latest independent thought, all the news and most important, the cookie recipe of the week could be sent uncensored and unfiltered to the public.

Now, we've come full circle. The Post Office and the newspaper...a perfect match! What do you think?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Trust me, I work for the Post Office."

On both sides of the ocean -- Europe and the U.S., the public trusts postal workers.

A broad international survey by the GFK group said that firefighters are the most trusted profession with a 92 percent approval rating, followed by teachers at 85 percent.

Tied at 81 percent are postal workers, doctors and the armed forces.

That's some good company. Trust is a long-term investment that is difficult to establish and easy to lose. So, for the public to trust their postal employee says plenty.

What do you think about trust and the Postal Service? How can we do better? Comment here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

An All-Star among us

I am pleased to announce that one of our own employees, Postmaster Kathleen Brooks in the Southeast Michigan District, has been chosen as a FINALIST for PEOPLE magazine and Major League Baseball’s All-Stars Among Us campaign.
Kate has tirelessly worked to recruit marrow donors for the Be The Match Registry, hosted by the National Marrow Donor Program. As the Coordinator for the Southeast Michigan District of the United States Postal Service, Kate and her team have recruited more than 1,000 potential donors under the USPS Delivering the Gift of Life campaign.

Voting begins today, Monday, June 8 on http://www.peopleallstars.com/.

It’s easy to cast your vote. Simply click on the Detroit Tigers baseball team logo (Kate’s favorite team) and cast your vote for Kathleen Brooks. YOU CAN VOTE MORE THAN ONCE. Be sure to encourage your friends, family and colleagues to vote online for Kate. Voting ends June 24.

Let your voice be heard. Vote for Kathleen Brooks and make her an All-Star!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking for volume, USPS gives incentive for saturation mailers

While mail volume is taking a beating because of the bad economy, the Postal Service is fighting back by announcing its first growth incentive program for saturation mail customers.

This new program gives customers credits for annual volume that exceeds the number of mailpieces sent during the previous year. Discounts include:
  • 3.7 cents per piece for regular letters
  • 2.2 cents per piece for nonprofit letters
  • 4 cents per piece for regular flats
  • 2.4 cents per piece for nonprofit flats

This pricing flexibility will offer the Postal Service the potential to stimulate growth, preserve volume, and address mailer’s concerns about market economics. To access a fact sheet, or for further information click on the following link:

What do you think about this? Will help us in the long run? Tell me about it here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Calling all problem solvers

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Oddly enough, the first person to say that wasn't me. It's was the Greek philosopher, Plato. (But that's neither here nor there.)

Of course, I've had plenty of necessity to lead me to invention. I was always tinkering with things. Who hasn't? Seems you can't throw a quill pen without hitting some problem that needs solving.

The Postal Service was one of the benefactors of my early ingenuity, but I was just first in a long line of problem solvers. Every day, someone somewhere identifies a problem and creates a solution.

I'm not content with things that aren't working and I'll bet you aren't either.

How about you? Have you solved any Postal problems lately? Do you know of any that were solved by someone else? Tell me about it! Comment here and then send an email here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fair time

I love fairs. County fairs. City fairs. Town fairs. Good food. Good fun. Good stuff.

And Post Offices really get to strut their stuff when they show up at fairs this summer. The Clark County (NV) fair had a big USPS presence earlier this year. The Post Office even offered passports, processing more than a dozen.

All told we made almost $3,000 at the both thanks to postage, Direct Marketing sales, ORLP sales and passports.

And thousands heard the USPS.COM story -- many for the first time.
Will you be attending a fair this summer? Have you ever worked a postal booth? Tell Benny about it here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Delivering when the heat’s on

When flames engulfed a food processing plant and threatened to ignite 30,000 pounds of ammonia stored at the facility, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for St. Charles, MN, a community of 3,600.

The evacuation order meant the Post Office had to pack up quickly and go, too. The two city carriers had completed their routes, but rural carriers had to be directed to Dover, five miles away, after they finished deliveries. Outgoing mail was also transported to Dover and the evening’s transportation schedule changed.

Word came later that evening that the evacuation would remain in effect through at least the next morning. That meant that everyone would have to work out of the much smaller Dover office. Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated. “We took advantage of a beautiful Saturday morning and cased our mail outside in the loading area,” said St. Charles Postmaster Laurie Bergey. “We had sunshine. We had donuts. We had it made.”

At 10 a.m., the carriers were allowed back into St. Charles, a half-hour ahead of the rest of the town. The mail was delivered without a hitch, a happy surprise for many residents who weren’t expecting delivery to return until Monday. “We really didn’t feel like we were doing anything out of the ordinary. Everyone just worked great together and kept in touch via cell phone throughout the whole ordeal,” Bergey said.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hitchin' Post Office

The Fairview, KY, Post Office has a unique distinction to set it apart from the asphalt jungle -- a hitching post that gets regular use.

About 2/3rds of the traffic is horse-drawn because of the nearby Mennonite community that eschews automobiles. According to Postmaster John Barkman, buggies sometimes wait two and three deep for the post to be freed up.