Postal Service, UPS partner on retail return service

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Shipping company UPS has launched a return service that allows consumers to drop packages at US Postal Service locations or personal mailboxes, as well as other locations.

The service, called “UPS Returns Flexible Access,” gives customers of participating retailers a sticker to attach to parcels for return from their homes or other locations. The program enables consumers to use more than 150 million access points to return packages, including US Post Offices, postal collection boxes, UPS Store locations, or third-party retailers, such as Office Depot.

Office Depot and the US Postal Service announced a partnership August 16 to make USPS shipping products available from more than 1,000 US Office Depot stores.

UPS' participating customers for the initiative include multichannel retailers, healthcare companies and technology businesses, said Linda Shepherd West, director of new product development at UPS. She declined to name specific participating multichannel retailers, citing confidentiality agreements, other than online and catalog retailer BuySeasons.

“It makes it much easier for those residential or small business returners to get that package back through the system,” said Shepherd West, adding that the service is expected to help consumers and small businesses locate where UPS drivers don't visit regularly.

After a return package is moved to a Postal Service location for dispatch to UPS, a company driver transports it to the retailer through the UPS ground network, according to the company.

UPS has tested the program since February 2009 before launching it fully last month, said Shepherd West.

Similarly, FedEx and the US Postal Service partnered last year to allow FedEx customers to return packages to retailers during the 2009 holiday season via the USPS' Parcel Return Service.

Dave Lewin, PR representative for the USPS, said the Postal Service sees the program as “an opportunity for delivery companies, and for the e-commerce industry in general.”

“The vendors are looking for smart and effective solutions to get merchandise returned to them quickly and efficiently,” he said, adding that the program has an environmental benefit as well because it requires fewer UPS drivers to pick up returns. The program will run through November, he said.

The USPS also partners with FedEx on the “FedEx SmartPost Returns” program for packages being sent back to companies.

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