Thursday, November 15, 2012

New 'Lobby Assistants' Coming to a South Florida Post Office Near You

USPS is expanding its use of “lobby assistants” at select Post Offices to help customers take advantage of new self-service opportunities and to help improve the customer experience.  

In the South Florida District, a new generation of Self-Service Kiosks has been deployed at the Coral Gables, Olympia Heights, and Quail Heights Post Offices.   Self-Service Kiosks will be deployed in 13 additional South Florida Post Offices in January.  

The new kiosks feature a brighter and larger touch screen and also have a scanner for pricing greeting cards and ReadyPost products, along with a scale.  The Postal Service’s expanded use of “lobby assistants” is intended to introduce customers to the new kiosks and show them how they work. The lobby assistants also will greet and prepare customers waiting in line to make their transactions with retail associates quicker and easier.  

There's a 'Passport Princess' in WPB

The West Palm Beach Main Office Passport Acceptance Facility was recently recognized as a top 10 Performer in the State of Florida for “Exemplary service to the community and the U.S. Department of State, Passport Service.”

Durron Swain, Passport Specialist, Miami Passport Agency, presented the award to staff at the unit. The Award was based on the number of applications executed in 2011, out of an approximate 270 acceptance facilities.

The award comes as no surprise due to the efforts put forth by Lead Passport Clerk Adrienne Fortunato. Adrienne is a proud grandmother of nine and uses that experience when taking photos for children’s passports. She has the little girls tell her “what Princess they want to be” and for the boys she will ask what “Super Hero they want to become.”  Adrienne has found this practice to “work like a charm” avoiding any panic for the children.  Adrienne also advises customers, especially the elderly, to choose a passport book over a card when booking a cruise.  “I don’t recommend a card for a cruise, because in the event of a medical emergency, they would not be able to be flown off the ship.”

The West Palm Beach Post Office proudly accepted the award for its “conscientious execution of passport applications, excellence in customer service, and commitment to ensuring the integrity of the U.S. passport."  The West Palm Beach Acceptance facility is staffed Monday through Saturday, no appointment necessary, and serves customers on a first-come first-served basis.

USPS Loses $15.9 Billion in FY 12

The U.S. Postal Service ended the 2012 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2011 – Sept. 30, 2012) with a record net loss of $15.9 billion, compared to a net loss of $5.1 billion for the same period last year. The loss included expenses of $11.1 billion related to two payments to prefund retiree health benefits. The Postal Service, which is uniquely required by law to prefund these obligations, was forced to default on these payments.

Resolving the prefunding requirement, which made up 70 percent of the net loss, and providing more commercial flexibility to allow the Postal Service to manage its business, are among legislative changes needed for USPS to fully implement its business plan to return to financial stability.

“It’s critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe. “We continue to do our part to grow revenue and reduce expenses by making our operations more efficient and by providing our customers with new and expanded services to meet their mailing and shipping needs. Additionally, through the expanded use of technology, including better use of digital tools and mobile technology, we are providing business mailers with new opportunities to connect with customers in a more individualized way.”

Besides resolving the accelerated schedule to prefund retiree health benefits and allowing the Postal Service the flexibility to sponsor its own healthcare program for employees and retirees, the Postal Service Business Plan includes these other actions that require legislative action:

 Allowing the Postal Service to determine delivery frequency
 Allowing the Postal Service to offer non-postal products and services
 Developing a more streamlined governance model for the Postal Service that would allow for quicker pricing and product decision
 Instructing arbitrators that, during labor negotiations, they must take into account the financial condition of the Postal Service when rendering decisions
 Resolving the overfunding of the Postal Service’s obligation to the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS).

Results of Operations

The Postal Service continues to grow its package services business. Revenue from Postal Service package business increased by $926 million, or 8.7 percent, on a volume increase of 244 million pieces compared to the same period last year. Higher consumer spending, higher e-commerce retail sales plus increased marketing efforts drove much of the growth in this segment of the Postal Service business during the last year.

The encouraging growth trend in the package business is not, by itself, enough to offset the declines in First-Class Mail and Standard Mail. First-Class Mail revenue, which peaked in 2007, dropped $1,163 million or 3.9 percent while Standard Mail decreased $747 million or 4.3 percent compared to last year. However, the rate of decline in the First-Class category did slow in 2012.

Other details of the yearly results compared to the same period last year include:

 Total mail volume of 159.9 billion pieces compared to 168.3 billion pieces a year ago
 Operating revenue of $65.2 billion compared to $65.7 billion in 2011
 Operating expenses of $81.0 billion (including the $11.1 billion expense associated with prefunding retiree health benefits) compared to $70.6 billion the year before.

The $15.9 billion loss was driven by $13.4 billion in expenses that were outside the control of the Postal Service in the short-term. These expenses include the $11.1 billion retiree health benefits prefunding expenses and the expenses related to the long-term portion of workers’ compensation. When these expenses are deducted the net loss would have been $2.5 billion. The Postal Service has been successful in reducing controllable expenses as mail volume and revenues have declined.

“Our productivity grew to a record level as we captured cost savings and improved productivity for the thirteenth straight quarter,” said Chief Financial Officer, Joseph Corbett. This year’s improvement is largely attributable to the reduction in work hours, which decreased by 27 million, or 2.3 percent, in 2012 from the previous year. Total work hours continue to decrease despite increases in the number of delivery points, which rose by approximately 1.3 million over the last two years.

“These work hour reductions reflect our efforts to improve productivity and to respond to the decline in mail volume,” said Corbett. “Since 2000, we have reduced work hours by a cumulative total of 504 million work hours, equivalent to 286,000 employees, or $21 billion in expense savings each year.”

At the end of 2012 fiscal year the Postal Service reached its statutory debt ceiling of $15 billion for the first time. “Our liquidity continues to be a major concern and underscores the need for passage of legislation that gives the Postal Service a more flexible business model to improve its cash flow,” said Corbett.
“Despite reaching the debt limit, the Postal Service mail operations and delivery continue as usual and employees and suppliers continue to be paid on-time.”

The Postal Service’s revenue over the first six weeks of fiscal 2013 is benefiting from the start of the holiday mailing season and political and election mail from the just completed general election season.

Complete financial results are in the Form 10-K at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

USPS to Accept Lithium Batteries for Global Mailing Effective November 15

Effective Thursday, November 15, Post Offices will begin accepting packages containing lithium batteries installed in electronic devices bound for many international destinations, and Army (APO), Fleet (FPO) and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) locations. 

The Postal Service has worked collaboratively with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Universal Postal Union, and the Federal Aviation Authority to secure the changes needed to allow acceptance of international mail shipments containing lithium batteries.  (Based on the requirements of international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Universal Postal Union, as of May 16, 2012, the Postal Service was unable to accept international mail shipments containing lithium batteries.)

Items which can be shipped may include cameras, video cameras, mobile/smart phones, Bluetooth headsets, laptop computers, shavers, portable DVD players, tablets, two-way radios, GPS devices and most other small electronic devices requiring lithium batteries to operate.  Items which cannot be shipped include any lithium batteries not installed in the equipment they are intended to operate. 
Easy, convenient, multilingual and always at the fingertips, has a complete suite of tools to help with shipping gifts containing lithium batteries:
 APO/FPO/DPO Mailing Guidelines:
 Preparing International Mail Shipments:
 Free Shipping Supplies:
 Create Package Labels:
 Fill Out Customs Forms Online:
 Pay For Postage Online with Click-N-Ship:!input.action
 Request Free Package Pickup:!input.action
 International Holiday Shipping/Mailing Dates:

'Battlefield to Business' in WPB, 11/16

On Friday, November 16, the Small Business Development Center at Palm Beach State College will welcome the Procurement and  Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), host of the second annual ”Battlefield to Business” event for veterans and small business owners who seek information on landing prime government contracts.  The event will take place on the college campus at 3000 Saint Lucie Avenue in Boca Raton from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm.

In cooperation with the Florida Small Business Development Center, veterans, agencies, and successful contractors will offer their expertise to attendees.  USPS West Palm Beach Customer Service Representatives will provide information on postal products to build and to enhance businesses.

The PTAC supports service members and veterans in business success by offering this opportunity.  USPS employees and veterans may seek expert advice on procurement of government contracts in accordance with USPS policies and regulations. 

Friday’s free expo will feature over 30 exhibitors.  Speakers will include Sergeant Major Jack Tilley and Dan Sturdivant, Department of Homeland Security; Gerald Paulsen, Paulsen Group; Scott Denniston, The Scott Group; and Major General Joseph Taluto (USA Ret.) and Paul Simpkins, Assistant Director, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Small Business Programs.   

The Orlando Vet Center bus will offer veterans assistance with benefits and specialized programs. 

To register for the free event you may go online to: 
Attendance is voluntary and off-the-clock for postal employees.  For further local information, contact: LuAnn Warner, Customer Relations Coordinator, West Palm Beach at 561-697-2145.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

EAP Presents 'Gratitude ePromotion'

As we approach the “Thanksgiving” holiday, it seems a fitting time to pause and reflect on the value that being grateful can play in our lives. Gratitude,  at first blush, is a familiar and simple emotion. We receive a gift – from a friend, a family member – and we feel grateful and appreciative. Or we have a near miss with a car running a red light and our first reaction is a quick breath of gratitude that something terrible did not happen. What if practicing gratitude had the power to be a foundation for your sense of well-being and happiness?
An ePromotion is a series of emails sharing brief information to help you actively engage in a topic. The EAP invites you to sign up to participate by responding to this invitation. In the “Gratitude” ePromotion, you will receive emails Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from November 6th until November 27th.
You may use your postal or home email address and your participation is strictly confidential. Please feel free to share “Gratitude” with your co-workers and family members and encourage them to sign up as well. This ePromotion is designed to help you experience the power of gratitude as you prepare for the coming holiday season. We will explore the benefits for your body, mind, and emotions. Think of these emails as your daily dose of “vitamin G!”
If you would like more information or to sign up, please contact me by email at or by calling 305-594-2784.
--- Dr. Vivian Perez-Gonzalez 

Veterans Day is Sunday, November 11

Veterans Day is Sunday, November 11, one of six days during the year all postal facilities are required to display the POW-MIA flag.  According to Administrative Support Manual 476.1, when Veterans Day falls on a non-business day, postal facilities are required to display the POW-MIA flag on the last business day before the designated day — in this case, Saturday, November 10.  In honor of the Veterans Day holiday, there will be no regular mail delivery or retail service Monday, November 12.

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.'" As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans. 

In 1954, after having been through World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress -- at the urging of the veterans service organizations -- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. 

In 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. 

Finally on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on November 11. 

Since the U.S. Postal Service began issuing stamps more than 150 years ago, many have commemorated veterans and accomplishments by our military.  For additional information, refer to Publication 528, “Veterans and the Military on Stamps” at and Publication 529, “World War II:  A History of Stamps” at

Giving Thanks, Helping Others

There's a Thanksgiving Food Drive underway in the South Florida District.  Employees may deposit non-perishable foods and canned goods in designated containers in their postal facilities now through Monday, November 19.  Service talks on the food drive and instructions on consolidation of donations to plants are being given.  Should you have any questions, please contact Pat Nolan at (305) 470-0250 or the Learning, Development and Diversity staff at (305) 470-0360, 470-0864 or 470-0489.  
Also as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, take a moment to reflect upon the comfortable lifestyle that our paychecks allow us to enjoy.  Then consider those who are less fortunate than us and ask yourself what you could do to help them to a better life.  One way that comes to mind is the 2007 Tri-County Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).  Your donation will benefit individuals and families who are truly in need and who are represented by more than 20,000 nonprofit charitable organizations worldwide.  And giving is easy through payroll deduction.
Deals for Postal Employees

We Deliver after Hurricane Sandy

Staten Island, NY letter carrier delivers.
Hurricane Sandy drenches Queens, NY.
Thousands of postal employees throughout the entire Eastern half of the country continue to do their jobs despite flooding, power outages and fuel shortages in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and related storm systems.
The 1,000-mile-wide Sandy made its presence felt from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Chicago. More than 60 million residents were affected by wind, rain and snow that caused massive power outages and flooded neighborhoods.
The storm caused USPS to suspend service in areas of as many as 13 states at its height, with Northern New Jersey, New York City, Staten Island and Long Island particularly hard-hit.
In other areas, centered in Western Maryland and West Virginia, at least a foot of snow brought postal operations to a temporary halt.
To reduce service interruptions, alternate distribution centers for mail pickup were established where postal employees were unable to reach customers’ homes. Special arrangements were made for people to pick up Social Security checks.
USPS also activated contingency plans for business mailers in storm-impacted areas. 
Alternate acceptance locations were available in the event Business Mail Entry Units, Detached Mail Units or local Post Offices had to suspend operations. The New York-based Pricing and Classification Service Center re-opened Monday after being without power for most of the last week.

ALE Program Opens November 15

The Annual Leave Exchange (ALE) Program opens November 15.
EAS Leave Exchange
Full-time and part-time regular career non-bargaining unit employees have the option to exchange for cash up to 128 hours of the annual leave they will earn during the next leave year. To be eligible, an employee must have an annual leave balance of 160 hours at the end of the current leave year.
Bargaining Unit Leave Exchange

Addressing Your Holiday Packages

Every holiday season, insufficient, incorrect or illegible addresses send too many gifts to the land of lost toys instead of to their intended recipients.
The first rule of addressing a package is to place a card showing the names, addresses and phone contacts for the sender and addressee inside the parcel. Next, remove or cross out any old labels, especially those with bar codes. Clearly print return and delivery addresses with full first and last names. All lines of an address should be formatted with a uniform left margin.
For international mail, foreign postal codes go on the line above the destination country. Some countries prefer the code before the town name, others after. The last line of the address block area must include only the complete country name in English — no abbreviations — written in uppercase letters. So, when granny sends a gift to her granddaughter, she’ll address her package like this:

Flexible Spending in 2013


Effective January 1, 2013, the start of the 2013 Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) plan year, the Health Care maximum contribution for an individual will be reduced from $5,000 to $2,500. 
This is not a family limit; an employee and a spouse may each contribute up to $2,500 to a Health Care FSA. 
The reduction complies with provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Program materials and the PostalEASE employee self-service enrollment system will reflect the lower maximum contribution.
USPS will issue program materials to coincide with FSA open season, which begins in November 2012.
There are two programs within the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) program: Health Care FSA and Dependent Care FSA. Be sure to understand and know the differences between both programs before enrolling.
  • A Health Care FSA is used to cover Health Care Expenses (for you and/or your family) that are not paid by your (or your spouse’s) medical, dental or vision plans, or by insurance. See page 6 in the FSA Booklet [PDF] [Text]
  • A Dependent Care FSA can be used if you will have Dependent Care Expenses (like day care, babysitting, or summer day camp for your children, or elder day care expenses for dependent parents).  A Dependent Care FSA does not cover your dependents’ health care expenses—to cover those, you must enroll in a Health Care FSA. See page 8 in the FSA Brochure [PDF] [Text] (updated in November). 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Re-Mailing to Holiday-Themed Cities

Customers who wish to obtain a postmark from Post Offices with holiday-related or themed names — to keep or to share with friends — can write to the Post Offices directly. Enclose a stamped card or letter addressed to yourself or another person and put it into another envelope or box labeled to:
“Christmas Re-Mailing”
City, State ZIP Code (choose one of the cities below)
Angels Camp, CA 95222; Berry, AL 35546; Bethlehem, CT 06751; Bethlehem, KY 40007; Bethlehem, MD 21609; Bethlehem, NH 03574; Bethlehem, PA 18016; Deer Park, AL 36529; Evergreen, AL 36401; Faith, SD 57626; Garland, NE 68360Garland, NC 28441; Garland, PA 16416; Garland, TX 75040; Garland, UT 84312; Holly, CO 81047; Holly, MI 48442; Hope, AK 99605; Hope, AR 71801; Hope, ID 83836; Hope, KS 67451; Hope, MN 56046; Hope, NM 88250; Hope, ND 58046; Joseph, OR 97846; Joseph City, AZ 86032; Joy, IL 61260; Nazareth,  KY 40048; Nazareth, PA 18064; Nazareth, TX 79063; Nazareth MI 49074; Noel, MO 64854; Partridge, KS 67566; Partridge, KY 40862; Pine Hill, AL 36769; Saint Joseph, IL 61873; Saint Joseph, MI 49085; Saint Joseph, TN 38481; Saint Mary, KY 40063; Saint Mary’s, KS 66536; Santa, ID 83866; Santa Claus, IN 47579; Shepherd, MT 59079; Spruce Pine, AL 35546; Snowflake, AZ 85937; Snowville, UT 84336; Spruce, MI 48762; and Star, TX 76880.

Elves Ready to Postmark 'North Pole' on Letters to Santa, Holiday Cards

Children of all ages can request a North Pole Postmark for placement on their letter from Santa or on holiday greeting cards.
Letter from Santa with a North Pole Station Postmark: You write a letter to your child and sign it from Santa. Place this letter in an envelope addressed to your child with the return address from SANTA, NORTH POLE. Make sure you have a First-Class Mail stamp affixed to the envelope. Place that envelope in a larger envelope, with appropriate postage, and address the larger envelope as indicated below.
Holiday greeting cards: You write your greeting cards like you normally would. Place the cards into their envelopes. Address the envelopes to the people you want to receive them. Place First-Class Mail stamps on the envelopes and either have the return address from the NORTH POLE or from you and your address. Then place the greeting cards into a larger envelope or box, with appropriate postage, and address it to: North Pole Postmark Postmaster 4141 Postmark Dr. Anchorage, AK 99530-9998 The letters that are “coming” from Santa and any holiday greeting cards must be received in Anchorage, Alaska, no later than December 10, 2012.

Holiday Support for Troops

Since Priority Mail supplies are the packaging of choice for families preparing care packages for service members overseas, the Postal Service created a “military care-kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families. The kit is free, and each box is emblazoned with “America Supports You,” which is sure to comfort those who are away from home. The kit contains: Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes, two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes, Priority Mail tape, Priority Mail address labels, and appropriate customs forms. To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing, and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at

Not on Postal Property

The Hatch Act isn’t the only federal guideline governing the conduct of postal employees in the election process.     
Postal Service facility regulations also restrict campaign signs on USPS property, banning the placement of freestanding signs, posters, or furniture of any type in or outside of postal buildings.

This prohibition applies to locations where campaign signs might be placed, such as postal walkways, steps, plazas, lawns or landscaped areas, driveways, parking lots, or other exterior spaces. For more information, see Postal Operations Manual 124.54.d.
Also, campaigning for election to any public office — partisan or non-partisan — is not allowed on postal property, except on street frontage sidewalks that are physically indistinguishable from connecting public sidewalks.
Field Law Offices can answer questions about these restrictions or how they apply. Questions about physical property boundaries can be answered by the assigned Facilities Level One team leader or Customer Relationship manager. Poster 7, Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Postal Property, also has more information.
For assistance enforcing these restrictions, contact the Inspection Service or Postal Police.