Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hot Air in the Mail Stream

In an early attempt to deliver mail by air, professional balloonist John Wise climbed aboard his trusty airship on a windy day in the summer of 1859 and sailed off from Lafayette, IN, with the intention of travelling east to New York City. His precious cargo consisted of 123 letters from Lafayette’s citizens tucked safely inside a locked mail bag aboard his small craft.

While the attempt showed great promise in delivering mail more expediently through the air, the winds of change did not favor the stalwart balloon as the much needed gusts grew eerily still. Unable to latch onto a favorable draft, Wise had no choice but to land his airship 30 miles south of Lafayette.

Though his short voyage was unsuccessful in delivering the mailbag to its intended destination, the Postal Service dutifully transported the 123 letters safely via train to New York City. In 1959, 100 years after the attempted airmail flight, the Postal Service celebrated the event by issuing a commemorative seven-cent stamp depicting the Jupiter balloon soaring above a cheering crowd of spectators.

Do you think balloons could be a viable option for delivering mail in the future? Comment here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ballparking for the Future

If you’ve got a few years to go until retirement, there’s a chance that you might be interested in a new tool provided by the Office of Personnel Management. The Federal Ballpark E$timate is designed to let someone know just how much they need to save to have a comfortable retirement.

Before the Ballpark E$timate can give you the scoop on your projected earnings in retirement, however, it’s going to need to gobble up a few pieces of information first. Be sure to have your hire date, current income, the age you want to retire, and the number of years you expect to enjoy your retirement available. You’ll also need your current TSP balance, non-TSP savings, Social Security benefit information, and a few assumptions on inflation and investment rates of return. Don’t let those last ones scare you though. You can use the default values to move on to the good stuff.

Once all of this information is processed by the system, the Ballpark E$stimate will present a detailed report outlining the income you’re likely to see in retirement. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate, but it’s a starting point to see whether or not you’re on track to having a comfortable retirement.

The best time to start saving for your future is now.

What plans do you have to enjoy your future or current retirement? Comment here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lost Before the Mail

On a bright, sunny day in OR, a single page containing two old photographs was left in the lobby of the Newport Post Office. There was no indication of whom it belonged to or where it was supposed to go.

The discovery prompted a clerk to ask Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Society, to take a look at the piece and see if there was anything in the photos that could potentially lead the page back to its owner.

Wyatt was able to trace the photos back to World War II, but wasn’t able to find any identifying information that could help the page return home. He is hopeful that someone will be able to identify the page and provide information that will lead to its owner.

When an orphaned object is discovered in the lobby at a Postal facility, what options would you recommend to reunite the item with its owner?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Caption Contest: A Leap Forward in Robotics

This photo from Sherry Holt in Surprise, AZ, shows an unusual mailbox captured while on vacation in Spokane, WA.

If you were to write the caption for it, what would it be?

Submit your caption here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How High is Too High?

There has been a lot of debate recently on how to solve the financial situation of the Postal Service. One of many proposed suggestions includes increasing postage rates to more closely match the current costs of delivering mail. While the many alternatives are still being discussed, the Royal Mail of the United Kingdom has recently made a change to its postage rates that dwarf all previous increases.

On April 30th, 2012, Royal Mail increased their postage rate for first-class mail from 46 pence to 60 pence. In U.S. dollars, that’s the equivalent of going from about 75 cents to 97 cents per stamp. The cost of their second-class stamp also increased from 36 pence (58 cents) to 50 pence (81 cents).

Here’s a history of U.S. postage rates since 1991:

- February 3, 1991          29 cents
- January 1, 1995           32 cents
- January 10, 1999         33 cents
- January 7, 2001           34 cents
- June 30, 2002              37 cents
- January 8, 2006           39 cents
- May 14, 2007              41 cents
- May 12, 2008              42 cents
- May 11, 2009              44 cents
- January 22, 2012         45 cents

Do you think the Postal Service should increase the price of postage beyond 45 cents? Comment here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Digital MailBox

There’s a new service coming this year that will offer a digital mailbox to electronically receive mail, pay bills online, and store important files securely using the strength and reliability of the Post brand name. It isn’t the U.S. Post Office offering this service, however. It’s the Australia Post and they’re looking to incorporate electronic diversion into their service lineup.

The Digital MailBox service will offer free personal management apps that will allow its customers to use any electronic device to access the new features. The apps will also include encryption technology to keep private communication private as well as multiple levels of authentication to prevent unauthorized access.

The service is not yet available, but the Australia Post website claims it will arrive in 2012.

Do you think the U.S. Postal Service should offer something similar to the Digital MailBox? Comment here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Those Wary Eyes Mean Business

Hello all, Benny here. I just wanted to remind you that this week, May 19-25, is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I can’t think of a better time to review preventative measures to avoid becoming the victim of a cantankerous canine.

I still remember the time when I had a good friend, Thomas Walpole, over for lunch one gorgeous afternoon. The entire time he was there, my dog kept eying poor Tom warily, growling periodically. Good old Tom just kept his cool and ignored him. Tom managed to leave without incident about an hour later, though he never did return for a follow-up visit. I’m still not sure what really sparked the unease with my faithful companion, but it might have had something to do with the fact that Tom was a banker and still wearing his uniform-like suit when he came over.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the following tips to help avoid being bitten by a dog:

- Never enter an area where a dog is barking, snarling, eating, sleeping, or nursing.
- Never antagonize or attempt to pet a dog.
- Do not make direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not smile at a dog. This can be seen as a sign of aggression.
- Slowly back away from the animal.
- Never run, and never turn your back.
- Carry a satchel if appropriate.
- Carry dog spray.
- If you believe a dog is about to attack, put something between you and the dog.
- Always keep in mind that ALL dogs bite.

Until next time. Stay safe!

What close encounters have you had with a cantankerous canine? Comment here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Postal Service Moves Ahead with Modified Network Consolidation Plan

The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it was moving ahead with a modified plan to consolidate its network of 461 mail processing locations in phases. The first phase of activities will result in up to 140 consolidations through February of 2013.  Unless the circumstances of the Postal Service change in the interim, a second and final phase of 89 consolidations is currently scheduled to begin in February of 2014.

The Postal Service will begin consolidating operations this summer – which mostly involve transferring mail-processing operations from smaller to larger facilities. Due to the volume of high-priority mail predicted for the election and holiday mailing seasons, no consolidating activities will be conducted from September through December of 2012. Approximately 5,000 employees will begin receiving notifications next week related to consolidating and other efficiency-enhancing activities to be conducted this summer.

These consolidating activities will reduce the size of the Postal Service workforce by approximately 13,000 employees and, when fully implemented, will generate cost reductions of approximately $1.2 billion annually. 

The Postal Service also announced it is working with its unions for an employee retirement incentive, although no final decision has been made.  

The Postal Service also announced that it would soon issue a new regulation to modify its existing Service Standard for overnight delivery. The Postal Service said a Final Rule would soon be published in the Federal Register that would initially shrink the geographic reach of overnight service to local areas and enable consolidation activity in 2013. The new rule would further tighten the overnight delivery standard in 2014 and enable further consolidation of the Postal Service mail processing network absent any change to the circumstances of the Postal Service.

Approximately 80 percent of First-Class Mail will still be delivered overnight.

When fully implemented in late 2014, the Postal Service expects its network consolidations to generate approximately $2.1 billion in annual cost reductions, and lead to total workforce reduction up to 28,000 employees.

The list of 140 mail processing locations to be consolidated by February of 2013 is available at:

You can comment on the modified plan here

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big Enough to be Incorporated?

How large should a town be to be incorporated? In the small town of Lost Springs, WY, the answer is “one,” according to the 2000 census. Even with the 2010 census, which showed a population of four, the population size still ranks the town as one of the smallest in the United States. Other towns consisting of one resident include:

- Criehaven, ME
- Hibberts Gore, ME
- Kiel Township, MN
- Township 157-30, MN
- Dix’s Grant, NH

Should a town with a very small population be incorporated? How small is too small? Comment here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Check is Not in the Mail

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks are sponsoring a program called Go Direct. The goal of this program is to create awareness of the ease of use and safety of direct deposit as advantages over paper checks. This program is primarily targeted towards the 17 percent of individuals who are still receiving paper checks for their Social Security, SSI and VA compensation and pension payments.

Some of the touted advantages of direct deposit include preventing identity theft, having immediate access to the money, and eliminating the need to go to the bank to deposit paper checks. The Go Direct website also states that if the more than 140 million checks currently issued each year by the Treasury were converted to direct deposit, the taxpayers would save $130 million annually.

While the advantages of the program are being used as an incentive to convert to direct deposit, the voluntary aspect of it becomes a mandate on March 1, 2013. That’s the date when anyone still receiving federal benefits by paper check will be forced to make the switch to electronic means. Payments will be issued via the Direct Express debit card for those who have not selected an electronic option by the deadline.

For more information on the Go Direct program, go to

With the huge push by government entities and private corporations to go digital, what do you think the Postal Service can do to take advantage of the electronic trend? Comment here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mail a Smile

Disney•Pixar’s unique characters remind us of our fears and foibles, challenges and victories. On June 1, their familiar faces will appear on stamps that remind us it’s always a good time to “Mail a Smile.”

The Mail a Smile stamps features characters from five Disney•Pixar movies: A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and The Incredibles (2004).

This stamp pane is a follow-up to Send a Hello, a 2011 issuance featuring Disney•Pixar characters that grew out of the Art of Disney series issued from 2004 through 2008. Since 1995, Pixar Animation Studios has won 29 Academy Awards.

The Mail a Smile stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mail Matters

(The following is Courtesy of Gray Hair Software)

Always remember this. You work in an industry that adds $800 billion to America’s GDP. The postal industry employs 8 million Americans. Mail is the most cost-effective courier system on earth. Postal service is required by the U. S. Constitution.

Mail goes everywhere. Mail goes directly to the recipient. It is delivered for free. You don’t need a computer or internet service to get mail. Mail is secure. Spam filters can’t deflect it. Hackers can’t hack it. Viruses can’t corrupt it. It doesn’t lurk unseen on your hard drive after you trash it. Mail is polite. It doesn’t interrupt you at dinner.

It doesn’t pump up the volume to make sure you’re listening. Mail is not “junk.” Mail is Real. You can feel it, touch it, hold it. Pin it to a corkboard. Magnetize it to your fridge. Senders value it. Recipients value it. People look forward to getting mail. Mail delivers surprises—postcards, gifts, opportunities. Checks arrive in the mail. A day without mail is a lonely day.

Finding something interesting in the mail is a special moment. And you are part of that mail moment. Mail works for everyone. That is the Value of Mail. Brag about it!

Promote it! Defend it! Because mail matters.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Don’t Forget to Help Stamp Out Hunger Tomorrow

Food drive kick off event in Phoenix, AZ, on Thursday, May 10.
In many ways, America is the land of plenty. But for one in six people in the United States, hunger is a reality.

Today, nearly 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, are struggling with hunger. These are often hard-working individuals who simply cannot make ends meet and are forced to go without food for several meals, or even days.

On Saturday, May 12, the United States Postal Service will team up with its letter carriers to conduct the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive across the nation to collect food donations in order to provide assistance to the millions of Americans who are struggling with hunger each and every day.

Beyond the Call of Duty...

The nation’s 210,000 letter carriers will collect food donations left at the mailboxes of generous Americans in more than 10,000 communities and deliver them to food banks and other hunger relief organizations.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive is the nation’s largest single-day food drive, having collected more than one billion pounds of food since its inception in 1993. In 2011, generous Americans donated 70.2 million pounds of food, which marked the eighth consecutive year that at least 70 million pounds were collected.

You Can Help...

Helping Stamp Out Hunger is as easy as checking your mailbox. Just leave a bag of non-perishable food where your letter carrier normally delivers your mail on Saturday, May 12. Your letter carrier will then pick up and deliver the food to a local food bank. 

Examples of non-perishable items include:
Canned soup
Canned meats and fish
Canned vegetables, fruits and juices
Boxed goods (such as cereal)
Pasta and rice

For more information about the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive, ask your letter carrier, contact your local post office or visit

What food items do you plan on donating? Comment here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Plan Keeps Offices Open, but Reduces Hours for Some

The U.S. Postal Service announced a new strategy yesterday that could keep the nation’s smallest Post Offices open for business, while providing a framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability. 

The plan would keep existing Post Offices in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and to PO Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town’s ZIP Code and community identity would be retained.

The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually. 

A voluntary early retirement incentive for the nation’s more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters was also announced.

So, what do you think about the plan?  What are postal customers saying? Comment here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can working with a competitor be good for business?

This is a question that the Postal Service has answered with an affirmative yes. FedEx, UPS, and the Postal Service have been competitors for many years. This spirited relationship amongst business rivals could have been summarized as a zero-sum game, where the gain of one business leads to a loss for another. Now, corporations are looking for opportunities to carve out as many costs from their operation as possible while increasing the size of their business offerings. This means establishing relationships that at one point in time may have been considered unthinkable.

The UPS Store, for example, helps its small business customers create and print marketing material. To reach target neighborhoods for distribution, Every Door Direct Mail from the Postal Service is employed to maximize effectiveness of the marketing campaign for as little cost as possible.

FedEx has a program called SmartPost that ships low-weight packages to residential customers using the Postal Service for final delivery. This allows the company to use the size of the Postal Service distribution network to create low-cost delivery opportunities for its customers.

Business relationships amongst rivals can make sense when challenging times demand creative solutions. To what extent such relationships can go is anybody’s guess, but for now, it seems that the future of mutually beneficial associations is more the trend than the exception.

Do you think cooperative relationships amongst business rivals are a good idea? Comment here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Global Future

The U.S. Post Office has been in existence since 1775, even before the birth of our nation, but there are several other Post Offices elsewhere in the world that have an even longer history than ours. Some of the most long-lived Post Offices include:

- Royal Mail from the United Kingdom was founded in 1516
- La Poste from France was founded in 1576
- Post Danmark from Denmark was founded in 1624
- Posten AB from Sweden was founded in 1636
- Posten Norge from Norway was founded in 1647

While post offices around the globe have been around for centuries, the future of mail services centuries from now appears uncertain at best. When looking into the murky crystal ball of the future, what do you think global mail delivery will look like 100 years from now? Comment here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Friendly Reminder

Hello all, Benny here. I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that this coming Sunday, May 13th, is Mother’s Day.

When I was no taller than the doorknob of our house, I remember my mother, Abiah, showing a mountain of patience in raising me and my 16 brothers and sisters. I’m not sure how she put up with us sometimes, and especially me a few more times than that, but the love she showered us with helped make me the man that I became.

If you’re searching for just the right words to scribble inside your mother’s card before dropping it in the mail, here are a few that might help inspire your creativity:

-   Mother, you've given me two is roots, the other is wings.”
-   “The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed.”
-   “For all that you’ve given me in my lifetime, the greatest gift of all has been your love.”

Approximately 50% of all households give Mother’s Day cards for a total of nearly 152 million cards every year. Be sure to let your mother know how special she is to you, even if it’s just to remind yourself of the same.


What's your fondest memory of mom? Comment here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Operation Medicine Delivery

A new strategy for distributing medicine to the public in an emergency will be given its first full-scale test on May 6 in the Twin Cities.
On that day, approximately 40 letter carriers will make an unusual Sunday morning run through selected neighborhoods in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the suburbs of Robbinsdale and Crystal. Local law enforcement will provide escorts for the postal delivery teams during the exercise, and would serve in the same role during a real emergency.
The carriers will leave a simulated supply of the antibiotic doxycycline – in the form of an empty pill bottle – at each residential address. About 37,000 households are expected to receive the simulated meds.
Dubbed “Operation Medicine Delivery,” the exercise is the first full scale test of the Comprehensive Postal Plan for the Twin Cities, which has been in place since February 2010. The Postal Plan represents the culmination of a multi-year planning effort that began in 2004.  The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and is a joint effort of DHHS, the Postal Service, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and local public health, emergency management and law enforcement agencies.
The Postal Plan is part of the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI), a program for quickly providing medicine to residents of major metropolitan areas in an emergency. CRI might be activated, for example, in response to a large scale airborne anthrax attack.

What do you think of the emergency medicine distribution plan? Comment here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stamping Out Hunger

On May 12, local communities across America will be asked to join the U.S. Postal Service and its letter carriers to combat one of this nation’s growing problems - hunger.

About 50 million Americans - including 17 million children - now live in families that lack sufficient food.

The Postal Service, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), Campbell Soup Company, Feeding America and other partner organizations are working together to collect food donations on May 12. It is the nation’s largest single-day food drive in local communities across America - including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Now in its 20th year, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive benefits Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

In 2011, letter carriers collected 70.2 million pounds of food donated by customers on their delivery routes, which marked the eighth consecutive year the total food collection was at least
70 million pounds.

This year, Nick Cannon is the national spokesperson for the Stamp Out Hunger food drive for the second consecutive year. The drive particularly hits home for Cannon, who experienced hunger and visited food pantries as a child. Cannon will promote the drive on television and radio, as well as in print and social media to encourage even greater participation and donations.

To participate in the 20th Stamp Out Hunger food drive, residents are encouraged to leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal next to their mailbox prior to the time of regular mail delivery on Saturday, May 12. Letter carriers will collect these food donations as they deliver the mail and take them to their local food bank or pantry.

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive began at the local level in the late 1980s and went nationwide in 1992.

For more information about the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive, visit:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coconuts in the mail?

 Postmaster Gary Lam and his nutty friends

The May 2012 edition of Your Postal Podcast opens with a tale of how one Post Office in Hawaii makes it easy for tourists to mail home one-of-a-kind nutty souvenirs.

You'll also hear about a Minnesota artist who has found a way to use his talents to bring attention to the importance of mail and art through a combination of the two.

You can listen to this edition of Your Postal Podcast here:

While you’re there, be sure to share your feedback for your chance to win a letter carrier bobblehead.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Does it Take a Village?

There’s a new way to do business with the Post Office and it’s not with the usual line of suspects. The Village Post Office may be coming to a town near you, and their numbers are continuing to grow every month.

Designed to offer a limited number of products and services, this new breed of independently operated Post Office ‘essentials’ will allow customers to buy stamps, mail letters, send packages, and possibly rent PO Boxes. Services available at these new centers will vary depending on the demands of the community, though they’ll generally offer basic mail services where none might otherwise exist.

The Village Post Office concept may not be a new one, but it can create an opportunity to create or maintain a Postal presence in smaller communities. It also has the potential to increase foot traffic inside the building of the local business or other organization that installs it. That could translate into an additional revenue source for the business that opts in.

There are currently 20 Village Post Offices open for business as of April 30, 2012, with many more coming out in the next few months. This single strategy probably won’t correct the enormous woes of the Post Office. It is, however, one option among many currently being implemented in an attempt to turn a chilling financial deficit around.

Do you think the Village concept can help the Post Office out of its fiscal crisis? Comment here.