Monday, August 31, 2009

Your Postal Podcast #15, now posted

You might want to swing over to Your Postal Podcast, my audio sister, and take a listen to the latest edition.

It's just nine minutes and I guarantee you'll learn something. The first story is about the Spiritual Harmonizers, a group of Virginia employees who sang on the national television show, America's Got Talent. You'll also hear an interview with to see if it’s possible to print a personalized postage stamp of Michael Jackson — or any other celebrity. And if not Jackson, what kinds of subjects are permitted?

And you’ll hear the story about an Iowa Postmaster who defused a potentially dangerous situation by following the proper procedures on suspicious parcels.

To listen from any computer, click here. If you have an MP3 player, you can subscribe to the Podcast through an RSS feeder or iTunes.
You may also read a transcript of this edition by clicking here.

And the creators of the podcast would love to hear your feedback on this podcast or any other story ideas you have. Click here to send them an email.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A poll on the latest early out offer and incentive

By now, you've heard that the Postal Service has offered another early out -- this time to those who are covered by the APWU and NPMHU agreements.

Up to 30,000 employees can take the $15,000 buyout that is spread out over the next two years.

So what do you think? On the upper right corner of Your Postal Blog is a poll where you can voice your opinion.

Here's the poll choices:
  • I'm going, thanks to the incentive!
  • I'll take the incentive, but I was going this year, anyway
  • I'm eligible for the incentive, but I'm not ready
  • I'm not eligible, but I'd jump if I could
  • I'm not eligible, but I still wouldn't take it

Or you might have another opinion -- go ahead and voice it here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One wheeled commuter

Sioux Falls, SD TACS Manager Duaine Hillstad draws plenty of attention from fellow commuters during his trip to work.

Every other day, until the snow piles up, Hillstad makes the five-mile trip on a unicycle that his daughters gave him as a Father’s Day gag gift six years ago. He took up their challenge to stay upright and, after a couple of summers of bumps and bruises, progressed to the point where he was ready to take on the 50-minute commute.

"Just learning the skill is the toughest part," he says. "But once your mind figures it out things go pretty smoothly."

He’s progressed now to the point where he also bounces a tennis ball while he rides to keep his hands occupied. The trick isn’t lost on other commuters, who cheer, clap and occasionally take his picture.

And on the days he rides his unicycle, Hillstad never has to fight other employees for a parking spot.

How do you get to work? How far do you drive? Do you take public transportation? Comment here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First-Class on sale

This summer, Standard Mail went on sale for some of our largest customers. And early indicators is that it brought in some good revenue.

Brace yourself. This fall, First-Class Mail will go on sale.

The First-Class Mail Incentive will give eligible companies a 20 percent postage rebate on presorted letter, flat and card volumes that exceed a predetermined threshold. The incentive runs Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 this year.

Here's some of the details:

To be eligible for the incentive, a company must have mailed 500,000 or more non-parcel First-Class Mail presort pieces between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 in both 2007 and 2008.

First-Class Mail presort volume above a certain threshold will qualify for a 20 percent postage rebate, which will be credited to the company’s trust account.

Companies interested in taking advantage of the incentive can register online after Aug. 21 at

Questions? Send an e-mail to

What do you think about this sale? Click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How much is $7 billion

We need to brace ourselves for a $7 billion loss for this fiscal year.
That's a lot of stamps!

But, if you are like me, $7 billion is a little much to comprehend. My wallet only holds about $20. Mrs. Franklin and my little cherubs seem to pilfer any extra I have. I've seen $1,000 once for a about 10 seconds as a I sold a team of horses, a side of beef, and 42 pigs to a another farmer -- only to have my banker take the proceeds for a bad -- ahem -- debt I had. (I should have known he had three aces!)

But $7 billion for the Postal Service means we are losing:
  • $19 million per day
  • $810,000 per hour
  • $13,500 per minute
  • $225.00 per second!
What do you think about these losses? Can we bounce back? Comment here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Loud and Proud

Benny got this letter from a postal employee and it made me proud. Read it and let me know if you feel the same:

"It seems that people are always taking pot shots at the USPS. Every time I read something negative, it hits me square in the chest. I get personally offended. I feel like all the schoolyard bullies can’t wait to kick me for what I do. Even my own family gets their digs, as they toss out barbs to remind me of what a 'horrible place' I work for. Life is all about the choices we make. I chose to take a test and say yes when I was called. How many of us gave up the dream of college to support our new families and then never found the time to go back?

"Every time I hear the term "junk mail" I feel small. I feel that my job and my life offend people.

But this is my life. Twenty five years of it and I’m proud to do this job. I'm proud to serve my customers. I like to think I make a difference to somebody, no matter how small my contribution is on a national scale.

I remember how honored I was I was when I did my paperwork on my first day. I remember when I took the oath to protect the mail. I remember when I cashed my first paycheck. I remember all the ways the Postal Service has provided for me and my family. I remember the pay, the benefits, the security, the vacations and the way of life I have. It puts a roof over my head and provides for my family. I try to keep that in my mind and never take my wonderful job for granted.

I cannot forget the Postal Service when so many want to malign her name. When they mock us, abuse us, and call us names I want to stand up and shout. I know better. I know what I do is important to America. And most of my coworkers feel the same way. Together, we work hard to make a difference.

So on this day, I will go to work, loud and proud. I love the Postal Service."

-- Lisa N., Spokane, WA

Your comments on this letter, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

PMG says to stand tall

Yesterday, the PMG made some comments of support in a letter to employees. Portions of the letter were reprinted in the Washington Post.

He said this, "We should all be very proud of the Postal Service and of the work we do every day. While we may have to endure the occasional bad analogy or detractor in the news, they are far outweighed by our supporters among the American people."

What do you think? Time to stand tall? Tell me your thoughts here.

A customer rushes to our defense

I always like to toot our horn...but it's much better when a customer rushes to our defense. Somehow, that kind of toot always sounds better!

Aloha Forwarding recently posted an open letter of support for USPS on their website.

Darrell Houghton, the president of the company said this:

"Millions of businesses, like my package forwarding company, Aloha Forwarding, depend heavily upon the USPS to deliver products to customers at an affordable price. All of our packages have always been delivered in a timely manner and the Postal Service has never lost any of our packages....The U.S. Postal Service is an incredible value that saves a lot of people a lot of money. For example, a 2-pound package shipped from the mainland to Hawaii costs about $38 via UPS. That same package shipped via Priority Mail is only $8.70. The mail services provided by the U.S. Postal Service allows many people to receive items that are difficult to obtain locally, at an affordable price. Without the Postal Service, for many, their cost of living would go up while their standard of living would go down. ..As a businessman who would literally be out of business if it weren't for the Postal Service, I would like to express my continued support for the men and women of the U.S. Postal Service. Their hard work helps make my business a success."

Now that kind of support deserves Benny salute! What do you think? Comment here.

Read the full letter here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toll road dumps the booth, turns to Postal Service to collect fees

The E-470 toll road in Denver has relied on unmanned toll booths to collected dollar bills and quarters from drivers for several years. But the maintenance and reliability of the machines wasn’t the most economical solution in an era of declining budgets.

Earlier this summer, the booths were decommissioned and a new automated system was installed. Now, driver’s just motor past the hi-speed video camera that captures their license plate numbers. The number of trips is calculated on a monthly basis and the bill is automatically sent to the home of record.

Jo Snell from the Colorado Department of Transportation said that collection by mail is the perfect solution.

“Mailing out the bills is more effective than maintaining five toll booths, the employees and all the equipment,” she said.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oregon Post Office gets a shot at tinsel town

For just a few seconds of eventual film history, the Newberg, OR, Post Office was transformed.
A crew was shooting a scene for the movie “A West Texas Children's Story," and needed some filler material.

The scene was brief….the United States Postal Service sign was draped with a “Sheriff’s Office” sign. And the few seconds of film history had three locals who walked in front of the office as two deputies entered the office.

That was it, but we could use all the good publicity we can get --- even if they have to change our name.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Combat illustrator is also Minnesota carrier

Bloomington, MN, Letter Carrier Les Fordahl was invited to display his combat art as part of the "Minnesota Honors Vietnam Veterans" celebration at the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul. The event was the largest of its kind in Minnesota history.
Fordahl’s official duties in Vietnam were as a draftsman and illustrator, but he also became a combat artist. Only after he finished his tour of duty was he able to complete the drawings he had sketched while in the field. Veterans easily recognized his sketches of locations like Firebase Bastogne.
Audio and video clips of Fordahl and many of his works are available at the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Needed -- your big ideas

I'm all ears. In fact, my ears are prominently displayed in nearly every depiction of my image.

But I like to listen. And now's your chance to tell Benny. In your opinion, what does the Post Office need to do to not only survive, but thrive into the next decade?

Leave your opinion here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

International delight

A man from Germany recently dropped by the Halstad, MN, Post Office. According to Postmaster Bonnie Lee, he was biking across the United States and had a care package sent from Spain.

The bicyclist was camped outside of town and was willing to wait for the package -- which he thought would take ten days or more to arrive.

To his delight, the package was waiting. It had arrived in a mere four days -- which included a weekend and a holiday!

The visitor was thrilled to be able to continue his journey without delay -- thanks to United States Postal Service.

Now that's great service!

Do you have your own story about delighting your customers, surprised by our great service? Email me the story here.

Postmaster Bonnie Lee and a customer from Germany

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More than stamps

Last week, while testifying before Congress, Postmaster General Jack Potter said that the Postal Service needs to leverage our reach.

"We have a network of 37,000 retail outlets. America loves them and we want to keep as many open as possible, but we cannot just sell stamps in them," he said.

He mentioned driver's license renewal in Austrailia, banking in Italy and other countries that do more than deliver mail.

The Italian example is interesting, because more than half their profit comes from the banking portion of the Post.

So, what do you think? What kinds of services should we offer -- and which ones should we stay away from? Comment here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to school, in a box

Bruno, NE, Postmaster Susie Sousek created this “Back to School Supplies” display encouraging Priority Mail. It’s all part of the “All in the Box” promotion, which helps customers find new ways to use flat-rate boxes.

What other “All in the Box” ideas have you used? Click here to send your idea or photo.

Related post, "Birthday in a box" here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So, you want to be a stamp designer?

When the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) accepts a proposed stamp subject, the Stamp Development Design staff is assigned the task of developing the stamp design.

The design staff has professional art directors under contract to oversee the development of stamp designs. Because stamps are one of the most publicly visible forms of art, the art directors in turn work with professional designers, artists, illustrators and photographers. Because extensive historical research is performed on each detail of a design and production procedures are extremely intricate, the Postal Service, the art directors, and others work two to three years in advance of issuance.

The design staff is continually searching for new talent and the Postal Service annually receives more than 500 requests for information on how to become a stamp designer. Approximately 25 stamp designs are assigned each year, and a certain percentage of them are created by artists new to the Postal Service.

Each professional artist must have great discipline and a unique style and talent in order to create art that will ultimately be reduced to the small size of a stamp.

The assignment of each contract is made by the Stamp Development Design staff which supports the recommendations of CSAC and the private sector art directors.

Illustrators, artists, designers, or photographers who wish to be considered for a Postal Service assignment should follow these guidelines:

· Submit samples in print form (tear sheets, color copies, etc.) that best represent your style of work. Neither original art nor slides will be accepted. Samples are not returned and the Postal Service does not acknowledge receipt of samples by letter or phone.
· Do not submit artwork or photographs for consideration as a stamp. Unsolicited stamp designs are returned without review.

All submissions should be made to the following address:

ARLINGTON, VA 22209-6432

When a sample meets the requirements of stamp design and receives approval from the Stamp Development Design staff, it is placed in the talent file. This file is reviewed periodically when new stamp subjects are assigned to the design staff. When the design staff is interested in commissioning a service, it will contact the selected photographer, illustrator, artist, or designer.

(Courtesy, The Postal Advocate)

Friday, August 7, 2009

My favorite customer

Last month, I asked who your favorite customer was.

Gas, KS, OIC Edye Martin talks about one of her favorites:

"He is a little old man in his 80's who has had a very very difficult life and each day he comes in and he shares a personal ‘history.' Some days they are funny but most days his ‘history’ is sad and his eyes will tear up and so will mine, but he holds back his tears and they never fall while those he has brought to my eyes will slowly stream down my cheeks.

Most days his histories break my heart but that’s why he is my favorite customer…………. I feel it is cathartic to cry, he is my ‘apple a day to help keep the doctor away’. There is a quote, I believe by Voltaire, that goes something like this ‘A tear so timid and so meek it would not stain an angel's cheek.’

Sometimes, for a man to cry in public is to stain one's life with shame. So, this little old man is very special to me for he is willing to poor out his soul even if it means feeling shame if anyone were to walk in and see his eyes brimming over and him struggling to keep the tears from falling."

Who's your favorite customer? Drop me a note here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Most common names

The most common Post Office names, according to the Postal Service are:

Clinton 26
Franklin 25
Madison 25
Washington 25
Chester 23
Marion 23
Greenville 22
Springfield 22
Georgetown 21
Salem 21

Did you notice who's number two on the list? That's namesake. Fifty-dollar bills, stamps, schools and towns. That's right. Benny is prime time, baby!

Are you from one of these cities? Let me know a little about it. Send me a picture of your Post Office while you are at it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gulp -- Postal Service loses $2.4 billion last quarter

Normally, I like to keep things positive around here, but sometimes, you gotta step up to the truth.

The U.S. Postal Service ended its third quarter (April 1 – June 30) with a net loss of $2.4 billion. That brings the yearly loss to $4.7 billion so far. Total losses this year could top $7 billion.

The good news is that we have reduced our expenditures by nearly $6 billion. Without those cuts, the loss would be gi-normous!

What do you think about all of this?

Peanut butter and jelly -- Postmasters come together to battle hunger

The two Postmasters might be on the opposite side of the sandwich, but they came together to fight hunger.

The story of two postmasters from Florida is an interesting one, since the two challenged each other to a PBJ duel.Alva, FL, OIC RuthE Von Gunten-Persad and Lehigh, FL, OIC Mark Pi called on their communities to help in the fight.

They collected peanut butter and jelly to give away to local food banks to help stave off childhood hunger pangs.

The contest ended with the Alva office leading Lehigh. Between the two offices, they collected more than 2,500 pounds of peanut butter and jelly.
The two agreed that the loser has to eat two PB&J sandwiches in two minutes. Mark Pi graciously came to Alva and accepted the defeat by eating his sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Filling station

Thanks to Lonnie Clippard for this interesting mailbox is found in Poplar Bluff, MO.

Monday, August 3, 2009

If it fits, it ships, right?

Antler, ND, Rural Carrier Steve Lauer takes the USPS slogan, “If it fits, it ships” to a whole new level.

Pictured are Steve and his grand daughter, Emily Coleman.