World-class service

Millions of Americans are vacationing around the world this summer — and more than a few of those trips were made possible by the Postal Service.

USPS accepts millions of passport applications each year, making passports an important part of the organization’s efforts to grow revenue.

Post Offices accepted more than 6.8 million passport applications during fiscal 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018), generating $204.6 million in revenue. This is up from 6.5 million passport applications that generated $164.9 million in revenue one year earlier.

The increase is driven by a spike in travel, the result of rising incomes and fierce competition in the travel industry that is making international trips more affordable. According to federal data, 93 million Americans traveled outside the United States last year, up 46 percent from a decade earlier.

“Our customers know they can rely on us for prompt, efficient passport services. It’s a job we take seriously,” said Kevin McAdams, the Postal Service’s delivery and retail operations vice president.

To remain competitive in the passports business, USPS is focused on offering affordable rates and convenient services.

For example, first-time applicants pay between $65 and $175 for most passport services with USPS, while other providers charge as much as $494 for comparable services.

To further serve passport customers, the Postal Service has introduced the Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler, a tool that allows travelers to go online to schedule first-time passport application appointments at participating Post Offices.

Additionally, Post Offices across the nation organize weekend passport fairs each year to serve customers who are unable to schedule appointments during regular work hours.

The fairs allow USPS to build customer loyalty, according to Florence, SC, Postmaster Letha Anderson, whose office hosted a fair this spring.

“I often hear my employees express how much they enjoy meeting the families who attend the fairs,” Anderson said. “Customers are excited to talk to us about their travel plans, and we are just as excited to hear about their plans.”

No endorsements

USPS wants employees to remember the rules on endorsing non-postal products, services and business endeavors.

Due to the nature of the Postal Service’s business, private organizations might seek to further their interests by requesting an endorsement from a USPS employee.

However, under federal ethics guidelines, these types of endorsements aren’t permitted.

The rules state that employees cannot use government information, property, time or other resources to serve a private interest.

In addition to eroding the public’s confidence in the employee’s loyalty, an endorsement of this kind could lead to the appearance that the Postal Service supports or sanctions the product, service or business.

USPS may endorse products, services and businesses, but only with the permission of the Postmaster General or the organization’s executive leadership team.

If an outside entity asks a postal employee to provide an endorsement of any kind, the employee should contact the Ethics Office for guidance. The email address is ethics.help@usps.gov.

Throughout 2019, the Postal Service is educating employees about the federal government’s principles and standards of ethical conduct.

In addition to endorsements, the campaign has covered seeking employment outside the organization and seeking employment after leaving USPS, avoiding financial conflicts of interest involving close relatives and avoiding general financial conflicts of interest, general community service activities and community activities on postal property, misuse of position, and the general standards of ethical conduct.

Combat canines

A new Postal Service video shows how Dutch shepherd dogs help members of the U.S. armed forces complete a variety of missions.

The dogs offer superior bomb detection and patrol capabilities.

“They’re known as a reliable dog [and] are intelligent and active. They just want to please their handler,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Angel Flores says in the 1-minute, 30-second clip.

The video is one of four that USPS has produced to promote Military Working Dogs, a 20-stamp booklet that was released this month.

The other videos, which also are available on the Postal Service’s YouTube channel, highlight German shepherd, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois dogs.