Department & Division News

Mystery Shopper Program:

Priority Mail Sales Down, Parcel Post Up... Troubling?

Just a few weeks after postal executives implemented changes to the unpopular Mystery Shopper Program, some postmasters and managers are second-guessing the decision.

After years of APWU complaints about the program, in January the USPS vice president of Post Office Operations issued instructions to Area vice presidents: Retail Associates (RAs) would no longer be required to ask a scripted set of questions when waiting on customers. Instead, they would be permitted to “customize their questions to best address customer needs.”

The questions, which were designed to increase sales of higher-priced services, were a source of frustration to window clerks and the public because RAs were required to ask every customer mailing a package a litany of inquiries – even customers the RAs knew well and whose needs they understood.

In a Dec. 27, 2010, letter to the APWU [PDF], the USPS said the decision was based on “confidence in RAs product knowledge.”

Despite the change in policy, retail clerks should continue to promote USPS products and services. Why? Simply put, the USPS needs the revenue.

Recently, priority mail sales have declined, while sales of less expensive parcel post services have increased. The latest sales figures are troubling to management, and some postmasters and managers want to return to the old script.

We hope Vice President of Post Office Operations stands his ground and continues to permit RAs to use their judgment about asking the questions. In the meantime, our clerks will have to continue to demonstrate that they are true professionals.