US Postal Service shows off its high-tech image for '88

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Machines, high technology, and shorter lines will mark a visit to the new post office in 1988. The United States Postal Service also will offer innovations such as ordering stamps on a 24-hour phone line with delivery by letter carriers.

Postmaster General Preston R. Tisch outlined these plans as he addressed National Postal Forum-Northeast, the first of a series of regional meetings for major business users of the mails. More than 1,400 companies were able to see a model of a new postal station in action during a three-day series of forums and workshops last week in Boston.

The basic goal of the new services is to reduce time spent in lines, asking questions, and guessing at prices and services, Mr. Tisch says.

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Modernized postal stations will become a reality in 60 major US cities next year, he says.

Key officials from the Postal Service and regional workers operated Exhibition Station, a model post office, and conducted 12 workshops on how to utilize the new and computerized services that will be available at the modernized offices. They also discussed special services that will be available by telephone and computer terminals.

Mailers were encouraged to use the ZIP-plus-4 codes to ensure faster and more efficient delivery of mail. The ZIP-plus-4 is the regular ZIP code plus an added four-numeral code recommended by the Postal Service.

New features for 1988, some already tested and installed in Boston-area post offices, include:

Multiple-choice stamp machines: Patrons may buy stamps in various denominations in varied numbers. ``These are converted candy machines,'' says James Daniels of Memphis, a technician at the exhibit.

Tri-vend machines: These machines change dollar bills and dispense stamp booklets and single stamps. More than 33,000 are in use, with additional ones now being placed.

Modernized lobby information centers: Telephone and computerized services answering ``thousands of questions'' will be placed in 60 major cities, beginning in 1988, says Charles Edmiston III, general manager of retail and customer service operations.

Speedier Express Mail service: Boston, Los Angeles, and San Diego are three test cities for smoothing the process of providing faster and more efficient Express Mail overnight service offered by the post office.

``When this program has been refined, postal clerks will be able to check the routing and processing of Express Mail,'' says Mr. Edmiston. ``This will make our overnight mail more efficient and help us to trace it more effectively.'' After the equipment is tested, he says, it will be installed nationwide beginning next February.

Mass users will be able to order stamps by a hot-line telephone, pay by credit card around the clock, and have the stamps delivered by letter carrier the next day, says Postmaster General Tisch of another service that is to be fully in place in 1988.

Tisch called his first year in office a learning period. He listed four key areas of concern: customer satisfaction, competent marketing of products and services, automation, and worker relations.

He invited mail users to use the modernized services offered by the post office. Tisch says these innovations will help the post office to deliver mail more quickly and to operate more efficiently, but that they will not mean lower mail costs. ``This does mean a smaller increase in mail costs,'' he adds. The department has filed for ``mild increases'' in postal rates, he says.

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