If you want to expand your business by partnering with someone to sell your products or services in another location, you’d want that person to represent you appropriately and abide by your practices, right? In short, you’d want your partner to uphold your brand.
The U.S. Postal Service isn’t any different. Through its Approved Shipper Program (ASP), the Postal Service has partnered with commercial businesses like Office Depot and Staples to offer USPS mailing products and services in their stores. As a result, you can buy postage and send letters and packages at more than 7,800 places around the country in addition to the nation’s 31,000-plus post offices.
Some of the significant benefits the ASP has provided to consumers include shorter wait times along with more convenient hours and locations.
But how well are approved shippers representing or upholding the Postal Service’s brand? Our auditors recently looked at two specific areas – whether approved shippers charge the correct postage when accepting Postal Service mail, and if the level of their customer service is acceptable.
Not always, we found.
For instance, approved shippers must charge at least the USPS rate for packages, but we found at 34 of 90 locations tested, clerks incorrectly charged lower postage for flat rate boxes.
Also, the ASP requires approved shippers to ask security questions when accepting mail, but at 90 of 125 locations visited, clerks were willing to accept packages with hazardous materials, such as cologne, lighters, and aerosol sprays.
And at eight of nine locations evaluated for certified mail services, clerks did not complete the required certified mail form correctly, and four of the nine did not enter the tracking number in their system.
In our new report, we made several recommendations, notably that Postal Service management update its approved shipper license agreements to include provisions for collecting lost revenue and also test ASP clerks’ knowledge of Postal Service products and services as well as USPS requirements for mailing hazardous materials.
Have you sent or shipped anything with the Postal Service through one of its approved shippers? What could the Postal Service do to improve performance by approved shippers?