Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Hello all, Benny here. Today is Halloween, the day when all the ghouls and goblins come out to party with jack-o-lanterns and candy treats.

Back when I was a kid, I remember reading about children in other parts of the world dressing up and going door to door to collect food and coins. Though I never put on a costume of my own, I was fascinated by the idea of becoming someone else for a brief period of time. That could have been the reason why I became so enthralled with writing. Back then though, as interesting as Halloween sounded, I never imagined that it would grow into the popular festival it is today.

Like many people out there, I enjoy giving out candy to boys and girls dressed as superheroes, celebrities and cartoon characters. Can you imagine my surprise when I actually saw someone dressed as me once? That was a real hoot!

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a small timeline on its history. There really is a fascinating story behind this day, and you should learn more about it when you get the chance.

As for me, I need to pick up a few goodies for the kids coming over tonight. I don’t want them to leave empty handed. Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scaring Up a Decorative Halloween

Dressing up for Halloween to celebrate this spooky time of year is nothing out of the ordinary. For one particular Post Office in Wampum, PA, a certain Halloween costume is anything but ordinary.

The town of Wampum introduced a competition this year for businesses to dress up a scarecrow for Halloween. Many businesses such as convenience stores, diners, and insurance offices participated in the event. Also stepping up to the creative plate was the local Post Office.

For its submission, the Wampum Post Office dressed up a scarecrow in a ‘Simpler way to ship” t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans poised on top of a stuffed horse carrying a small mail satchel. The display, entitled “The Pony Express,” won top honors in the competition.

The event was successful enough this year to spark conversation about expanding it next year to include residents of the community.

What other creative Halloween displays have you seen at a Post Office? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Supporting the Fight Against Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month, bringing focused attention to the mission of finding a cure for this global disease. The Postal Service supports this mission by continuing to offer the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp.

Since its introduction on July 29, 1998, the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp has raised more than $75 million. The proceeds are distributed between the National Institutes for Health and the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense in support of breast cancer research.

For more information on breast cancer, go to:

To purchase a Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp, go to:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Keeping it Casual

Uniforms and business attire are the norm for many people in offices around the country. They keep the look and feel of the organization professional in the eyes of the public and can prevent potentially disruptive logos or slogans from giving others unwanted messages. One popular exception to standard dress codes for some has been casual Fridays.

Casual Fridays started its long tradition in Hawaii in the 1940’s when the local government suggested it as a way to keep employees cool during the summer months. It gained interest in the years following until it skyrocketed in popularity in the 1970’s. Ever since then, businesses have used casual Fridays as a way to boost employee morale and reward good performance.

Dressing down on Fridays does have limitations. Tank tops and cut offs are not generally accepted casual attire. Neither are flip flops or t-shirts with suggestive remarks. Jeans and a comfortable, tasteful shirt are usually the norm. Some casual days have specific themes such as wearing Hawaiian shirts, athletic jerseys, or t-shirts with funny sayings. Themes can give casual days special meaning to those in a particular office, and perhaps even reduce absenteeism as employees look forward to dressing in a particular outfit at work.

If you were able to pick one theme for a casual day at work, what would it be? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Faxing Away Identity

The concept of fax machines has been around since the mid-19th century. While they existed in one form or another through the mid-20th century, they weren’t widely adopted until the 1970’s. In recent years, the graphical devices have taken on another role – that of borrowing your identity for nefarious purposes.

Letters have appeared in the trays of office fax machines that vaguely describe a mutually beneficial business proposal. The text identifies a situation where the offspring of a very wealthy leader requires help to gain access to an extremely large inheritance. The reader is urged to provide personal information so remove the money can be routed through them in order for the offspring to gain access to the cash. The money would then be shared by both parties.

The only thing shared between the target of this scam and the con artist is a one way ticket to trouble. The perpetrators of this scam will take the identities they acquire and use them to their own financial benefit. Victims will spend countless hours afterward gluing together the pieces of their good names. Don’t let this happen to you.

As with all scams, awareness is the key to prevention. Some of the questions asked in this particular scam include:

-         Name(s) in full
-         Residential address
-         Home number
-         Mobile number
-         E-mail address
-         Marital status
-         Date of birth
-         Name of employer
-         Position held

A scammer can cause a lot of harm with this information, so keep it guarded at all times.

What other facsimile scams have you received?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Future of DVDs in a Digital World

Netflix is a widely known entertainment distribution company that offers DVD and streaming content to its subscribers. As tablet PCs, fast Internet access on cell phones, and Smart TVs continue to work their way into more homes across America, does DVD distribution have a place in the modern world? Let’s take a look at Netflix’s most recent financial report to find out.

Content is the bread and butter of Netflix’s core value. To understand the importance of DVD content in their lineup, let’s peek into the valuation of its media assets.

The value of its total content library consisted of $3,434 million streaming assets vs. $552 million DVD assets as of June 30, 2012. Netflix has made a dramatic shift toward more streaming content since the end of 2011 when the value of streaming content consisted of $2,552 million and DVD content was $599 million. That’s an increase of nearly 35 percent in streaming content and a drop of 9 percent in DVD content in the first half of this year.

Total subscriptions for Netflix services as of June 30, 2012, consisted of 23.9 million for streaming and 9.2 million for DVD.

Netflix has heavily emphasized the expansion of its streaming business segment. As a result, its subscriber base has shifted in a way that reflects its efforts. As of the fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2012, its streaming subscriber base has increased by 528,000 while its DVD subscriber base has decreased by 840,000. The trend of Netflix’s subscribers is clearly moving more toward its streaming content and away from hardcopy DVDs.

DVDs are far from extinct, however, as they still generate healthy revenues for the company. Streaming revenue consisted of $532 million for the three months ending June 30, 2012, while DVD revenue consisted of $291 million.

In addition to expanding its streaming service domestically, Netflix has also expanded its digital content to service other parts of the world including Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, the UK and Ireland. It has no visible plans to introduce DVD distribution to these areas.

What do you think about DVD distribution in the modern movie market?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every Door Direct Mail Helps Author Find New Readers

“An answer to my prayers,” said Carole Scott (right)
about Every Door Direct Mail.

It’s a great postal story that bears retelling – and no, it’s not fiction.

Author Carole Scott wrote a book, “Bears for Young and Curious Minds” that demystifies one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures.

Despite the positive reviews about the text and illustrations, she was having a hard time marketing the books from her small town of Crawford, CO.

Office-in-Charge Marvel Simineo had a simple suggestion for the author–  sponsor a book signing and promote it with Every Door Direct Mail.

Simineo explained to the customer how the process would work – create a mailpiece and then sent them to customers in the local communities for as little as 14.5 cents each.

Using the online tool, Simineo showed the customer the rural routes and PO Box counts for the local office and surrounding areas.

In just a couple of weeks, the customer brought in a mailing of 810 pieces promoting the signing at the local library.

“This is an answer to my prayers,” said Scott. “I needed an inexpensive way to get the word out about my book.”

The signing was a success, with about 100 books sold and a steady stream of potential readers waving their Every Door Direct Mail flyer as they walked into the door.

"This effort by Marvel just illustrates a boundless magnitude of creativity," said Acting Business Development Specialist Diane Brown, who helped facilitate the mailing. "We can express that to business owners for their marketing needs when promoting Every Door Direct Mail”.

Does your business or a postal customer have a great idea? Contact your local USPS Business Development Specialist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Service Like No Other

Retrieving mail from a mailbox is a routine many people enjoy each day. The box is opened with curiosity, its contents extracted, and the mail is riffled through it to see what’s interesting and important. The Postal Service offers its customers a close, personal relationship with correspondence from around the country. That contact presents a unique connection between people that digital alternatives cannot provide.

Mail is tangible. It’s something that can be held in a pair of hands, felt with eager fingers, and connected with using more senses than any digital media can offer. It doesn't get blocked in an e-mail filter or ignored as a banner ad on a webpage. Information from mail cannot be stolen by hackers half way around the globe or sold by anonymous Internet identity thieves looking to make a quick buck on someone's good name.

The next time someone suggests the Postal Service is no longer an important part of modern day America, remind them of the value it still offers. Be sure to let them know that mail is an important part of the communication flow in this country and that it's here to stay. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The 2012 Combined Federal Campaign

It’s time for the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season. This is the only opportunity for charitable organizations to solicit federal employees for donations in the workplace.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the CFC program. Since its inception, the campaign has received more than $7 billion in employee donations to thousands of charities across the world.

Last year, federal employees donated $272.7 million to the many charitable programs participating in the campaign. The deadline to submit contribution forms is December 15, 2012.

Do you think the program should be expanded to include participation by other groups such as state and local government employees?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Graduating with the Postal Service

Graduating from college is a major accomplishment in life. It combines detailed knowledge with unbridled potential to create a new path for success. Receiving that coveted diploma from a letter carrier makes the moment even more special.

For Marian Barry of Mesa, AZ, receiving her master’s degree from Grand Canyon University was one of the most special days in her life. When she finally received that coveted document in the mail after all of her hard work, she asked her letter carrier to present it to her. Before accepting the degree, Marian walked quickly back to her home and returned shortly thereafter wearing her cap and gown. Her mother snapped a photo of the event to record the cherished moment.

Marian still shows that photograph to everyone she knows, and her letter carrier is happy to have delivered such a valuable and rewarding experience to her customer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Military Mail

The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) is an extension of the United States Postal Service. Its primary mission is to provide the same postal services available stateside to service members around the world. Bringing people from around the world together through the mail is no easy task. It requires the coordination of all branches of the military, USPS, and commercial carriers to ensure that our service men and women can stay in touch with loved ones wherever they might be.

Each branch of the military previously had its own independent mail system. Segregated mail service changed in 1980 when the Department of Defense chose the Secretary of the Army to manage the mail of all military members. That’s when the MPSA was created to handle this function. The MPSA is required to follow the rules and regulations of the USPS as well as all federal and foreign laws when handling military mail through the more than 85 countries it serves.

When someone sends a service member in a foreign country mail, it’s called Prograde Mail. Such services include Express Mail Military Service, First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Military Ordinary Mail parcels, Parcel Airlift Mail, Space-Available Mail, surface, second-class, third-class, and fourth class mail.

When someone receives mail from a service member in a foreign country, the mail is called Retrograde Mail. This includes Express Mail Military Service, Priority / First-Class Mail, Parcel Airlift Mail, Space-Available Mail, and Military Ordinary Mail parcels.  

Many of the special services the USPS offers are also available to military members with the exception of Signature Confirmation and Collect on Delivery. Delivery times can vary substantially from location to location. A First-Class letter sent to Germany can take anywhere from seven to nine days to arrive. That same letter would take 11 to 13 days to arrive in Iraq.

Mail sent to service members is not censored; though there are restrictions on what they can contain depending on the area of deployment such as narcotics, alcohol, and pork. Always be sure to check what is appropriate for the country of delivery before sending an item in the mail to a service member.

What interesting items have you sent to a member of the military stationed overseas?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scammers Use E-mail to Target Businesses

Scammers are looking to feed their voracious appetites for ill-gotten gains by sending out e-mails asking for confirmation of certain financial account information – and they aren’t limiting their approach to just personal accounts.

Unscrupulous bandits of today are hoping that business employees with access to corporate financial accounts are lax in their security precautions. They think that employees of businesses are more likely to be forthcoming in sharing account information because they feel safe behind the corporate shield. Are they right?

Don’t give scammers the chance to find out. Whenever an unsolicited e-mail finds its way into your inbox asking for ANY kind of financial information, call your financial institution directly to find out if the request is genuine. Don’t use any contact information provided in the e-mail. Either use information already in your possession to make the call or look for contact information on the company website.

Protecting personal and business account information is increasingly important in a world with a growing number of cyber crime thieves fishing for free cash. Be sure to slam the door on their illegal pursuits by depriving them of their reason for staying in business.

What other measures do you think people can take to limit unauthorized access to account information?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Falling for Postage

Did you know you can order custom postage through the Postal Service? Available now on is the fall line-up of custom postage stamps designed by Each sheet of 20 stamps has a fall-themed image to imbue postcards and envelopes with the rich colors of autumn.

Included in the collection are pumpkins, leaves, fruits of autumn, Thanksgiving and Halloween themes, candy corn and more. Each sheet of $.45 stamps ships in one business day and can spruce up any mailing with the vibrant colors of the changing season.

What images have you selected for custom postage?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saving Money and the Environment

This month is National Energy Action Month, and the Postal Service is continuing to champion the cause of going green. Using low and no cost methods to reduce energy has saved USPS $22 million alone in 2011 through 1,000 energy reduction projects. It has also reduced energy use by more than 25 percent since 2003.

Working towards a more environmentally friendly world begins on the local level. Switching off lights when not in use, shutting down computers when away for extended periods of time, and using more energy efficient light bulbs are just a few ways to reduce costs without breaking the bank. Many opportunities to reduce energy consumption come at the inexpensive price of simply being aware of how to use resources more efficiently.

The Postal Service has specific goals to help reduce costs and improve efficiency even further including:

  • Reduction of facility energy use by 30 percent by 2015,
  • Reduction of water usage by 10 percent by 2015,
  • Diversion of 50 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2015, and
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Everyone plays an important role in reducing costs and protecting the environment. The Postal Service will continue to encourage employees to find even more ways to help make its environmental footprint even smaller. 

What other green suggestions do you have for reducing energy use and landfill waste?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Recycle Old Electronics and Possibly Make Money Doing It

Recycling old electronics is nothing new. Many companies have offered recycling services for old cell phones, fax machines, desktop computers and other electronics for many years. What is new is the increase in cash return offered for those electronics – and a strong partnership with the USPS.

The Postal Service has partnered with MaxBack, an electronics recycler, to offer an easy way for customers to recycle their small, used devices. Interested individuals can go to to access the USPS recycle website. Once there, customers can find their way to the MaxBack website, locate a particular item from a list of desirable electronics, and then determine how much the device is worth. While not all electronics are eligible for cash payment, customers can still send in their devices for environmentally friendly recycling. The program offers free Priority Mail shipping to MaxBack for recycled devices.

Prior to sending electronic devices to MaxBack, customers should be aware of the following restrictions and requirements:

- The number of electronics sent to MaxBack are limited to two shipments per calendar month containing no more than five devices per shipment.
- Electronic Service Numbers (ESN), an individual item code attached to each device, must be valid. A device can acquire a bad ESN if it was lost or stolen, or if the account attached to the phone has an unpaid balance. An ESN must be in good standing before a device can be accepted.
- Devices should have any lock codes removed prior to shipment.

Do you think the Postal Service could expand the program to include larger electronic devices in the future?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Jamie Blackburn, was born with inner ear nerve damage, and has a severe to profound hearing loss. She received her first pair of hearing aids at only 10 months of age and learned at three years of age to lip-read. Jamie states that the hearing loss “…does not limit me in pursuing the things I enjoy in life. I have always told myself I could do what any hearing able person could do.” She indicated that she does not want to be defined by her hearing impairment.

After working in the Loa Post Office as a Post Master Leave-Replacement for six years, Jamie was appointed to the position of Officer-in-Charge at the Post Office in Bicknell (Her home is also in Bicknell, where she resides with her husband and children). At work Jamie uses a streamer which connects her hearing aids to the telephone for more clarity in conversations and she lip-reads to understand hearing customers. She said that she loves her work at the Postal Service and has gained a great deal of confidence and enjoyment from interacting with and serving the public.

Mary Ellett, Officer-in-Charge at Loa, indicated that Jamie “has many wonderful qualities” and that she “displays courage in the fact that she boldly goes forward and doesn't shy away from challenges”. She described Jamie as an employee who defuses problems in a calm and caring way and that “…all of the customers appreciate her hard work.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

World Post Day

In 1969, the Universal Postal Union established October 9 as World Post Day. On this day, postal organizations are encouraged to engage in activities and promotions to increase awareness of the role the Postal Service plays in the lives of the world’s population and businesses.

World Post Day is considered to be a working holiday by more than 150 countries across the globe. It’s an opportunity for postal organizations to teach citizens the valuable and integral relationship mail still has with the citizens of the world, promote new products and services, and conduct public tours of postal facilities to show how Post Offices work their delivery magic.

The Universal Postal Union itself was established in 1874 to facilitate the worldwide flow of mail. It became an agency of the United Nations in 1948 and continues to promote the importance of mail in an increasingly digital world.

Do you think public awareness of World Post Day is a valuable tool in promoting the Postal Service?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Find Your Inner Philatelic

Hello all, Benny here. Did you know that October is National Stamp Collecting Month? It’s a great opportunity for me to check out my own personal collection to see what I’m missing, and you can too.

One of my recent purchases is the USS Constitution stamp pane. I love the classic frigate design. Back in my day, I traveled in these from time to time, and seeing this ship on a stamp brings back some great memories. You can get your own collectible pane and souvenir envelope here.

There are also a few other interesting items that caught my eye when I was perusing such as The 2012 Stamp Yearbook and the Play Ball! softbound book. The yearbook makes collecting all 2012 stamps easy and includes lots of little extras that really pull someone into the stamp collecting experience. I also enjoyed the Play Ball! book. It’s a good way to learn more about the legends that made baseball such a fun sport to enjoy.

There are plenty of other options on the USPS website to enhance the stamp collecting experience, but I’ll let you find out those for yourself. Be sure to stop back here after you check out the postal store to let me know what you find.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banking Fees Waived…with Conditions

Banking fees are on the rise as financial companies look for ways to gain additional revenue in a struggling economy. One such charge is a monthly account maintenance fee for individual checking accounts. While this fee isn’t new, many banks have re-introduced it to increase their cash flow. Signing up for direct deposit is a way to avoid this fee, but what if someone has more than one checking account? This is where paycheck allotments can be a valuable addition to a financial repertoire.

Each bank that charges a maintenance fee usually has a minimum monthly electronic deposit requirement that will qualify an account for free checking. That sum is usually in the $250 to $500 range, but can be greater or lower, depending on the individual bank. If postal employees want to maintain multiple checking accounts at one or more financial institutions, they could log onto PostalEASE and sign up for monthly allotments to distribute their paychecks among different accounts.

If someone wanted to deposit only the minimum amount necessary each month to maintain free checking in a second account, they could divide that requirement by two (two paychecks per month) and set up a bi-weekly allotment to match. If the minimum requirement is $500 per month, then the bi-weekly allotment should be $250.

For more information on allotments, go to

What other ways can you suggest to reduce or eliminate extra fees at a financial institution?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fake Postage Plagues Shanghai

In a tough economy, many people look for ways to cut back on expenses. For an unscrupulous few, those ways include counterfeiting postage stamps. Shanghai Post has had a rash of fake stamps coursing through their system, denying the organization of much needed revenue.

Most of the phony postage involves shipments overseas. To combat this revenue erasing plague, Shanghai Post has installed special equipment in 12 strategically identified offices to spot counterfeit postage. Anyone looking to send items overseas with stamps already affixed to the package prior to arrival at a post office will need to take their item to one of these locations.

Packages with overseas destinations can still be dropped off at other postal facilities so long as postage is purchased on-site.

Do you think counterfeit postage is a major problem in the United States?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Best Alternative Fuel

As gasoline prices continue to stare into the face of $4 per gallon, many companies have started the process of switching to alternatives. Options such as biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane have been used in an attempt to reduce costs and protect the environment. So far, none of these options seem to have taken a dominant role as the next generation power source for our automobiles.

The Postal Service is one the nation’s leaders in exploring alternative fuels. It currently has 44,000 alternative fuel capable vehicles on the road using energy sources such as natural gas, liquid propane, biodiesel, and hydrogen. USPS is also testing options from different companies to develop battery powered alternatives to its LLV fleet.
One of the major obstacles in adopting alternative fuel vehicles, however, is the limited availability of refueling stations.

In most neighborhoods, local refueling stations provide only two options: gasoline or diesel. Limited availability of fuel would make it very difficult for someone looking to power their alternative energy vehicle. While the network of alternative energy stations is currently sparse, it is growing every year. According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, there are approximately 9,915 alternative fuel stations presently available in the United States.

Cost is another factor that could limit the expanded use of some alternative fuels. The following is a breakdown of average fuel prices per gallon and gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) prices for July, 2012, in the United States:

-         Gasoline - $3.52
-         Diesel - $3.75 (3.36 GGE)
-         CNG (natural gas) - $2.05 (price already in GGE)
-         Ethanol - $3.24 ($4.59 GGE)
-         Propane - $2.64 ($3.64 GGE)
-         Biodiesel - $3.83 ($3.50 GGE)

Most alternative fuels provide a different amount of energy per volume compared to gasoline. This difference is accounted for in the gasoline gallon equivalent conversion price. As far as value per dollar, CNG currently offers the best option among those listed on the U.S. Department of Energy website. The catch is that there are only 511 stations across the nation (excluding private stations) that offers CNG as an option.

What alternative fuel options do you think the Postal Service should consider for its fleet?

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Birds-eye View of the Latest Stamp Issue

The latest stamp issue has a perspective rarely seen on a stamp – images of earth’s wonders from a birds-eye view. From this perspective, the rich and vibrant details of common marvels take on a new life rarely seen from ground level.

The natural scenes in this 15 stamp collection were photographed from airplanes and orbital satellites high above the earth. First day of issue postmarks can be obtained through December 2 by affixing the selected stamp on an envelope and placing that envelope inside a larger envelope addressed to: 

Earthscapes Stamps
7600 Ora Glen Drive
Greenbelt, MD 20770-9998

What other locations would you like to see on an aerial-perspective stamp?