Postal Service Tests Parcel Lockers
Self-service "Gopost" lockers—from which customers can pick up and ship packages—appear in New York and Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Postal Service has installed 17 “Gopost” postal lockers at 17 locations—mostly Post Offices—in New York and Washington, D.C. The urban area program is currently in pilot phase and no further national roll out is currently planned, according to USPS spokesperson Darleen Reid.
Customers in those areas began receiving mailers from USPS last week announcing the free service with the motto, “Your time, your terms, your turf.” The brochures provide the addresses of local Gopost installations along with a website address offering further information on how to register for and take advantage of the service. Apartment buildings with small mailboxes prevalent in urban areas cause package delivery and customer service problems for USPS and other package delivery services.
When Gopost users register on the program website, they receive an account number and access card, as well as a PIN for accessing the units. Instead of entering their home address when ordering merchandise from an Internet retailer, they enter the location of the parcel locker (“1712 gopost,” for example) along with their account numbers. When the package is delivered to the locker, users receive an email notifying them it is ready to be picked up.
To retrieve their packages at Gopost locations, users swipe their cards and enter their PINs at a service terminal. The lockers containing their packages open automatically and then close by themselves after the parcel is removed. Customers can request receipts from the terminal.
Users can ship packages through Gopost lockers by purchasing Priority Mail shipping via Click-N-Ship or PC Postage on their personal computers. After entering their access information at the locker terminal and selecting the “Ship Packages” option, they scan the bar code from the shipping label they printed and a locker opens to accept the package. Lockers can hold packages as large as 12”x15”x18.5”.
While USPS services must be used for shipping packages, customers can receive packages at Gopost locations from other major shippers such as UPS and FedEx.
Shipping and packages is one of the bright spots in a dismal time for the Postal Service, growing almost 10% in the nine months ended June 30. Because USPS goes “the last mile” for shippers like FedEx and UPS, it already handles about two fifths of the U.S. shipping business, but claims less than one fifth of revenues. Self-service lockers might serve to reduce some of those last mile delivery costs in urban areas and increase some of its own Priority Mail revenues.
“I don't think this is a huge game changer, but it definitely adds an element of convenience and accessibility for the Postal Service's package business,” says Ursa Major Associates Executive Director Mike Comstock, a shipping industry veteran who served as SVP of corporate strategy and e-commerce at DHL. “For shipping packages and returning merchandise, this is a great improvement for city dwellers who now don't have to go to a Post Office and stand in line.”