USPS Begins Test of Parcel Return Services

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The U.S. Postal Service launched a merchandise returns program tailored to catalogers and online shippers, the agency said yesterday.

Parcel Return Services, begun as a two-year pilot, offers merchants a cost-effective way to retrieve items their customers choose to return, according to the USPS.

The service will let mailers provide customers with a prepaid return label that can be included in shipments, mailed to customers or made available to customers for download via the Internet.

Merchants, or their parcel consolidators, who have been approved as participants for the Parcel Return Services pilot, can choose to pick up returned merchandise at a post office delivery unit or bulk mail center that serves the original customer. By doing so, the USPS incurs less cost in processing and transporting parcels back to the mailer's warehouse. Participants benefit from lower rates.

Customers can place the preprinted label on the package they wish to return; give it to a letter carrier; drop it in a collection box; or bring it to the post office.

Parcel Return Services has new rates available for general merchandise and book returns. The price for parcels picked up at the post office nearest the customer is $2 per parcel. Prices for pieces picked up at bulk mail centers depend on the weight of the piece and the distance traveled. By picking up the parcels at the bulk mail center, merchants can save 24 cents to $1.51 per parcel off existing rates.

Newgistics, a returns management company in Austin, TX, has been selected as a vendor. American Package Express, Irvine, CA, also has applied to be a vendor.

The two-year experiment will let USPS gauge market demand for PRS. In the first year of testing, USPS will have a limit of 20 prequalified participants. That number could grow to 30 in the second year.

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