Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hold it! Stealing tubs is flat-out wrong.

The Postal Service spends $10 million a year to purchase new flat tubs.

Some studies show that 68 percent of the tubs we give out, never come back. That's not a good return.

I've seen them holding panhander's coins, bakery supplies, recycling containers and even dog food holders. What's the strangest place you've seen a flat tub. I had a couple of stories here, but I'm sure there are many more out there. Tell me here.

And while I'm at, employees are being couraged not to  give flat tubs to customers for hold mail and caller service mail and to avoid leaving them with business customers. What do you think? Too extreme? Comment here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surprise. Younger customers want six-day delivery more than their parents

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted earlier in the month showed overall support for five-day delivery.

But one surprising twist was that only 58 percent of those in the 18-34 age bracket supported a reduction in delivery days compared to 73 percent among those 55 or older.

Why do you think this is?  Comment here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

St. Patrick, meet your carrier

Topeka, KS, City Carrier Bill Barkemeyer was ready for St. Patrick's Day.

Photo by Rudranath Ramcharan

Comment here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rural Carriers officially join NALC Food Drive efforts

The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), which has been a longtime supporter of the NALC National Food Drive in many locales across the country, has accepted an invitation by NALC President Fred Rolando to become a full national partner in the May 8 drive to “Stamp Out Hunger.”

With the new national role, NRLCA will assist NALC and the drive’s other co-sponsors in promoting the volunteer collection of non-perishable food on the second Saturday in May, encourage increased participation by rural carriers in the effort, and help deliver donations to local food banks, pantries and shelters.

NRLCA President Don Cantriel, in advising President Rolando of his union’s action, said the NRLCA was eager to be more involved in helping to fight hunger in America.

Hundreds of NALC branches have already registered to participate in the food drive which stands on the cusp of breaking the 1 billion-pound mark in donations over the history of the 18-year-old humanitarian effort.

Read a history of the Food Drive here.
Photo is of Mesa AZ, City Carrier Bill Spotts, courtesy Dave Reynolds

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One step closer to five-day delivery

The USPS’ Board of Governors has approved a request to move forward with its five-day delivery proposal. Later this month, we'll file "a request for an advisory opinion" with the Postal Regulatory Commission which will then go to Congress for action.

The key details of the plan are:
  • Street delivery and blue box collections will be eliminated on Saturdays
  • Express Mail service will continue seven days a week
  • Post Offices currently open on Saturday will remain open
  • PO Box accessibility will continue 
  • Bulk mail and drop shipments will continue to be accepted at facilities that are currently open
The plan is expected to generate annual savings of $3.1 billion.

There's a website that explains the proposal here:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The First Air-Mail

The Wright Brothers in the United States flew the first plane, but it was in India that letters were taken by air for the first time in the world.

The historic event took place in Allahabad on February 18, 1911 coinciding with Kumbh mela that year.

A special aircraft took off from the banks off the river Yamuna and landed about 15 kilometers away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gotta love duct tape

Photo courtesy Tamara Rokusek, Tripp, SD
Comment here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Investing in our future

A reader from Louisiana wrote, "If every employee bought one book of Forever stamps once a month at $8.80, it would generate $5.5 million in revenue a month, or $67 million annually."

He further writes, "This is a way to invest in our future, jobs and organization. Let's stop aying billson line and keep the money within."

What do you think about this? Not enough to make a difference? A great idea? Is there a better way? Other thoughts? Click here to comment.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Busting Postal Myths, Day 5, "Can't Compete"

Welcome to the last column of this week of busting postal myths. We are echoing the points made in PMG Jack Potter’s Washington Post editorial earlier this month.

Monday, we talked about the “taxpayer supported” myth.
Tuesday, we busted the “inefficient” label.
Wednesday, we discussed the “reliability” rap.
Thursday, we discussed the “harmful to the environment” charge.
Today, we’ll finish with Myth #5, “USPS can't compete with the private sector.”

The Postal Service can and does compete. Our closest competitors, UPS and FedEx, don't threaten our business; as two of our biggest customers, they help build it. Our competition pays us to deliver more than 400 million of their ground packages every year in residential areas and on Saturdays. In turn, the USPS contracts with UPS and FedEx for air transportation to take advantage of their comprehensive air networks.

Although stamp prices have increased about 33 percent over the past 10 years, this increase is in line with inflation. By comparison, private carriers raised their prices by as much as 60 percent between 1999 and 2009. The Postal Service is, and has always been, a bargain.

It's no secret that the Postal Service has been losing money since 2007. What are not well known are the financial demands of the Postal Reform Act of 2006 -- demands not faced by the private sector. Though the USPS is self-supporting, its finances are tied to the federal budget because postal employees participate in federal retirement plans. In 2006, Congress required that the USPS prefund 80 percent of future postal retiree health benefits. This will cost more than $5 billion a year through 2016. No other federal agency or private company carries such a heavy burden.

Without the prefunding requirement, the Postal Service would have been better able to weather the recent recession. In 2008, prefunding contributed to a loss of $2.8 billion. Without it, we would have been $2.8 billion in the black.

What do you think about this myth? Comment here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Busting Postal Myths, Day 4, "Harmful to the environment"

Welcome to the fourth column of this week of busting postal myths. We are echoing the points made in PMG Jack Potter’s Washington Post editorial earlier this month.

Monday, we talked about the “taxpayer supported” myth.
Tuesday, we busted the “inefficient” label.
Wednesday, we discussed the “reliability” rap.

Today, we’ll address Myth #4: “The Postal Service is not environmentally friendly.”

No doubt about it, delivering mail uses fossil fuels, and mail often produces paper waste. Still, the Postal Service is greener than you think. As long as consumers and businesses use physical mail, we're committed to finding ways to process it responsibly.

Our fleet of 44,000 alternative-fuel-capable vehicles is one of the largest in the world and includes electric, three-wheeled electric, hybrid electric, ethanol, fuel-cell, biodiesel and propane technology. More than a half-billion packages and envelopes that we provide free annually are recyclable and made of environmentally friendly materials.

Last year, we recycled more than 200,000 tons of paper, plastics and other waste -- the equivalent of saving 1.67 million barrels of oil. There are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified post offices, a 2.5-acre green roof on a major facility in downtown Manhattan, solar photovoltaic building systems and other sustainable building designs in use across the country.

Still, saving the environment doesn't begin and end with the Postal Service. That's why we encourage our customers to "read, respond and recycle." In 8,000 post offices nationwide, signs remind P.O. box customers to open their mail, take whatever action is necessary and place the waste in our recycling bins. The EPA reports that standard mail represents less than 2.1 percent of the material in our nation's landfills. (By comparison, disposable diapers represent 2.2 percent, glass beer and soft-drink bottles 3 percent, and yard trimmings 6.9 percent.)

What do you think about this myth? Comment here.

Tomorrow's myth: "The Postal Service can't compete."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Busting Postal Myths, Day 3, "Unreliable"

Welcome to third day of this week of busting postal myths. We are echoing the points made in PMG Jack Potter’s Washington Post editorial earlier this month.

Monday, we talked about the “taxpayer supported” myth.
Yesterday we busted the “inefficient” label.
Today, we’ll address Myth #3: “The Postal Service is not reliable.”

Independent quarterly surveys have us at all-time highs for service. In the last quarter of 2009, on-time overnight delivery of single-piece first-class mail was at 96 percent for the fifth straight quarter.

In almost every circumstance, if you put a stamp on an item, it gets there. Yes, some of us have personally experienced mail loss, but many have gone a lifetime without an issue.

Considering that we handled 170 billion pieces of mail last year, the number of mishandled pieces is miniscule on a percentage basis. We deliver consistently, reliably and safely.

What do you think about this myth? Comment here.

Tomorrow's myth: "The Postal Service is harmful to the environment."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Busting Postal Myths, Day 2, "Inefficient"

Welcome to second day of this week of busting postal myths. We are echoing the points made in PMG Jack Potter’s Washington Post editorial earlier this month.

Yesterday we talked about the “taxpayer supported” myth.

Today, we’ll address Myth #2: “The Postal Service is inefficient”

Did you know that ten years ago, it took 70 employees one hour to sort 35,000 letters? Today, in that same hour, just two employees process that same volume of mail.

Though the number of addresses in the nation has grown by nearly 18 million in the past decade, the number of employees who handle the increased delivery load has decreased by more than 200,000.

We deliver half of the world’s mail volume at one of the lowest prices.

Since 2002, the Postal Service has cut costs by $43 billion, including $9 billion last year. We’ve done it through workforce and overtime reduction, renegotiation of supplier contracts, consolidation of facilities, closing of administrative offices, and cuts in travel and supplies.

Losing money? Yes. Inefficient? Hardly.

What do you think about this myth? Comment here.

Tomorrow's myth. The Post Office is unreliable.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Busting postal myths, Part 1, "Taxpayer Supported"

It seems like plenty of people are lining up on both sides of the Postal Service these days. Some love us. Some don't.

Those that don't often have some bad information, believing in myths that are just plain wrong. So this week, echoing PMG Jack Potter who dispelled these misconceptions in a Washington Post editorial earlier this month, we'll bust postal myths.

Myth 1: The Postal Service wastes taxpayer dollars.

The Postal Service, reorganized in 1971 as an independent agency of the executive branch, operates as a commercial entity. We rely on the sale of postage, mail products and services for revenue.

A small annual appropriation from Congress reimburses the USPS for free mail for the blind and absentee-ballot mailing for overseas military personnel. Otherwise, we have not received taxpayer funds to support postal operations since 1982. In fact, though we're often described as "quasi-governmental," we're required by law to cover our costs.

What do you think? Do your friends, family and customers still think we are taxpayer supported. Click here to comment.

Tomorrow's myth: "The Postal Service is inefficient"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mixed messages

Taken by Marcy Earley in the Hayward, WI, Post Office lobby

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What do you see?

Today is the First-Day for the "Abstract Expressionists" stamp.

It takes a unique artist to paint abstract art...and a unique mind to understand it.  But that's the point, right?

Looking at these stamps, do you see anything in the future for the Postal Service? Comment here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Deaf retail associate a benefit to USPS, customers

Joe Ortiz was born 46 years ago without any hearing, but that doesn’t keep him from serving customers from his retail counter in Frederick, MD.

The 25-year veteran was recently highlighted in a news story in his home town newspaper. According to the Frederick News Post, Ortiz uses signs at the counter to indicate he is deaf, but he reads lips and is able to speak clearly.

What do you think about this?

Comment here.
(Photo courtesy Frederick News Post, Nick Merrill)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are you delaying retirement?

Benny here. I recently read an interesting report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute that showed more and more people are delaying retirement.

Since 1993, American's aged 55 or older who were in the work force has increased from 29.4 percent in 1993 to 39.4 percent today.

The study attributes higher cost of living, higher medical costs and lowered benefits as some of the reason for the delayed retirement.

The study also summarizes, "While some older Americans have a greater need to work to help make their retirement assets last longer or to continue to build up assets, monetary incentives are not the only motivating factor."

I'm one to talk...I'm still on the job after more than 230 years. But I'm interested in your story. If you are delaying your retirement, what's your primary reason?

Let me know by commenting here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Don't be discouraged"

By now, you've seen all the reaction to the PMG's press conference a couple of days ago. To reassure us, PMG Potter has a few reminders for us as employees. In his video message, he said this:
  • Stay focused on the basics. You know what they are.
  • Keep service strong.
  • Help us find ways to pull costs out of the system.
  • Treat customers the same way you like to be treated as a customer — that’ll keep them with us.
  • Look for new ways to grow the business — no matter where you work or what you do. No one knows our customers better than you do.
  • And most important of all, don’t get discouraged.

What do you think? Click here to comment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Curb Your Wheels

This picture from 1912 shows a carrier delivering and collecting mail from a motorized cart.

This clunky cart is designed to receive mail from collection boxes. Thankfully, it never caught on. What do you think about this?  Comment here.

Courtesy, the Suncoast Scoop.

What's the buzz?

So, by now you’ve heard or read about the big news conference on Tuesday with Postmaster General Potter and other senior postal management.

Down at the Boston tavern, there’s plenty of talk of change and I’m trying to answer all the questions, and I know you are, too.
I’m wondering, what’s the buzz? What are other employees saying? What are your customers saying? Comment here and share your thoughts.

Take the poll on the upper-right corner of the blog, or click here.

I am interested in how your customers are reacting to the news:

Are they:

•Concerned about losing services

•Worried about postal employee's futures

•Confident things will work out

•Don't know how bad it really is

•Don't really care

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2020 -- Will we survive?

Yesterday, the PMG and a panel of postal experts started a conversation on delivering into the future. In order to survive crushing deficits, these six action items were proposed.

• Restructure retiree health benefits prefunding to “pay-as-you-go,” comparable to what is used by the rest of the federal government and the private sector.

• Adjust delivery frequency to better reflect current mail volumes and customer habits.

• Expand access to postal products and services through self-service kiosks, partnerships with other retail outlets, and a world-class website —

• Workforce flexibility that allows USPS to put the right people at the right place and at the right time.

• Ensure pricing of Market Dominant mailing products is based on demand for each individual product and its costs, rather than capping prices for every class at the rate of inflation.

• Expand Products and Services by allowing USPS to evaluate and introduce more new products consistent with its mission and compete more effectively in the marketplace.

What do you think of them? Not specific enough? What else should be talked about? Comment here.

For more information, see Envisioning America's Future Postal Service page by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How many delivery days?

We've been talking about the possibility of a five-day delivery week for some time now. During today's major conference called, "Ensuring a viable Postal Service for America," PMG Jack Potter raised the spector of "Six to five, to four and even three-day delivery."

Do you think America would adapt to fewer delivery days?

Comment here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Envisioning America's future Postal Service

The mail is a-changing.

Personal mail. Business mail. Commerce mail. Nothing's the same as it used to be. And it probably won't be the same in the future.

Tomorrow, Postmaster General Jack Potter will host a conference to address the issue of the changing volume and revenue. He will reveal some numbers and give an action plan.

What do you think he'll say?

Comment here.