Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Than You Bargained For

Major electronic retailers have had little in the way of direct competition with the Post Office in the United States so far. The same can’t be said, however, around the rest of the world. Besides the usual collection of shipping supplies and related accessories, Swiss Post offers a wide range of other products and services not normally associated with sending a letter across town.

Browsing through the Swiss Post online store, you’ll find items such as tablet PC’s, cell phones, laptops, software, gaming systems, televisions, jewelry, books, movies, and even camping gear. If a customer didn’t look up in the left hand corner of the screen and notice the Swiss Post logo, they could easily assume they were browsing through the pages of an online electronics store.

Similar to Japan Post Bank, Swiss Post also provides limited financial services to business customers. Swiss Post offers cashless payments with PostFinance cards, investment and cash management services, and deposit accounts.

As a postal organization, Swiss Post knows a thing or two about transportation, but they go a step further in offering their own bus service. Since 1906, PostBus has been offering public transportation services in Switzerland. They currently have more than 3,000 employees and 2,000 buses shuttling passengers around the country with plans to expand to other international markets.

In a time when businesses are looking for every opportunity to remain competitive and expand their sources of revenue, Swiss Post isn’t leaving much to the imagination in expansion opportunities.

Do you think the Postal Service should expand into any of these or other potential markets?

Monday, July 30, 2012

All Eyes on You

There’s a new draft bill in the UK currently under review that could press the limits of the balance between privacy and protection. The blurred line between the two elements has created many arguments on either side. This new proposal is certain to spark additional debate on how far a government should go to protect its citizens.

The bill proposes to have equipment installed, at least partially paid for by the government, in Royal Mail facilities that will record all information on letters and post cards. Anything written on the outside of a mail piece will be recorded and stored for up to 12 months including the sender and receiver’s name and address as well as when the piece was sent.

Additional elements of the bill include recording all details on Internet use such as e-mails, social network sites, file transfers, IP addresses, and the equipment being used to conduct electronic activity. Details on phone calls, text messages, and instant messages will also be recorded by the telephone provider.

The bill is designed to fight criminal and terrorist activity in an increasingly sophisticated technological world. Some argue that the bill goes too far, robbing citizens of their right to privacy. Others believe it’s a necessity to keep pace with an ever-more determined criminal element of society.

Do you think this is something the United States should consider?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Innovative Choreographers

On July 28, four influential choreographers will make their debut in the latest stamp release. Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham and Bob Fosse will each be featured in elegant poses during their most famous dance performances.

To kick off the new release, the stamp series was announced in an episode of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE on July 18. The First Day of Issue ceremony will take place this coming Saturday at the National Dance Day Celebration in Los Angeles, CA. Fans of choreography will not only have the opportunity to purchase the stamp series on the day of its release, they’ll also have the chance to display their own talents as well. Zumba Fitness will lead the crowd gathered at the celebration, presented by the Dizzy Feet Foundation, in the official National Dance Day routines.

You can find out more information on the National Dance Day at the Dizzy Feet website. Details on the Innovative Choreographers stamp series can be found at Beyond the Perf.

What’s your favorite dance routine?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Digital Convergence

There are some who see the separation of mail and e-mail as a mutually exclusive relationship. For one company, however, the two form a symbiotic relationship ripe with profit potential.

Besides standard mail services, PostNord, the mailing company of Denmark and Sweden, offers its customers the opportunity to choose what form they want to receive and send their mail. They currently offer e-mail solutions that encourage customers to send in their texts, offers, images, and other documents. The information is then printed and sent out as mail or collected and e-mailed—both if the customer desires. They also offer scanning solutions to companies that want to convert their business documents to electronic form.

PostNord continues to promote its core purpose of sending letters and packages to 25 million residents in the Nordic region. Their expanded e-services will help augment and satisfy the electronic needs of its customer base. It’s a strategy designed to keep the organization fresh and relevant to the changing needs of the Nordic population.

Do you think the Postal Service should offer scanning solutions to its customers?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Discounting for Business

Businesses are constantly searching for ways to attract more customers while keeping the ones they have. One way to provide that incentive is by offering discounts on the products and services they offer.

Discounts are offered in almost every line of business. From cable television to a transmission flush, discounts have been attracting customers in search of a good deal for as long as businesses have been advertising to customers. The Postal Service is no exception.

Express Mail, Priority Mail, and Global Express Guaranteed are just a few of the services USPS offers at a discount by purchasing online rather than over the counter. The Internet-based incentive is not only a way to promote the services offered by the Postal Service, it also rewards customers for doing business through a preferred conduit.

Businesses will continue to promote discounts well into the future to grow their operation in a way that’s consistent with their expectations. It’s an approach the Postal Service can’t afford to ignore.

Do you think offering discounts to customers is a good idea for the Postal Service?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The QR Revolution

Cell phones have been used for much more than just audio communication for many years. One of its recent enhancements makes alternative use of the camera embedded in the small devices. Besides taking photos, cell phone cameras are frequently used for scanning QR codes on products, advertisements and print media to direct viewers to additional information. The Postal Service has taken this a step further by introducing QR codes on the back of its latest stamp issue.

With the introduction of the Edith Piaf and Miles Davis stamps, the Postal Service has added a special QR code on the back of each stamp. This is first time QR technology has been integrated into a stamp release. Its introduction expands the benefits of a stamp purchase beyond postage and collectability.

For this particular stamp issuance, the QR code directs individuals to a special website that has additional information and photographs on the lives of Edith Piaf and Miles Davis. The website also displays the different products available in this stamp series while music from Miles Davis plays (optionally) in the background.

Do you think the Postal Service should include QR codes on other stamp issues?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Batter Up

This past Friday, the Postal Service released the Baseball All-Stars stamp to great fanfare across the nation. These popular stamps depict the famous poses of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Stargell, and Larry Doby. We already took a look at the different stamps on the day of the release, so let’s take a closer look at player statistics during their careers.

Each player contributed immensely to the sport and will forever be a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Stats explained:

AB = at bat - the number of times a player steps up to the plate.
AVG = batting average – a player’s success rate when at bat, or hits (H) divided by at bats (AB).
G = games - the number of games a player participated in.
H = hits - the number of times a player hits a ball.
HR = home run - the number of times a player touches all four bases in a single hit.
OBP = on base percentage - frequency at which player reaches base.
OPS = on base plus slugging - on base percentage plus slugging average.
R = runs scored - the number of times a player crossed home plate.
RBI = run batted in - a hit that directly results in a run being scored.
SLG = slugging average - total bases (TB) reached from a hit divided by at bat (AB).
TB = total bases - the number of bases a player touches.

Who is your favorite baseball player of all time?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Major League Baseball All-Stars

Today, the Postal Service salutes Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Willie Stargell, and Ted Williams. Each of these National Baseball Hall of Famers was a perennial All-Star selection and left an indelible impression on the game.

Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) led the New York Yankees to ten pennants and nine World Series titles. Many consider him the greatest all-around player of his time.

Ted Williams (1918-2002) of the Boston Red Sox was the last Major League player to bat over .400 for a single season (1941). During his stellar career, he won six American League batting titles and four home run titles. Today, “the Kid” is regarded as one of the all-time greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history.

Larry Doby (1923-2003) was the first African American to play in the American League, joining the Cleveland Indians shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. He faced prejudice with dignity and courage.

Willie Stargell (1940-2001) powered the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, a multicultural team known as “The Family,” to a World Series title. He is also remembered for promoting harmony between players from different backgrounds.

The Major League Baseball All-Stars stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In With the Mail, Out With Everything Else

Many things within the Postal Service have changed recently to adjust to fluctuating demands. While these modifications will continue to take place in the foreseeable future, one area of the business that has seen little alteration in the recent past is up for a fresh, new look.

The Postal Service recently announced a modification to the appearance of flat tubs. Soon, we will see widespread use of the new design that includes a telephone number to report tubs as lost or stolen.

The Postal Service anticipates spending approximately $120 million this year to replace mail transport equipment (MTE) that disappears from circulation. During difficult economic times, every dollar counts, and organizations look for whatever way they can reduce unnecessary expenditures. Missing and stolen equipment represents a portion of that unnecessary category, and it’s something that we have the power to control.

The next time you see a flat tub being used as a planter, junk receptacle, or makeshift sledding device, call the number on its side to return it to its true purpose in life. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kaizen for the Future

Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. It means constantly looking for small ways to improve a business, implementing changes, testing the results, and then either adopting the change or moving on. The Postal Service is currently going through its own Kaizen. It’s looking for ways to improve the business process by implementing changes that can add up to big results.

Ideas for changes can come from any member of an organization. They can come from any craft, pay scale, or tour. They can occur while placing a letter in a mailbox, running automated equipment, or replacing a belt on a machine. Everyone can contribute to change, and it only takes one idea to help an organization in a big way.

Suggesting a new way to recycle at a facility, a better way to run mail on a machine, or a more efficient route for mail flow are just a few examples of how change can apply to almost any segment of the business. Ideas can occur at any time and any place. No suggestion of change is insignificant, and any idea has the potential to improve the business.

The next time an idea for positive change crosses your mind, tell someone about it here or here. It could be a ticket to the next opportunity for Kaizen.

What small improvement for the Postal Service would you like to see implemented?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Free Stuff

Did someone say free? Free stuff is something that almost everyone can enjoy receiving. From winning a sweepstakes to trinkets picked up at a trade show, people have been enjoying free stuff wherever and whenever they’re offered. When searching for that next free item, why not try usps.com?

Now available on usps.com is a section dedicated to free samples. The Postal Service is offering the opportunity to connect customers with free product samples from top brands and have them delivered to their door. Just go to usps.com, click on Manage Your Mail, and select Learn About Free Product Samples to get started.

In addition to free samples, you’ll also find coupons, contests, and discounts on different products and services. Take a look at the site today and see if it has something that’s right for you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Smile – It’s Friday the 13th

This day is usually synonymous with bad luck and misfortune. Rather than believing the myth, let’s look at the opportunity to spread a little cheer and happiness instead – the postal way.

One of the first mentions of Friday the 13th was in a biography of the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini in 1869 by Henry Sutherland Edwards. In it, Edwards states, “he (Roussini) regarded Friday as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.”

While there is no direct correlation to this particular day as being the cause of bad luck, many have sought to capitalize on the idea, including Hollywood in its popular Friday the 13th movie series.

In order to dispel the myth of Friday the 13th as an unlucky day, let today be known as Smile Day instead. What better way to create a smile than by sending one to somebody through the mail. Here are a few opportunities to create that smile and perhaps even a little good luck in the process:

What other ways can you share a smile on Friday the 13th?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Real Fake

Many people are tightening their belts these days to adjust for challenging financial times. While the landscape of job quantity and availability will continue to change, one approach to employment twists artistic talent into an illegal craft.

Scammers can appear anywhere at any time, and there’s no shortage of schemes they’ll weave to take what someone has no matter who they are or what resources they have. Scammers want money, and they’ve become increasingly skilled in their craft to make fake financial instruments look real. The best way to stop them is to become armed with information.

Here are a few ways to identify real Postal Service money orders from fake ones:

-      When held to the light, a watermark of Benjamin Franklin is repeated from top to bottom on the left side.
-      When held to the light, a dark line (security thread) runs from top to bottom with the word “USPS” repeated.
-        There should be no discoloration around the dollar amounts, which might indicate the amounts were changed.

If anyone approaches you with a Postal Money order that you suspect may not be genuine, call the U.S. Postal Service Money Order Verification System at 866-459-7822 to verify its authenticity.

Has anyone ever given you a fake financial instrument before?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your Postal Podcast Turns 50

The latest release of Your Postal Podcast, available today, marks the 50th edition of the popular podcast. What better way to celebrate that milestone than by covering one of America’s favorite past times – baseball.

You’ll get to hear from the National Baseball Hall of Fame president on the soon to be released baseball stamp collection featuring Willie Stargell, Larry Doby, Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio. You’ll also hear about the travels of two photographers who embarked on a cross-country tour of all 50 states, creating their own picture postcards to chronicle and fund their expedition.

You can listen to both topics, plus a roundup on the latest postal news, by going to http://yourpostalpodcast.com.

What topics would you like to hear in future editions of the podcast?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Investing in History II

Yesterday, we went over a possible advantage of stamp collecting over other forms of investing. Today we’ll extend that coverage and go over other reasons why stamp collecting might be an interesting addition to an investment portfolio.

When a first class forever stamp is purchased, the value will not decrease. It can be used to mail a letter from one end of the county to the other for as long as the Postal Service exists. 

Another benefit to stamp collection is the ability to share the miniature works of art with others. The vibrant colors and rich history of stamps can be enjoyed with children, friends and family. They can be traded with other stamp collectors, given as gifts, or kept as family heirlooms. Stamps can be framed and mounted on the wall, inserted into albums for portability, or placed on an envelope and mailed to Aunt Matilda in Maryland for her birthday.

The next time anyone is looking for an opportunity to invest in the future while looking to have a little fun in the process, suggest stamp collecting. It’s an affordable way to own a piece of history, mail an envelope, and perhaps even create a little value in the process. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Investing in History I

There are many ways to save and invest for the future. Buying stocks, bonds, precious metals, collectable works of art, and classic automobiles have the potential to lead to healthy returns in the future. The major catch is that some of these investment choices cost so much that it makes them unaffordable. The remaining options are usually dull and offer limited to no opportunity for enjoyment. When was the last time anyone showed off their bond collection to their kids?

One of the more interesting opportunities to invest in the future and have a little fun in the process is stamp collecting. These small pieces of paper have immediate value when purchased and they are affordable with most budgets. The cost of a first class stamp is only 45 cents and there are no trading fees involved in the purchase. Compare the purchase of a single stamp to a single share of stock.

Buy one stamp at a Post Office and the cost is 45 cents. Buy a single share of stock and the cost, in general, can be as little as a few cents to as much as several hundred dollars. Add a commission of $5 to $15 to the price of the stock every time more shares are purchased and it could be years before the value of the stock rises to what was paid for it.

We’ll go over a few more advantages of stamp collecting tomorrow. Until then, see if you can find a stamp that interests you on http://www.usps.com.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Is the TSP for Me?

Saving money for retirement is important to ensure a comfortable living after our working years are behind us. A return on that money makes retirement all the more enjoyable. One of the best ways to enjoy both options is to invest in an employer sponsored investment account. For Postal Service employees, that means investing in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

The TSP is a sound investment vehicle that allows federal employees to invest pre or post tax dollars into a collection of core investment options:

-         G fund – short-term U.S. treasuries
-         F fund – government and corporate bonds
-         C fund – medium and large sized U.S. companies
-         S fund – small and medium sized U.S. companies
-         I fund – international stocks
-         L funds – a combination of the previous five funds tailored to meet an individuals anticipated retirement date

Individuals can invest up to 100 percent of their account balance in one or any combination of these investment options.

In future posts, we’ll go over these investment options in more detail and describe how the overall plan works. For now, log on to www.tsp.gov to learn more on your own and see how the plan can work for you.

Do you invest in the TSP? Comment here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Do You Do in Your Spare Time?

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.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Comment here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The POW-MIA Flag

The POW-MIA flag is a symbol of our nation’s commitment to discovering the fate, to the fullest extent possible, of American’s who are being held as prisoner, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for. U.S. Public Law 101-355, passed by the 101st Congress on August 10, 1990, designates the following days in which the POW-MIA flag is to be displayed:

- Armed Forces Day: Third Saturday in May.
- Memorial Day: Last Monday in May.
- Flag Day: June 14.
- Independence Day: July 4.
- National POW-MIA Recognition Day: Third Friday in September.
- Veterans Day: November 11.

When celebrating Independence Day tomorrow, be sure to display the POW-MIA flag to honor those still unaccounted for.

Click here to leave a comment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Revolutionary Idea

The American author Henry James once wrote, “Ideas are, in truth, force.” This was the belief on which the Post Office was originally founded.

In 1767, William Goddard formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to create a newspaper called the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The paper, sympathetic to the revolution, was not well received by the British and they ultimately refused to deliver out-of-town newspapers and information to Goddard or accept the Chronicle in the mail for delivery through the Crown Post. Without a fighting chance to succeed, the Chronicle was driven out of business in February, 1774.

In retaliation to the discriminatory decision by the Crown Post, Goddard developed plans to create an American postal system. This new system would allow for free and open communication without governmental interference.

The proposal was submitted for congressional approval in October, 1774. The following summer, Congress approved the plan and the Constitutional Post was born. Soon after its creation in 1775, Americans abandoned mail delivery through the Crown Post in favor of the independent Constitutional Post. On Christmas day of that same year, the Crown Post was permanently closed for business in America.

Click here to comment.