Would you use a Postal Service eMailbox account?

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This topic contains 36 replies, has 32 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of GovLoop GovLoop 2 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #146563
    Profile photo of Bruce Marsh
    Bruce Marsh

    My office recently released a paper looking into the possibility of offering a Postal Service sponsored on-line eMailbox that would work like your current physical mailbox to receive official correspondence, bills, legal docs, opt-in advertising, etc. on-line and would link to your physical home address. It would be a closed loop system meaning that only those with a postal eMailbox address would be able to communicate with each other. Most industrialized country postal operators offer some type of this service already (with a few exceptions). Would you use this type of service? Do you think the Postal Service should leverage its reputation as a trusted intermediary to provide this? Would you a lockbox storage feature that could allow you to store legal documents, medical records,etc. on-line and accessible anywhere? Love to hear your thoughts.


  • #146635
    Profile photo of GovLoop

    I would if it offered a clear value to me that didn’t exist elsewhere. If just another email box, I probably wouldn’t.

    But I would love to have my medical records online (dentist to doctor). I’d also love to find a way to store important documents like property tax statements, SSA statements, perhaps like passport/birth certificate info, etc. Kind of like online safe deposit box. I’m not a good paper filer any more (I have a binder that is woefully out of date). And I do feel weird that only copy of my social security card is flimsy paper that is almost torn in a drawer in my house.

    I’d also try this out if there was a clear proposition for government. For example, if they said, if I opt-in to this online box, it is saving the environment or tax dollars. Or perhaps even a value- I think for Vanguard and Bank of America when I opted out of paper statements, they offered me a free month or two of a premium service.

  • #146633
    Profile photo of Denise Petet
    Denise Petet

    I think, given the sensitive data they’re potentially suggesting I’d want to know that the security is rock solid. That’s my biggest issue with anyone offering to collate data about me. Anytime you put stuff like that in one place it’s a hacker target.

  • #146631
    Profile photo of Charles A. Ray
    Charles A. Ray

    Given my experience with USPS over the past two years, it’s not likely. They have some great people working for them, my neighborhood mailman, for instance, and if not for him, I’d be pulling my hair out. I moved from Maryland to Zimbabwe and asked for my mail and my wife’s mail to be forwarded, leaving my son in the house. I did this on line at the USPS site at a cost of $1.00 for each of us. They started forwarding my son’s mail to my new address, but not ours. Thankfully, our mailman kept our mail and gave it to us on our visits back to the US, but we had a few late-payment problems to deal with. So, I changed it back – they then promptly started forwarding everyone’s mail to my Zimbabwe address (through the US State Department, not internationally). I blew a fuse and changed it back again. Now, at last, I’m getting my mail and my wife’s mail, but, get this – my son’s mail again as well. USPS and computers don’t seem to fit well. No way would I trust them with valuable documents.

  • #146629
    Profile photo of Spanky Frost
    Spanky Frost

    I think you make a good point Charles. My many years experience with the USPS is not good either. Having seen how they operate and working for the federal government it appears they are like any other agency… the biggest problems that no one wants to address is the management. Mid-level and upper level management is the problem. Favoritism, cronyism, nepotism… created a sheer good ole boy system. During the 80’s and 90’s, I have witnessed many veteran friends that claim the trick they used was to hire you and lay you off before you could join the union. Bring you back later and do the same. This would keep you off the union rolls and keep you in suspension… no benefits and they work you like a dog. But if you are in the good ole boy club, they’ll pull you into the union and presto! I am not sure if this is still happening, but I am positive alot of their issues are related to the mis-management. All supervisors and managers go theough their good employees and bad employees… but when you have constant mistakes like Charles explained and no one does anything about it… it creates a cancer throughout the system to be a failure. I am sorry, but it is not hard to find capable workers that know how to use computers and have an aptitude to be creative and learn…

  • #146627
    Profile photo of John Janek
    John Janek

    Agreed. The USPS missed the bus on this one in a big way. By the time the 90s rolled around, it was obvious that physical mail was going to be massively reduced over the next several decades. Every chart I’ve seen since and before has reinforced that. The unfortunate part is that instead of trying to find a way the Government can actually help and provide a value-added service, the response from Congress always seems to be “Tax the Internet!” Well, guess what, that doesn’t work either.

    Providing HIPAA-certified accounts? Gold. Providing NIST-approved email for govvies? Gold (for instance, I can send a SECRET document via the USPS registered mail. What’s the electronic equivilent to that?).

    We have so many opportunities to latch onto the great things the private sector is doing, and then expand on them for the public good. Which, really, should be the optimal configuration for any system like ours. What about eBook publishing for the government (where’s the push from GPO into BN.com, Amazon.com and others?). What about providing grants and support for open source software projects that help small businesses be more competitive, communities reduce their IT costs, and government to raise the tide for everyone?

    These are the challenges today that show how out of the loop Government has become. My hope is that its just generational – there seem to be plenty of people slowly winding their way through the ranks who have similar attitudes and ideas.

  • #146625
    Profile photo of Faye Newsham
    Faye Newsham

    I have to say as a consumer, I would not trust the same folks who can’t stop delivering the mail of a dead guy 6+ years following his death or the mail of someone who’s never lived at my house or in this state because his last name is the same as mine…or his second ex-wife’s mail because they were too lazy to complete change of address forms and apparently when I moved from an apartment 10 miles away from theirs (to 4 states away), my change of address form became theirs? I’ve worked with individual post offices, mail carriers, the deceased’s family members, organizations sending them mail, etc. Although it can be a fun exercise to entirely embarrass some organization about why you are receiving the ex-spouses, second ex-wife’s mail… talk about apologetic!!!

    I would love a centralized email account for all individuals of the home tied to the address where junk, bills, etc. could go. I’d love some kind of system tied to my Social Security number for taxes, medical records, voting, legal stuff. Do I think it can happen? Maybe with an entirely new group of folks? NOT with the USPS. Sorry folks, I love you, but you haven’t changed enough with the times or shown the behemoth is manageable with just the bits of paper we continue to let you toy with.

  • #146623

    I my opinion with today’s internet world and texting from everywhere, I am sorry to say that the Post Office has come to an end of what they were created for. I know a lot of jobs will need to be removed and workers shifted to other agencies but instead of continued pumping in of something that is no longer needed, it is a waste of resources and budget that could be used elsewhere. I think their senior executives back in the day when they were told to see if they could use this “new technology” instead of casting it aside as they did, they could have taken their job and the jobs to a longer life.

    The amount of need today does not weigh to continued pumping of dollars just to keep them afloat. Sorry. Time to utilize other means of mailing what there is a need for and move on. Billions and billions every year can be used in other agencies and departments where their need for personnel is kept on hold because not enough budget, this would assist that and moving personnel also can help with that need now.

  • #146621
    Profile photo of Kurt Williams
    Kurt Williams

    I like it, as long as they get some quality tech people to secure it, it could be a great service for business and the ordinary citizen. For non-tech citizenry I think it will be just another thing they need to be taught to use. Better make sure they dumb it way down so its as easy as licking a stamp otherwise it will stall, I predict.

  • #146619
    Profile photo of Denise Petet
    Denise Petet

    My next biggest issue with having any sort of ‘national clearing house for your info/data’….privacy anyone? Hacker’s dream as I mentioned above, but it’d be threatened even from within. The IRS would drool over the prospect of having the ability to peek into your assets to see exactly where the money is. So would medicare or your insurance company.

    I do agree, that despite some employees of the postal service being upstandin, hardworking and honest people, like any govt agency, they are rife with slackers, buddies, cronies and criminal level mismanagement. They make mistakes all the time, and whoppers too, but there’s no accountability. I mail my credit card payment on time, and the check doesn’t get to its destination, it’s MY fault that the postal service lost it. They drop the ball, I take the fall.

    IMHO, they’d treat our data the same way.

  • #146617
    Profile photo of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack

    I think an eMailbox system would help me out a lot. I’ve changed my address every year for the past 5 years, and it is a tedious process to keep updating my mailing address. If this was set up correctly (and securely), I would love to have a place to have documents sent that doesn’t change as often as my place of residence!

  • #146615
    Profile photo of James Martin
    James Martin

    I would be inclined to not use such a service from USPS. I ordered a $6 electronic part recently to be delivered to my office address. In the mean time our outside box was destroyed by kids so instead of putting the order in my P.O. Box, they returned it to the shipper. Supposedly the Post Master doesn’t allow them to do that any more. I was able to receive a credit for the part but had to reorder which ment I was out the shipping cost on the original order and the replacement order. No credit for shipping (which was more that the cost of the part). Their customer service has gone way down do to new “rules and regs”. They just moved the processing center for our mail to a city 50 miles away and now are talking about moving that processing center to another location 200 miles away supposedly “to save money”. Privatize? No jobs will be lost in all these cost cutting measures according to the PO spokesperson. So where are the big money savings going to come from? If you are closing a sorting facility, the jobs should be closed too. No, they will just be moved elsewhere and a couple of buildings will be setting empty because they can’t sell them. Oh, my wife ordered a Kindle Fire. The Fire came by a delivery service and arrived perfectly. The case she ordered came by USPS and it is lost in limbo somewhere. They have shipped her another case because no one can track the first one.

  • #146613
    Profile photo of Claire Gesalman
    Claire Gesalman

    I find it extremely annoying to not be able to get paper statements anymore from most of my providers, e.g., phone, cell phone. And having the notifications mixed in with the overwhelming bulk of email is even worse. Having them in a true “mailbox” would make it a bit more palatable. The post office loses my mail often enough or gives me someone else’s mail, so I don’t know if I trust them with something like this or not. I probably would not include anything very sensitive.

  • #146611
    Profile photo of Richard Rynearson
    Richard Rynearson

    I agree most with this reply. I don’t buy the negative arguements regarding USPS … they can update themselves and get better! There is no reason the USPS can’t figure out how to leverage the information age to enhance their business and services. They can also improve their management and practices. I am in complete agreement with the statement that I would use a Postal Service eMailbox IF “it offered a clear value to me that didn’t exist elsewhere.” The people at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others are constantly coming up with innovative web applications …. the USPS can to! They just must think “out of the box” more instead of the same, old routine.

  • #146609
    Profile photo of Jean Farmer
    Jean Farmer

    Even if they SAID they’d save $$ or the environment, who’s to say they really WOULD? After all, that new health care plan isn’t working out as they said it would. Count me out.

  • #146607
    Profile photo of Judith Lindenau
    Judith Lindenau

    I agree: it’s too little, too late. There are already some really good free email programs out there to compete with. I can’t even buy a post card postage stamp from USPS…While I like the ‘neighborhood mailman’ in concept, it’s one of those institutions (like many others) that’s being phased out as the world changes. And let’s face it, life would be better without printed junk mail.

  • #146605
    Profile photo of brian jones
    brian jones

    good then stop sending me junk mail to my mailbox and send it to my email box so i can delete it there too

  • #146603
    Profile photo of Daniel Bennett
    Daniel Bennett

    The email idea has been around and sounds interesting, but let’s extract what the value proposition really would be. Since most people already have an email, then this would be an extra one that would have an address attached. But then if you moved you would change email addresses. Would the old one still be around for others? The real value is to bind the residential address to the identity and communication URIs (e.g. mailto: or tel: or OpenID). Each postal address would have a distinct and permanent URL that could associated or bound to one or more identifiers/email addresses. The binding could be as simple as a web document signed (XML Digital Signature) that contains both the URL for the postal address and the OpenID URL or mailto URI/email address.

    This way, if you move, you do not need to change email addresses, just bind your email with the new postal address.

    USPS is already a vital creator of the postal codes and addresses and delivers documents to every postal address protected by law against fraud and thievery by federal law. Using this information will help with authentication without complicating communications and identity for citizens.

    Daniel Bennett

    CTO, eCitizen Foundation

  • #146601
    Profile photo of Kirby Coon
    Kirby Coon

    If this had been offered a few years ago I would have jumped right in. However the service that is received from USPS today is not something that inspires confidence they could pull this off. Also have to question if they could do this without going even further in debt. I am not sure I would want to trust keeping all of my medical and other important papers in a lockbox that is managed by an organization that could fold at any time. I do like the concept, just wondering if USPS could pull it off.

    That being said, yes if this were offered I would give it a try. The opt-in advertisements received via email instead of paper alone might be worth it. Having an account to receive email from businisses and other organizations that means I don’t have to share my personall email address with them would also sound like a good idea to me. The security issues associated with such an account might cause problems, or might be easier to track spammers and those spreading a virus, trojan or other undesirable software since every email address would be associated with a physical address. Certainly worth considering. I would like to see more details on the proposal.

  • #146599
    Profile photo of Gene Tallarico
    Gene Tallarico

    THey should have started this in the mid 90’s. Now they have a lot of catching up to do, but it’s a great way to generate ad revenue to subsidize other mail services, instead of closing POs, layoffs, and limited deliveries. I dont relly care whether it’s a closed system or not…sooner or later I’ll get spam etc. BUT if they want to store docs, billing and records… I dont think there’s anything quite that secure and there may never be. USPS should do it and let it catch on. Americans will use it, esp if it has some cool new features and is easier than Gmail. FYI – check the article for typos.

  • #146597
    Profile photo of Jack Shipley
    Jack Shipley

    I agree. Security and trust are needed for med records, etc. Maybe it will get that moving faster.

  • #146595
    Profile photo of Daniel Clement
    Daniel Clement

    I see no point in this. My bills are all delivered and paid electronically. All personal correspondence is handled through one of two email accounts. There is also my work email. I utilize cloud services to store and receive important documents that i can retrieve from almost anywhere. Most of the junk mail i get currently from USPS I don’t want, so why would i opt in to an electronic version? I filter out enough spam as it is. I like the idea that I have several different options available to me instead of having all my eggs in one basket. I also like the idea that these accounts are tied to me and not my address. I haven’t read the article but people move. The days of being tied to an fixed point like an address doesn’t make sense. Will I have to have all my data transferred to my new address if i move?

    While I have no gripes with USPS, I can’t imagine how they could pull this off efficiently and cheaply. They would also need a revenue stream to maintain it. With so many businesses encouraging me to stop receiving paper bills (which saves them postage) would they have to pay USPS to now deliver their “email” electronically. About the only people I think would be willing to pay are direct mail advertisers and I don’t want that junk anyway. And, while I am not a conspiracy nut, and USPS is technically an “independent” agency of the federal government, I think it would be too tempting for the feds not to craft legislation to allow unfettered access to the data stored on those servers..

    Like others have said, they are too late to the game. They should have seen the writing on the wall and crafted themselves more like fedex or UPS when they had the chance. When I first read the title I actually thought it was a rehash of that old internet rumor about taxing email.

  • #146593

    I would not use email, but I might use a digital safe deposit box, as others have suggested.

    The “no” on email stems from:

    1) Already have 2 – Yahoo! and Gmail – for personal and professional…and really don’t want to manage another communication vehicle.

    2) I don’t so much need to communicate from there…I just need a place to park and file important stuff – like passwords, etc.

    The only way this would become “yes” is if you could guarantee I would not get spammed – most of my Yahoo! email is spam and I might actually be willing to start over if I knew I could funnel only essential information and communication through a more secure, online tool. My concern on that being a reality: the amount of “spam” I get in my real postal service mailbox every day… :-(

  • #146591
    Profile photo of Gregory Butera
    Gregory Butera

    My two cents:

    1) I wouldn’t see the advantage of having yet another email box. I mainly get and pay bills electronically already.

    2) I don’t see any advantage for my having an email box that links to my physical address. It is yet another thing to have to manage if I move, and means I’d get spam not just for me but also for previous tenants/owners.

    3) The lockbox idea is intriguing, but I’d have significant concerns about security.

    4) Closed loop systems can still be spoofed. Spammers would still have the means to send junk in this system.

    5) If USPS implemented this, it would probably result in a huge layoff. Though that might happen anyway as technology continues to progress.

    6) On the other hand, if this meant elimination of paper junk mail, I’d be all for it! We’d kill fewer trees and help me declutter my coffee table!

    I honestly am happy with the current postal service. I think it is high time rates just go up to reflect the market cost of mail. First Class mail should cost at least $1, (and junk mail per piece fees should go up to infinity.)

  • #146589
    Profile photo of raymond long
    raymond long

    I tend to agree with some comments made by Charles and Spanky. It is very difficult for an organization (especially government organization) to adapt information age ideas with an agrarian age mindset. Having had work in the federal system for over 20 years, federal organizations have done very poorly with rapid implementation. The USPS was unable to adapt to the consumer emerging needs, due to a myriad of reason (in my opinion, complanceny killed the USPS). Back to topic. I would probably use the eMailbox for official purposes. I like the idea of point to point mailing and providing a secure delivery system.

    Let me give away the billion dollar idea. Sending and receiving electronic mail is great, but what happens when you want to send something to a love one who does not have the electronic mail service.

    Here is my idea for USPS. The eMailbox consumer has the option to create (electronically) a personal letter to some one and for a small fee the letter is printed and delivered by USPS. Don’t just stop there, allow the consumer to upload photos, documents, recipes, anything that can be printed and send it with the electronic letter that the consumer produced. The loved one who does not have internet services, can now receive a hard copy of your electronically produced correspondence. The USPS needs to expand their thinking in order to stay relevant.

  • #146587
    Profile photo of Stephen F Murphy
    Stephen F Murphy

    I don’t recall ever locking my mailbox at home, does anyone? Then again I receive nothing of any value except for the occasional mail order delivery that does not come from FedEx or UPS. All my banking and bills are handled online. Once a year I receive credit cards but I suspect that will go away once I can pay by phone using Near Field Communications (NFC) or equivalent technology. Once every 3-5 years I receive a new drivers license by mail, I haven’t heard how the format for that that may change. Oh and once a year I receive voting papers, no change on the horizon there yet. As for medical and legal docs I use Evernote and can access those anytime, anywhere. So I am intrigued and open to the proposition of what USPS might offer but I am hard pressed to think exactly what it might be that would be of value.

  • #146585
    Profile photo of GovLoop

    An answer I got directly sent to me :

    USPS prototype electronic (E) Postmark successfully tested in early 90’s. Utilized by Indiana courts and legally bound documents shared by all parties in court. Don’t know why it was not marketed. Now testing an E-box for virtu mail. USPS, innovations galore with marketing @ wagon train pace.

  • #146583
    Profile photo of Stephen R. Gallison
    Stephen R. Gallison

    I have email accounts and subscriptions (free and paid) that bring me virtually everything I need. I only receive junk mail at my home and all my accounts are electronic. If something requires delivery to my home FedEx or United Parcel Service gets it to me intact and without hassles. I’m not sure how USPS can compete after hearing numerous stories from employees that tell me that they have a 24 hour operation and there isn’t enough mail for all the faux workers so people just goof off.

    Lets start a Public Works Project and convert all of the Post Offices of any size to residential and business complexes, that will put people to work to replace the postal workers that aren’t picked up by the FedEx’s and UPS.

    Sorry USPS you probably need to go as does Freddie and Fannie – your time has past and you are high cost maintenance just like my old 72 Lincoln Continental.

  • #146581
    Profile photo of John Younkin
    John Younkin

    I dont really see the value proposition. An alternative approach is to have the USPS leverage the brand reputation and allow people people to leverage a digital stamp type concept that would provide some level of authenticity to the message transfer. I could envision the USPS becoming the Digital email equivilent of the certified letter – To me that would be a much more valued service. I could then recieve messages through this system into my own and corporate email addresses. The value proposition is that the USPS would be the validator that who is sending the message is really who they say they are. They could also be the facilitator of secure messages. Imagine a company wants to distribute W-2’s to employees. They could do this with a digital stamp that would;

    1. Ensure secure message transfer from sender to recipient.

    2. Provide traceability as to when it was sent, who recieved it and the digital certs to proove it.

    3. Provide history for (3 years???) of the digital message transmission history.

    4. The message itself would be encrypted and only the sender and reciever could view it.

    The same concept could be applied to other electronic medium such as faxes, loan documents, etc that are transmitted digitaly.

    I dont think I would be comfortable with the USPS holding my general email and they would also be a huge target for every hacker out there. I would love to be able to send off items like tax returns, certified letters, etc. via such a service.

    The value add for the Post Office would be that if they don’t get delivered online after a set number of days – or no online address is available, they would be printed and transmitted via traditional delivery methods. I believe the credibility part is what the Post Office brings to the table – Especialy if the get Congress to pass a law making the Digital Stamp admissable in court.

    I really dont see a market for mass mailings. Right now I cant envision any value add that the post office would provide other than demographic databases. Of course the USPS could combine thier existing databases with commercial email databases and re-sell the data as a commercial service.

  • #146579
    Profile photo of Ross Travis
    Ross Travis

    Good ideas John, and also some good questions. Why hasn’t the GPO linked with BN or Amazon? As for an eMailBox, the model would probably have to have a rock-bottom user charge to be competitive. And that means will the USPS or the Feds allow advertisers on this site?

  • #146577
    Profile photo of Robert Longley
    Robert Longley

    If you check back to the 1992-1993 timeframe, there was an internal plan within the post office to do something like this. The plan was actually broader. People recognized then that between email and fedex/UPS the future of the postal service had a dark cloud over it. As I remember it, the plan had another component to leverage the post office’s many locations as government service centers. Each location would have a rotating office depending on local needs. Monday IRS, Tuesday USDA, Wednesday Immigration, Thursday HHS, Friday VA – or some similar combination. I always liked the idea and was surprised that it never caught on. I was part of an inter-agency working group for the Reinventing Government initiative at the time.

  • #146575
    Profile photo of Karol Taylor
    Karol Taylor

    No, I wouldn’t. However, I would take advantage of evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon hours if they were open.

  • #146573
    Profile photo of Eric Diaz
    Eric Diaz

    I would use the service to safeguard important documents as you mentioned. i would think that working with the right agencies to market the service, they could provide an email system that would add value to our current environment.

  • #146571
    Profile photo of Hamaad Syed
    Hamaad Syed

    Yes, I would use such an eMailbox.

  • #146569
    Profile photo of Jeff S
    Jeff S

    Sure would!!

  • #146567
    Profile photo of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
  • #146565
    Profile photo of Robert Longley
    Robert Longley

    It’s a nice added service for some people, but it’s not a game changer for the future of the post office. If I had to do 5 things to keep the post office alive I would do the following:

    1.Get out from under the the health care funding mandate they currently have.

    2.Discontinue residential delivery on saturday

    3.Expand hours – the only time I can get there is saturday mornings and that isn’t even convenient.

    4.Form a partnership with FedEx and UPS to provide secure dropoff/pickup services (ie. you would have an additional delivery option to have packages dropped at the post office. Tied to item 3 to work)

    5.Start advertising on postal vehicles

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