USPS Tests After-Hours Pickup System

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The U.S. Postal Service is testing an after-hours mail pickup system for parcels and other items that could not be delivered during normal business hours.


Currently, after an unsuccessful package delivery attempt, customers must request redelivery or pick up the package at their local post office during normal operating hours.


Under the pilot program, undeliverable parcels are put on a carousel that holds up to 300 packages but can be expanded to hold 800. The carousels are in sections of post offices open to the public 24 hours a day. Each piece corresponds to a barcode left with the attempted-delivery notice at the customer's residence.


Customers pick up their packages by scanning the barcode on the attempted-delivery notice against a reader built into the carousel. Customers then must swipe a credit card for identification. There is no charge for the service.


It is being tested at post offices in Germantown and Fort Washington, MD. Another system will be installed at Fernandina Beach, FL, next month.


"We are still in a testing mode, and part of the test is to see if there is customer acceptance of the system," USPS spokesman Gerry Krienkamp said. "But, if there is customer acceptance and it proves to be a workable system, clearly it would enhance customer service. When customers receive a slip that says a package is waiting for them, they can get their packages 24 hours a day."


Customers are interested in the program as well, but are waiting to see the results of the pilot.


"The service seems like it offers consumers convenience while at the same time offers the postal service some cost savings because they don't have to keep bringing that package out," said Bill Monk, director of logistics at Nordstrom.com, Cedar Rapids, IA. "But I'm not sure exactly how it will pan out."


The USPS said it also is considering allowing users of the system to check the USPS Web site to see whether there are packages waiting for them.


Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Electronic Systems Sector created the system, called the Automated Mail Pickup Service.


PostalTec, a startup company in Irvine, CA, said it has patents pending on "Automated Delivery Boxes" as well as physical mailbox notification technologies, which let subscribers of physical mailboxes know what type of mail they have in their mailbox. The company also said that it has non-disclosure agreements with the USPS and some other major players in the industry.


The USPS, however, is proceeding with the current project.


"PostalTec may have some patents pending, but [PostalTec] hasn't been issued a patent," Kreinkamp said.


"We are still in a testing mode, and part of the test is to see if there is customer acceptance of the system," USPS spokesman Gerry Krienkamp said. "But, if there is customer acceptance and it proves to be a workable system, clearly it would enhance customer service. When customers receive a slip that says a package is waiting for them, they can get their packages 24 hours a day. Clearly, that's a customer benefit."


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