• on Jan 28th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments

    With a large network of facilities and post offices, and yet mail volumes in decline, the U.S. Postal Service finds itself with a good deal of unused capacity. The dynamics over closing and consolidating facilities has raised the question of whether there are other uses for them. Further, the Postal Service could still own the facilities even after it closes or consolidates operations. Rather than sit empty, could the Postal Service use some of that capacity in non-traditional ways to generate additional revenue? One idea, if the law allowed, would be for the Postal Service to provide self-storage services at unused processing facilities. It could also provide safe-deposit boxes at under-used post offices. Self-storage allows users to rent storage space in the form of rooms, lockers or containers on a monthly or annual basis. Safety deposit boxes might be a miniaturized version of self-storage units, where the user could store especially valuable goods or papers in a secure and fire-safe box. These types of services would require little additional overhead or labor hours, although additional security personnel might be needed. Current law limits the Postal Service’s ability to offer services that are considered non-postal and in the past, some industries have resisted Postal Service’s efforts to enter into new business opportunities. However, as the Postal Service faces ongoing financial challenges and continued resistance to consolidation plans, is it time to consider new ways to use its infrastructure? Should the Postal Service be allowed to use its facilities to offer non-traditional services, like self-storage units and safety-deposit boxes? What offerings would you like to see? Do we need to rethink the infrastructure or simply allow the Postal Service to consolidate to match resources to workload?

  • on Jan 21st, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 4 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service can play unique and positive roles in the expansion of the peer-to-peer marketplace, as suggested in a new OIG white paper, Peer-to-Peer Commerce and the Role of the Postal Service. American consumers are familiar with peer-to-peer (P2P) digital commerce and increasingly comfortable buying and selling that way. Millions of people place offerings and shop on eBay, Craigslist, etsy, and other sites every day. In recent years, the P2P segment has grown beyond these traditional product sites and now includes services from which users can rent a vacation room in someone’s house, lend or borrow a private car, or even hire someone locally for small jobs, such as baking cookies for a child’s classroom party or assembling modular furniture. However, there are a number of problems in current P2P commerce that may prevent wider adoption by the American public. Market participants face the challenges of balancing convenience with privacy and the potential for economic or physical harm. Some of these issues can be addressed through enhanced digital identity and authentication services, but there are other opportunities, which the paper presents. The paper describes P2P digital commerce and challenges and gaps in the current marketplace, including several types of fraud and threats to personal property and physical safety. It then identifies Postal Service products and services that exist today or might be developed in the future to facilitate market expansion. Current postal ancillary and special services, both physical and digital, are well suited to the P2P market. These include insurance, Registered Mail, Certified Mail, Collect on Delivery (COD), Track and Trace, Return Receipt and Return Receipt for Merchandise, Restricted Delivery, and other services. Please share your comments on this concept as well as observations on your own P2P experiences, if any, below. Do you believe a trusted intermediary such as the Postal Service could help in this segment? Please give us your comments below:

  • on Jan 14th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 6 comments

    Even with smartphones, high-speed Internet, and other modern technologies, Americans spend an inordinate amount of time running errands. Interacting and conducting business with our government is no exception. It can be time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be great to use the local Post Office as a one-stop center for doing business with government? Or, what if the U.S. Postal Service had a digital platform to access government services or information online? Last week, the OIG released a white paper called "e-Government and the Postal Service — A Conduit to Help Government Meet Citizens’ Needs.” The paper identifies opportunities for the Postal Service to partner with other agencies to better connect with citizens, improve services, cut costs, and reduce duplicative and wasteful services. By providing e-government services, the Postal Service could help the government save money. There has never been a better time to do more with less. Through the Postal Service, individuals could send secure messages to government agencies, convert physical documents to digital records and send them instantly, apply and pay for permits and licenses, and access other crucial services. The Postal Service could also verify a person’s identity for sensitive or complex transactions. In addition, the Postal Service could lease unused Post Office window space to other agencies, so citizens could have a convenient access point for face-to-face services across the government. Business owners could use the Postal Service to look up information on regulations and laws affecting them, learn about federal small business loan opportunities, file information with the IRS and other relevant agencies, and submit all necessary forms and documentation through the Postal Service’s secure messaging and identity authentication services. Or, these things could be done in one visit to the Post Office, rather than separate stops to numerous agencies. Do you think the Postal Service could serve as a one-stop shop for government services?

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