Cover Story

’Tis the Season for Returns…

The Postal Service™ is greasing the wheels of its returns infrastructure, in preparation for the 2015 shopping season and the annual returns frenzy that will invariably follow.

This shopping season is likely to be even more frenetic than last year, with Forrester Research predicting double-digit growth in online shopping. USPS®, for its part, expects to deliver 10 percent more packages than last holiday season.

Once the sun sets on candles and tinsel, consumers will start returning items that they ordered, or that were gifted to them — and as the number of items ordered online and shipped to consumers grows, so will the demand for easy and convenient return methods that will attract repeat business.

The Postal Service is game for the challenge. In the last year, USPS has:

n Continued expanding its returns processing capabilities: An extra 932 Parcel Return Service Return Delivery Units (RDUs) across the country bring the nationwide total to 9,063. This will both aid in handling that volume and help USPS position itself as the returns shipping provider of choice in a crowded market said to be worth some $3 billion.

n Made it easier for businesses to receive returns with USPS: USPS increased the available insurance to $5,000 and did away with the annual permit and account maintenance fees for companies who ship outbound packages with USPS, and who use USPS Returns or Merchandise Return Service (MRS).

n Created one universal returns permit: Previously, merchants had to choose from three returns permits — each with a fee of its own — and had complained that this constituted a barrier to using the Postal Service for return shipping. USPS winnowed those into one universal permit that covers Parcel Return Service, Merchandise Return Service, Bulk Parcel Return Service, and USPS Returns®.

n Significantly enhanced Merchandise Return Service: MRS now only applies to three mail classes: First-Class Package Service®, Priority Mail®, and Ground Return Service. These changes simplified returns both for the Postal Service and for its customers by eliminating less cost-effective options and streamlining the manual weighing and rating of traditional MRS parcels.

n Made Bulk Parcel Return Service (BPRS) an endorsement: This means that mailers receiving these return packages pay the per piece fee, without paying postage fees. Consumers, meanwhile, will no longer be required to download and print the mailer’s BPRS label, which will simplify the returns process on their end.

n Increased the volume for First-Class Package Service: Commercial customers with negotiated service agreements could mail packages weighing up to one pound for a flat rate instead of the per piece price based on weight. This service targets merchants that ship high-value/lightweight products, such as jewelry or consumer electronics.

Return Labels

Return labels can either be included in the original order or requested via a merchant’s call center. Consumers need only affix that return label to the package, and present it at one of the 31,000 Post Offices™, drop it in one of 160,000 collection boxes (if it meets aviation mail security guidelines), or schedule a Package Pickup at any of the available 132 million domestic addresses by accessing

The Postal Service also offers a number of options that help businesses create and deliver return labels to customers.

Businesses using Priority Mail Return Service, First-Class Package Return® Service, Ground Return Service, and Parcel Return Service can use the Print and Deliver application to order return labels; USPS will then create those labels and deliver them, along with return instructions:

n To one of the selected 31,000 Post Offices;

n To a domestic address; or

n To one of more than 2,500 self-service kiosks, where consumers can print them.

Merchants can also instruct the Postal Service to hold the labels for pickup at a Post Office.

Within the last year, Click-N-Ship® Business Pro entered into the returns arena, allowing small- and medium-sized merchants to generate Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service labels that will be:

n Included in the original shipment box;

n Available via the cloud platform;

n Available for self-service printing alone; and

n Available for self-service printing in batches.

For more information, browse the USPS Returns — Customer Guide:

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