September 11, 2017 (RARC-WP-17-012)

  • Customers visited post offices an estimated 2.7 billion times in fiscal year (FY) 2016, though most visits did not include a transaction. Instead, customers checked their PO boxes, picked up free shipping materials, or put letters in the collection slot.
  • Post office foot traffic varies widely. The 450 largest locations have on average about as much foot traffic as Best Buy stores, while the next 7,000 largest have about as much traffic as CVS locations.
  • An OIG survey shows that Millennials visit post offices more often than older generations, but for different purposes.
  • Following on the footsteps of the retail sector, USPS could use proven foot traffic measurement solutions to make better retail decisions and improve customer services and sales.

How many people visit the more than 30,000 post offices each year? The U.S. Postal Service officially lists 877 million customer visits in FY 2016, though this is based only on the number of transactions. In reality, most visits do not include a transaction. Instead, customers may check a PO Box, pick up shipping materials, or deposit a letter in the slot. These actions are key elements of the Postal Service’s value chain, and omitting them dramatically underestimates customers’ use of post offices. A more complete foot traffic estimate could help USPS better manage its retail network for the benefit of the American people.

To provide that estimate, the OIG used a variety of proven methods to measure foot traffic, which we defined as any time a person goes inside a USPS-run post office. The result: about 2.7 billion customer visits in FY 2016 — roughly triple the Postal Service’s official statistic.

The OIG also segmented post offices by size, categorizing them into Mega, Large, Small/Medium, and Micro locations. This could help USPS assess the viability of potential retail initiatives that may only make sense at locations with sufficient foot traffic.

The OIG also used a nationally-representative sample survey to gain insights on how different groups use post offices. In addition, we examined how other retailers use foot traffic information to help improve customer service and boost sales. The Postal Service could use such data to monitor and adapt to the changing mix of customers and activities at post offices, enabling it to better service the American people.

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  • anon

    No value added in making customers come to the post office to check their mail because USPS is too lazy to deliver mail - their very core service. You are losing business by not delivering the mail. You are also losing business by not having any legitimate dispute resolution process for customers. Not delivering the mail to force people to come to the post office, to generate PO box fees is close to extortion. You sell stamps. Those stamps are mini contracts. That you are not honoring by not delivering the mail. No value added, but a drain on the American people. Whoever made the decision to stop delivering the mail was very short sighted. Roll up your sleeves, and deliver the gd mail, you lazy....

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    Omitting delivery service is negative value added service. Although it does increase foot traffic to post offices, to check PO boxes. This has a very negative effect overall. Especially older generation workers, not ignorant millennials. Since you don't deliver to my address out of pure laziness, I won't use any of your services. I don't understand why the thinkers at the post office don't understand this. Not doing the core service of delivering mail is disaster. If the post office truly wants to better serve the American people, they would get back to work and deliver the mail. Homeless in highschool, combat to afford my home, USPS can't deliver the mail 3 blocks from the post office. Disabled veteran can't get his mail. Shameful.

    Sep 13, 2017

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Contributors

  • Bryant Switzky, Jean-Philippe Ducasse, and Charles Crum contributed to this report.

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