Mailbox rivals complain at “unfair” USPS PO Box service upgrades

Dozens of private sector operators of retail mailing and shipping stores in the US have complained to regulators about US Postal Service plans to offer enhanced PO Box services in post offices. At least 40 operators, including a number of The UPS Store franchisees, filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission today as part of a complaints process regarding new USPS PO Box services introduced since 22nd January this year.

The “enhanced” services that have attracted the operators’ anger include the acceptance of parcels from private carriers like UPS, FedEx and DHL on behalf of USPS PO Box customers, “a practice that has been prohibited for years”, and the ability of PO Box customers to use the street address of the post office in which their PO Box is housed rather than a formal PO Box address.

The notification of PO Box customers by email or text regarding items received in their PO Box is also among the “enhanced” services that the rival mailing store operators claimed was introduced by USPS without gaining the required regulatory approval.

Many of the operators have noted the large volumes of mail they handle for the US Postal Service, and note the fact that they are regulated by USPS, facing restrictions on their own business activities like forwarding mail, as part of the regulation by their competitor.

The new enhanced services for PO Boxes in post offices would mean USPS competing against existing small mailing branches across the US, the operators claim.

“The new business practices place the United States Postal Service in direct and unconscionable competition with thousands of small businesses across the country,” said Charles F Reigh, owner of a The UPS Store branch in Twin Falls, Idaho, who said USPS was hitting business owners who had in many cases taken out loans secured on their own homes to run their mailing store businesses.

“This new form of competition from the USPS will result in a significant loss of revenue and substantial harm to my business. That threatens not only my home, but also the jobs of the people I employ.”

Enhanced services

The complaints relate to the outcome of a Commission approval back in June 2010 for USPS to move 49 of its PO Box service locations from the list of its highly-regulated market dominated products to its lightly-regulated competitive portfolio.

Moving any further PO Box locations to the competitive list would require fresh Commission approval according to the regulators, and USPS made a request in May 2011 for 6,800 locations to transfer, approved by the regulators in July 2011.

Under the approval, new “enhanced services” for these PO Box locations began to be offered in January 2012. USPS says it now has all the regulatory approvals it needs to introduce the enhanced services.

But this view is being rejected by groups including the Associated Mail and Parcel Centers, National Alliance of Retail and Ship Centers and 11 other organisations including the Independent Coalition of Franchise Owners (ICFO), which represents The UPS Store franchise owners.

The ICFO said: “What the USPS is doing is fundamentally wrong. A financially viable Post Office is an important part of our members’ business model, but not at our expense. A relationship with the USPS is a careful balance of competition and support, and in this instance they have tipped the scales.”

Some of the complaining competitor operators of mailbox rental services said today that the new USPS services could even have unexpected consequences on USPS itself, such as creating longer queues in post offices, and a reduction in express mail revenue because USPS PO Box customers will be able to accept deliveries from private sector carriers.

Robert P Krause, owner of Virginia Beach-based Mail Depot, Inc., suggested that if the Postal Regulatory Commission allows USPS to go ahead with its new competitive PO Box services, it should remove the Postal Service’s right to regulate aspects of independent operators’ own businesses as Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies.

“Should these enhancements be approved, the PRC should require the Postal Service to scrap every one of the CMRA regulations that currently give the Postal Service a competitive advantage over the privately-owned mail and parcel stores’ mail box rental services. We need a level and fair playing field,” Krause told the regulators.

About The Author

Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor is the Editor of Triangle’s Mail & Express Review Magazine and the www.postandparcel.info portal. Ian has been a business journalist for almost 30 years, editing and writing for a wide range of magazines and newspapers with a particular focus on the transport and logistics industries.

3 Comments

  1. R SEHER

    BUT, the UPS people/company, have NO problem, with the Postal Service, completing delivery of numerous (hundreds?, thousands?) of parcels which initially enter the stream at a UPS location/facility. Which means they Ups/ obtained the first $$ for these shipments. Seems to me, they want the business, but, gripe at the postal service finally managing to get some of their own business generated by them and possibly doing it with much more convenience to the USPS customers. .

  2. Skye Shepard

    Whaaa! Why don’t they whine about the USPS when they are making money off the work they are being allowed to do. The USPS is also pricing themselves out of the post office box service because they have raised the rates so much all at once. There are a lot of other things that the non-USPS box services can and do provide. They just need to relax and continue to rake in their profits. The USPS higher management is such a bunch of a**holes that they are never gonna figure out how to give good and customer-friendly service, in spite of the good employees that the USPS has who go out of their way to provide their customers with the service they deserve instead of the service the higher-ups want them to give – which is no service.

  3. Charles MacPherson

    It’s worth having an idea of what the situation actually is before responding with derisive comments.

    There is simply no other place in the American free enterprise system where one competitor is allowed to regulate another into serious competitive disadvantages, as the USPS does with Private Mailbox stores.

    For example, because of USPS regulations…

    Private Mailbox renters are refused the right to file a Change of Address form when moving. PO Box renters are not.

    In the proposed change to 5 day delivery, PO Box customers will get mail delivered 6 days per week. Private mailbox renters will not.

    To top it off, it is outrageous that the USPS forces our stores to turn over our customer list every three months.

    That is unheard of in private industry – a customer list is one the most treasured, confidential and sensitive assets of any business.

    We make money from USPS services because we mark them up, just like any business marks up the goods and services that they sell. The discounts that stores like our receive on postage are miniscule to the point of being inconsequential.

    Finally, rather than trying to obliterate us with unfair regulation, and the most un-level of playing fields, the USPS should view us as the asset that we are, handling hundreds of stamp sales and outgoing mail and parcels for them every day.

    We represent a significant cost and labor savings to an agency that sorely needs them.

    Charlie MacPherson, Owner
    Postal Center USA

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