Many happy returns

A photo of Priority Mail boxes

With peak season over, the Postal Service is now handling the rush of customers returning holiday gifts through the mail.

Approximately 30 percent of items bought online during the holidays will be returned, according to data from Shopify, a company that provides online shopping platforms for retailers. That figure goes up to 50 percent for “expensive” items.

To help these customers, USPS is continuing to expand its returns processing capabilities, which include more than 16,700 return delivery units across the nation.

The Postal Service also offers insurance of up to $5,000 for returns and has enhanced its Merchandise Return Service, which applies to three mail classes: First-Class Package Service, Priority Mail and Ground Return Service.

“We have the most extensive and best last-mile network, which is conducive to our customers utilizing us for easy returns,” said Delivery Operations Vice President Kevin McAdams. “So as e-commerce continues to grow, so does the returns business — and we provide the easiest, most convenient solution for those returns.”

The growth in the returns market is part of a broader shipping increase: USPS expected to deliver more than 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, up from 850 million during the same time one year earlier.

The rise in shipping is being driven by major increases in online holiday shopping.

Pre-Christmas online sales rose 19.1 percent from the 2017 holiday season, according to Mastercard Market Insights, an industry research service.

The holiday package returns business is likely to keep pace with the growth of online holiday shopping for the time being.

“Unless retailers implement a policy of ‘keep the products’ while refunding money, or eliminating free returns, product returns will have to increase in relation to the total sales of products,” said Brittain Ladd, an online commerce and supply chain analyst.

Key player

Smiling woman stands near desk in large workroom

My name is Holli Apodaca, and I’m a supervisor at the Remote Encoding Center, a Salt Lake City facility that helps determine where poorly addressed mail from across the nation is supposed to go.

My main job is as a data conversion operator. I enter information not read by Postal Service machines because of cursive, poor handwriting or other factors.

I also assist management by answering calls and assigning data conversion operators, who are called “keyers.” We have about 1,070 employees at the Remote Encoding Center, which is connected to 300 mail processing plants.

We have 1,100 keying stations in our 40,000-square-foot workroom. Each keyer performs about 7,150 keystrokes per hour and processes around 900 images per hour. Keyers get around 3.5 seconds per image to determine what input is needed, enter the information and hit “done.” We get a break every hour.

The Remote Encoding Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are even open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We key about 4.2 million images a day and we keyed more than 1.5 billion images in the past 12 months.

The information we input helps ensure each mailpiece is delivered on time and to the right place. It helps the people in plants and the carriers to do their jobs.

I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Johnny. We met when I was 15 and he was 17. We got married 15 years ago and we take a trip almost every year to celebrate our anniversary.

I have three sisters, three brothers, seven nephews, two nieces and one great-niece. I share guardianship of my 23-year-old nephew, who has special needs, with my mom and younger brother. My nephew is a challenge, but he brings me so much joy.

“On the Job,” a series on individual employees and their contributions to the Postal Service, appears regularly in Link.

Cybersecurity training

Hands using a laptop keyboard

The Postal Service has introduced three CyberSafe at USPS courses for contractors, part of organization’s annual cybersecurity training requirements.

All contractors with ACE IDs must complete the courses, which will be available from Monday, Jan. 7-Monday, Feb. 11.

Current contractors will have their ACE access restricted if the courses aren’t completed by the due date. New contractors will have their access restricted until the courses are completed.

Here’s an overview of the training:

• CyberSafe Fundamentals parts I and II. These courses will provide users with the skills and knowledge needed to adhere to cybersecurity best practices and policy to help protect USPS information.

• CyberSafe 201: Data Protection. This course will help users handle sensitive and sensitive-enhanced information to keep USPS information secure.

Users must use the HERO system to complete the courses. The CyberSafe at USPS Blue and LiteBlue pages have more information about cybersecurity training requirements.

Connect six

Six Postmasters who contributed to Business Connect gather at USPS headquarters

Business Connect honorees. USPS recently recognized six Postmasters for their contributions to Business Connect, a program that encourages managers to promote postal products and services.

The honorees are Tammy H. McClanahan (Addison, AL), Teresa A. Puckett (Pulaski, VA), Melissa J. San Diego (Chualar, CA), Laurie R. Vess (Nebo, NC), Kevin E. Vines (Colorado Springs, CO) and Jeramy F. Westhoff (Milltown, MT).

Each Postmaster increased their office’s revenue in fiscal 2018 compared to the same period one year earlier.

The Postmasters’ efforts were commended during a ceremony at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC.

One week left. The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season ends Friday, Jan. 11.

If you made a contribution during the previous cycle, it won’t automatically renew. To pledge your support again this year, go to the CFC online giving portal or speak to a CFC keyworker to choose from more than 8,000 charities that could use your time or money.

Postal Service employees pledged $6.1 million to CFC member charities last year. The fundraising goal this year is $6.4 million.

The CFC Blue and LiteBlue pages have additional details, including contact information for national and local campaign managers.

Postal Bulletin preview. The Postal Bulletin’s Jan. 3 edition features winter safety information, including guidelines on dressing appropriately and tips on preventing slips, trips and falls.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.