Jaffer: The Postal Service is ready

Federal Computer Week's July 26 editorial, "E-bias," suggests that the U.S. Postal Service discourages people from using its electronic transactions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Postal Service officials have implemented a number of initiatives designed to expand customer access to online products and services. These initiatives are integral to the Postmaster General's Transformation Plan that was submitted to Congress in 2002.

That plan provides a blueprint for the steps the Postal Service would take to keep the service financially viable, continue to fulfill our universal service mission, and expand access to our products and services.

Our efforts have found an appreciative audience, as demonstrated by the incredible customer response we have received to our Web site and by the recognition from the online community.

USPS' Web site, www.usps.com, is extremely popular with the American people. Last year, more than 176 million consumers visited the site and conducted 25.4 million paid transactions. Also this year, we received the prestigious Grace Hopper Government Technology Leadership Award for improving services to citizens and enterprise through our Web-based self-services.

We recognize that ours is a busy world and not everyone has time to go to a post office. And that's exactly why we designed the Web site to be a virtual post office where customers can buy stamps, change their addresses, put mail on hold, print and pay for mailing labels using our Click-N-Ship feature, track shipments, and request pickup of Express Mail or Priority mail with carrier pickup service.

With Click-N-Ship, introduced in March, customers can print shipping labels, with or without postage, at any time and receive electronic confirmation services. As with other online transactions, postage is billed to the customer's credit card.

New self-service kiosks, called Automated Postal Centers, are being added to 2,500 locations nationwide this year. The kiosks, which use the technology of automated teller machines, let customers weigh and mail letters and packages up to 70 pounds without having to wait for a sales associate. Any denomination of postage can be purchased, and the centers accept debit and credit cards. The kiosks also offer a variety of other services, including ZIP code lookup, mailing label preparation, Certified Mail return receipts and Delivery Confirmation.

Carrier pickup online notification provides the ultimate convenience in sending packages. A request for carrier pickup can be arranged online at www. carrierpickup.usps.com. As long as a package is ready before the carrier arrives, we will pick it up, as we always have. It also provides an option for returning catalog and online merchandise purchases.

The Postal Service lets customers choose whether to make an in-person visit or conduct business online. Some people like going to the post office to do their business in a traditional way. Others like the ease and convenience of online transactions. We are working hard to provide greater access to postal products and services wherever our customers are — at home, at work, where they shop, at the post office and, of course, online at www.usps.com.

Jaffer is the U.S. Postal Service's vice president of public affairs and communications.

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