Saturday, October 11, 2014

Third Bush on the Right, Please: USPS Grocery Deliveries Would Need Lots of TLC from Carriers

Mail carrier was recently named the most endangered job in the U.S., but the U.S. Postal Service seems to have other ideas. Its plan to deliver groceries to households in major metropolitan areas is the latest among several strategic moves that would mean more work for employees who handle the "last mile" of delivery.

Please, Mr. Postman, look and see,
Are there some groceries in a tote for me?

The Postal Service’s proposed market test of same-day grocery deliveries, apparently in partnership with Amazon, would require even more TLC on the part of USPS’s carrier force than normal deliveries, the agency revealed this week in filings with the Postal Regulatory Commission.

“All Customized Delivery items will be transported directly to a customer’s door and will be delivered [between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.] without disturbing the recipient,” USPS revealed to the PRC. “Customized Delivery also will allow recipients to provide specific delivery instructions.”

Back door man
“Carriers would need to go to each delivery door and manage customer specific delivery instructions.” To avoid theft of the early-morning deliveries, such “special delivery instructions” could conceivably include placing the special grocery-filled totes at back doors, in hallways, into parked cars, or even behind bushes. Undeliverable totes would be returned to the shipper.

“Participants will pay a fee for the Customized Delivery Service,” USPS wrote. UPS is reportedly close to rolling out a service that, for a $5 fee or a $40 annual membership, would deliver someone’s packages to a nearby store instead of to the home.

The Postal Service has recently been encouraged to enter a wide variety of new ventures, most notably providing banking services to the poor and to rural residents. But postal executives’ new-revenue plans are all focused on leveraging the agency’s massive, every-address delivery network: not only by serving the grocery business but also with Sunday deliveries for Amazon, aggressive price cuts on lightweight packages sent by large mailers, and seeking legislative approval to deliver wine and beer.

All of those growth efforts are far more labor intensive – and higher priced – than USPS’s traditional job of delivering letters. The Postal Service is also adding thousands of new delivery points every day, requiring more travel time for carriers even if mail volumes don't grow. So it's premature to assume that letter carriers will soon go the way of buggy-whip makers.

Market disruption? 
To gain the PRC’s approval for its proposed two-year “Customized Delivery” market test of grocery delivery, USPS must show that the venture would not disrupt existing markets or rely on “unfair” competitive advantages over private businesses.

Starting later this month, USPS wants “to test and develop a long-term, scalable solution to enable expansion of customized delivery to additional major metropolitan markets across the nation.” It might also test other delivery times during the day.

“The Postal Service will negotiate price with each customer [presumably the grocer, not the consumer], in part, based on the pickup schedules specific to each customer.” USPS also hopes the test will determine “the optimal pricing structure for this type of service.”

San Francisco test  
The agency recently conducted a smaller-scale test of grocery delivery in the San Francisco area. City carrier assistants – non-career postal employees – delivered about 160 totes per day to 38 ZIP codes, according to postal officials.

“In the current process,” USPS told the PRC, “the retailer brings groceries already packed into retailer-branded totes, some of which are chilled or include freezer packs, directly into Postal Service destination delivery units (DDUs) between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m."

“The totes are all the same size and color, and have a QR code on the outside. The Postal Service receives a manifest file from the retailer containing the address and QR code number for each tote. This file is used by the Postal Service to dynamically route totes and create a line of travel for each route.”

“These deliveries are unattended — the CCA will not ring the doorbell or knock on the door. The carrier places the totes in a location designated by the consumer for delivery.

“Totes are scanned [sometimes with an iPhone] at key steps in the process to provide tracking and visibility through to delivery. CCAs wear postal uniforms and lighted caps as a safety measure and for easy recognition by the public.”

[Editor’s note: Perhaps such lighted caps should also be provided to carriers who have to make normal deliveries after sunset during the winter months.]

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Anonymous said...

What? Regular carriers delivering after sunset? Nonsense ... everybody is always back by 5 PM.

Anonymous said...

letter carriers already have lights that clip on their caps

Tonya said...

Lol. Yeah, just ask DOIS.

Tonya said...

Only if they buy them for themselves or another carrier gives them one (I've given away about a dozen). In our district, anyway. And hopefully no one steaks it on your SDO.

Tonya said...

Hopefully they don't stick brand new CCAs on this service; it's hard enough to find an unfamiliar street in the daylight, much less at night.

Anonymous said...

its a safely hazard to delivery in the dark with no lights on the street. the robbers will wait for the carriers to show up on dark streets with no lights well it going to be lots of robbery at night so dont take your wallet to the street just your driver license and couple of bills so the robber will be satisfied its going to be lots of robbery this year with no postal inspector or postal police to follow , remember i told you so the postal service dont care about your safely they worry more about making a buck just remember last year one or two kill on the line of duty delivered in the dark maybe a carrier get shot delivery a grocery at 130 am you think they care they think your in goodie sho sho time every body is nice wake up in readily time this is not pardise time

Anonymous said...

Can you repeat the part where you talked about the stuff?!

Maybe in English this time? Good lord!

Unknown said...

"Third Bush on the Right?" I thought this was an article about Jeb in 2016.

Anonymous said...

I can see it now: Lazy slack bag postal workers chucking deliveries of groceries onto peoples front lawns b/c its just too much work to walk up the front steps.

Anonymous said...

What's the point? Most metros already have delivery services from markets such as Peapod, or delivery can be arranged by courier, cab or special app companies. Stupid.

Archie Bunker said...

Sounds like the mighty postal whore is on her back and getting ready to take it yet again from the Amazon....

Anonymous said...

Why have 31 flavors when you can't get vanilla right??