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USPS Criticized over Delivery Time and Tracking

The USPS Inspector General (OIG) published a post that calls into question the accuracy of the Postal Service’s tracking system, something online sellers can relate to when trying to assure customers they’ve sent their orders. But here’s how the OIG framed the issue: “Many customers are commenting that carriers are not delivering or attempting to deliver their packages even though USPS.com tracking indicates otherwise.”

That’s a remarkable statement to come from the agency that oversees the Postal Service. It explains the source of its conclusion is anecdotal: “customers across the country are posting comments to social media sites about their experiences with Postal Service carriers.”

The title of the post also reinforces the idea that mail carriers may be to blame rather than technology. “Are Carriers Correctly Reporting Package Deliveries?” could be construed to imply incompetency or intentional failure in how mail carriers report deliveries.

The Office of Inspector General explains that the USPS increased tracking from five to 13 possible scanning events, using both active and automated barcode scanning to track packages:

“The Postal Service uses package scanning data to measure service performance so it is visible to customers. Performance is measured from when the Postal Service first accepts a package for delivery and scans it as received to the first stop-the-clock scan event. The postal carrier uses a handheld scanner to perform this stop-the-clock scan, which indicates the Postal Service’s commitment to deliver the package is complete.”

The OIG is conducting an audit called “Package Delivery Scanning – Chicago District” – it will publish the results in February. In the meantime, it’s inviting people to share their experiences with package delivery and reporting.

You can take a poll on the USPS OIG website, answering yes or no to the less biased question: “Have you received notification that your package was delivered, but not received your package?”

When EcommerceBytes checked the responses to the poll on Monday afternoon, the results showed 83% (20 votes) had answered yes, while 17% (4 votes) said no.

The US Postal Service is also under fire by the Government Accountability Office, which said the Postal Service’s tracking system for measuring on-time delivery is so unreliable that there’s no way to know how late the mail really is, according to an article in Monday’s Washington Post.

“Just 55 percent of the mail is even measured by postal officials, auditors found, making it unlikely that the agency is meeting its legal obligation to provide quality service to every corner of the United States.”

The report is available on the GAO.gov website. Spokesperson David Partenheimer said the USPS official response is contained in the report (appendix II, page 43.) He also provided the following statement:

“The Postal Service strongly disagrees with the conclusion that our current service performance measurement is not accurate. We use the expertise of a highly reputable firm with long-standing proficiency in the design and execution of measurement systems that yield results that are statistically valid and reliable.

“The Postal Service is strongly committed to transparency and the regular publication of our service performance results, including those in rural areas through a rural service measurement initiative. We continue to work with the Congress and our regulator to develop enhanced methods for evaluating delivery performance that are already robust and accurate.”

In its response to the GAO findings in the report, the USPS said its measurement systems conform to the Office of Management and Budget Standards and Guidelines for Statistical Survey. The Postal Regulatory Commission backed up this assertion, writing, “The Commission respectfully notes that the GAO’s definition of “Completeness” is not a meaningful statistical measure.”

Note that the GAO report doesn’t cover competitive services such as Priority Mail – it focuses solely on market-dominant mail (primarily First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, and Package Services).

Let us know what you think of USPS tracking and delivery performance.

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.