Postage refunds

Priority Mail Express envelope

USPS has adjusted the postage refund policy for Priority Mail Express one-day shipments sent from Dec. 22-25.

Under the adjusted policy, Priority Mail Express one-day shipments sent during this period are not eligible for postage refunds unless the package is not delivered or delivery is not attempted within two days of the mailing date.

The Postal Service is adjusting the policy in anticipation of increased mail volumes and unpredictable weather conditions that could affect one-day shipments during the holidays.

The organization is reminding employees that postage refunds require the customer’s copy of Priority Mail Express labels or receipts.

Also, USPS wants employees to encourage customers to send Priority Mail Express items early to ensure the shipments arrive by their intended date.

Additional information is available on the usps.com Holiday Shipping Deadlines page.

Collection carols

Holiday boxes

Customers depositing mail inside one blue collection box this month are receiving some holiday cheer in return.

The box, which sits outside USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, plays clips from classic holiday tunes when customers open the door.

Engineering Systems designed the technology and is testing it through the holidays.

“It’s really fun to use technology in ways you’d never think of,” said Delivery Technology Programs Manager Will Tartal. “Who would think a collection box could play music?”

To create the sound effect, engineers placed a battery-operated module inside the box that does not use traditional speakers. Instead, surface audio transducers are mounted directly to the walls of the box.

When the door is opened, it activates one of several instrumental recordings, including “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

“The collection box is actually the speaker,” Tartal said. “How cool is that?”

The module and audio technology don’t interfere with mail deposits or collection. A decal on the box tells customers about the test so they won’t be alarmed when they hear the music.

A man who used the box this week to mail a Christmas card heard “Up On the Rooftop” and offered a smile to a woman who was waiting to deposit a stack of greeting cards.

Said Tartal: “We have collection boxes just about everywhere. Technology like this offers a lot of possibilities for the Postal Service from marketing initiatives to even security monitoring.”

Santa sightings

Santa Claus and the missus

Santa Claus is pretty busy these days, but that isn’t keeping him from popping up at Post Offices across the nation.

In Streator, IL, he picked up letters that young customers left for him in a special lobby mailbox; in St. Louis, he attended a lobby event and taught customers to use self-service kiosks; and in Tampa, FL, he and Mrs. Claus shipped some packages.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Court House, OH, Post Office, Santa helped USPS conduct employee safety checks. Rural Carrier Ruth Garringer earned a spot on his “nice” list when she was observed wearing both her seat belt and shoulder harness while operating a delivery vehicle.

“Santa knows that safety is everyone’s responsibility at all times,” said Ohio Valley District Acting Safety Specialist Philip Funk.

St. Nick has also dropped by Operation Santa kickoff events at USPS facilities in New York City, Chicago and San Diego, as well as other community events that allow him to rub elbows with postal employees.

For example, Santa and Mrs. Claus collected and responded to 79 letters from children during an event hosted by the Trenton, NJ, Processing and Distribution Center.

He also made a grand entrance on a special “helicopter sleigh” at an aviation museum in College Park, MD, where children wrote him letters and Postal Service employees arranged for each reply to receive a North Pole postmark.

“It was thrilling to witness children writing and mailing letters to Santa,” said Consumer and Industry Contact Manager Tyera Clark.

Portland pride

The latest episode of “Engage” takes employees behind the scenes of the new Portland, OR, Processing and Distribution Center.

Postal Service managers explain how the facility brings together operations from three previous locations, helping USPS operate more efficiently in Portland District.

The managers also discuss the logistical challenges of bringing more than 1,000 employees from different facilities together under one roof, including the importance of workplace communication.

“The key … was not only communicating what our vision was, but [it also] was to listen to [employees] and hear what their concerns were,” says Portland District Manager Bill Schwartz.

To improve communication in the facility, managers have introduced digital boards that display safety information, videos and other messages.

Additionally, management also organized a day where employees could bring their spouses and children to see the new workplace.

Roger Ramirez, a mail handler, recalls buying his young son a postal shirt to wear to the event.

“I was really excited,” he says.

Need to know

Scanning

Scanning snapshot. The Postal Service’s national scanning rating was 97.48 percent during the week ending Dec. 14, up from one week earlier.

Dakotas (98.98 percent) topped the districts, while Western (97.96 percent) led the areas.

Scanning allows customers to track their packages and mail, and it helps USPS improve efficiency and network management.

To see the latest results, go to the Informed Visibility site and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.”

Environmental compliance reminder. Postal Service facilities that store large quantities of rock salt, sand and other de-icing and anti-skidding chemical products may be regulated by environmental laws.

These regulations could include mandatory chemical reporting, restrictions on the amount stored, permitting and requirements for on-site storage areas.

Regardless of location, facilities that order or store de-icing and anti-skidding products must keep these materials under shelter, such as an awning, shed or tarp. This is required under the Postal Service’s zero discharge policy.

Additionally, facilities must never purchase or store more than 10,000 pounds of de-icing and anti-skidding products in a single location.

To determine your compliance obligations, contact your designated environmental specialist. The Sustainability Blue page has a list.

Yes peeking. The Peek into Peak LiteBlue page showcases Postal Service employees and their contributions to the organization’s holiday efforts.

The initiative is being promoted through Link, Postal Vision monitors inside USPS facilities, the tickertape scroll on ACE computers and the Lead to Win newsletter.

Got news for “Need to know”? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.