Chain of Thought

It's Not a Good Time to Tick-Off the USPS

There's a big dumpster in my driveway filled with scraps of my past lives. Long story short, my wife and I now live in my childhood home (my folks have long since passed away) and we're slowly bringing it up to this century's building codes—one of those being the installation of non-asbestos insulation.

Embarking on this re-insulation project meant emptying our attic and crawl spaces of 50 years' accumulation of dusty artifacts. Remember the old Boris Karloff version of “The Mummy?” I feel like Imhoptep supervising the excavation of his ancient tomb.

As my sons and I formed a kind of human conveyor between our attic and the dumpster, I noticed items long forgotten—like an old slide projector that once belonged to my grandfather.

I'm sure many of you in charge of large warehouses and distribution centers can relate—you embark on a site improvement project and dig up things that once belonged to someone else? Like maybe U.S. Postal Service pallets and containers?

I'm pretty sure my grandfather isn't going to come back from the dead demanding the return of his slide projector, but the USPS, although very old, is still very much alive and wants its stuff back.

I didn't find any old USPS pallets or containers amidst any of my junk, but now would be a good time for you to look through yours. Clyde Witt, the former editor of Material Handling Management (this magazine's identity in a past life), did a story in the August 2006 issue about how much money the USPS was losing to pilferage and carelessness among shippers. He reported that by March of any year most of the pallets used during the holiday shipping season have returned to USPS warehouses and they can assess their needs for the next heavy mailing season.

Clyde reported at the time that its national “comfort level” was around 500,000 to 700,000 pallets. What it actually ended up with that year was around 100,000 pallets, with 60,000 typical on any day.

It's 2011 and that problem is still alive and kicking the USPS where it hurts most—in its pocket book. And ultimately, as taxpayers and USPS customers, you and I share in that pain.

Here's what David Williams, vice president of network operations for the USPS, said about this situation recently:

“The Postal Service spent nearly $50 million this past fiscal year to replace equipment that was never returned. This is a serious issue. We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense. The equipment is federal property and we want it back.”

The USPS is playing good-cop/bad-cop in this situation. Bad-cop reminds equipment pirates and hoarders that the maximum penalty for theft or misuse of its property is a $1,000 fine and three years imprisonment (Title 18 USC 1707). But Good-cop is offering an amnesty period for anyone suddenly realizing they have USPS property and want to do the right thing. They have until Nov. 26 to return it, no questions asked.

Just drop it off at your local Post Office or nearby mail processing and distribution center. You can even arrange to have the USPS pick up large amounts of equipment and/or pallets by sending an email to [email protected], and including “Equipment Pickup Request” in the subject line. Also include your company name, address where the equipment is located, type of mail transport equipment and quantity in the message.

The holidays are coming, and now's your chance to be the Good-Grinch and return those long lost USPS goodies.

Return their snoofs and their tringlers and fuzzles,

Bring back their pantookas, their dafflers and wuzzles.

Bring everything back by Thanksgiving, and enjoy the food for your feast!

You'll feel early Christmas cheer as you carve the roast beast!

I think I breathed in too much asbestos this weekend.

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