This is the busiest shipping week of the year, but lines aren’t too long for people using self-service kiosks at the post office. Instead of a 20-minute wait to receive help from a living, breathing U.S. Postal Service employee, more customers are turning to the machines.
Marnie McNeil, a customer service supervisor at the main Boise post office on South 13th Street, said people are becoming more comfortable with the kiosks, which first arrived in Boise in 2006. The number of packages shipped using the devices has increased about 10 percent from last year, McNeil said.
The Postal Service’s Click-N-Ship service also has grown in popularity, Postal Service Spokeswoman Margaret Putnam said. Click-N-Ship allows customers to print shipping labels from their home computers and drop their packages in the same collection bins that kiosk customers use. Last year, customers across the nation printed more than 42 million labels, Putnam said in an email.
Shifting business from people to machines has allowed the financially strapped Postal Service to handle more mail — and take in more money — without paying more wages and benefits. McNeil said she’s noticed an increase in revenue at the Boise main office. An accounting of the Postal Service’s nationwide savings was unavailable.
McNeil’s focus, however, is less bottom line and more on convenience for customers, she said.
“A lot of people will step out of line as soon as they see somebody else use it and how easy it is for that person,” McNeil said. “You have a little old lady with a cane and she’s pressing the numbers and she’s getting her (package) posted before you, then you’re more willing to try something.”
The main branch sports three kiosks, which operate much like other self-service machines at retail stores. In the Treasure Valley, you’ll find kiosks at six Boise branches — the main office, Cole Village, Five Mile, Overland, Borah and Airport Station— plus the main offices in Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Garden City and Meridian.
By using kiosks, customers can avoid longer wait times and send packages when it’s convenient. Many of the machines are placed in post office branches’ lobbies, so they can be used after hours and on weekends.
In exchange for convenience, kiosk customers give up personal attention.
That’s no great loss for 82-year-old Boise resident Ellene Parr, who first used a kiosk Monday and was back Tuesday. Parr said she never uses self-service machines at the grocery store, partly because it’s too hectic a process and partly because she enjoys chatting with the checkers.
At the post office, where she goes less frequently, socializing isn’t a concern.
McNeil guided Parr through the process of using a kiosk both Monday and Tuesday. The second transaction took about two minutes to complete.
“If it weren’t Christmastime, I would have said, ‘Just leave me alone. I’ll work at it. I’ll ask for help if I need it,’ ” Parr said. “But, you know, I’d be slow at it. So it works well for this time of year.”
Across the country last year, customers made nearly 86 million transactions from some 2,500 kiosks. Figures for other years were not available.
Sven Berg: 377-6275