Problem: no one uses APCs. Solution: call them something else!

When the US Postal Service started getting rid of its antiquated, but popular stamp vending machines, it assured customers that they would be replaced by something much better. That something was the Automated Postal Center, a large kiosk style machine that includes a scale and a touchscreen for browsing and selecting options. Unfortunately, APCs have proven to be less than a resounding success. Some customers find them hard to figure out- and you can’t insert a few coins and get a stamp for your letter- they only accept credit cards, and they don’t sell single stamps. Most importantly, they’re expensive. As a result, the USPS has had to shift APCs from one location to another, trying to find locations where the big machines will pay for themselves.

So the postal service has come up with the perfect solution- rebranding! The USPS has become somewhat obsessive about the concept of “branding” in recent years, so it’s perhaps not a big surprise that when the agency asked its customers about APCs, it wasn’t to learn which features people wanted in a vending machine, but rather “what should we call it?”

The magical solution is the “Self-Service Ship and Mail Center”! It’s the same APC, but with a new color scheme (aka “branding”). According to the USPS News Link article reproduced below, “The new name is expected to create a newfound confidence in this self-service expanded shipping and mailing option that affords expanded access to postal products and services”.

The power of magical thinking!

In October, USPS will rebrand its familiar self-service kiosk with a new name. Formally called the Automated Postal Center (APC) the kiosk is now named the “Self-Service Ship and Mail Center.”

The new name is expected to create a newfound confidence in this self-service expanded shipping and mailing option that affords expanded access to postal products and services. Customers can shop at a time and location convenient to them.

Based on research and analysis, “Self-Service Ship and Mail Center” was selected by a large group of small business and residential customers as the name that best supports the kiosk and USPS brand.

Along with the new name, there also will be new signage that indicates the key products and services listed in the Postal Service’s new iconography. For customers who don’t understand or are unaware of the products and services available at these self-service kiosks, the iconography easily identifies them. And listing just the main services eliminates the visual clutter and nonessential information that might be confusing to customers.

All retail associates should educate their customers and promote the new Self-Service Ship and Mail Center. The new name, along with the revamped look, should persuade customers to use this shipping and mailing option as a quick and convenient way to conduct postal transactions.

Source: USPS NewsLink

  • zena

    Yeah, just let me educate my customers so that I can have my hours cut back even more. Excellent plan.

  • Larry

    If I can’t use cash I’m not going to use it and it does not matter what you call it!

  • eddie-bo-betty

    I went to one of these the Sunday before Christmas to mail a package. There was a line 20 people long and that thing is not simple to use. It was one long wait. Good thing I was on the clock. You’d think they could open the service window on Sunday, 5 days before Christmas.

  • Postal Stupidvisor

    Sooo, how big of a bonus did that postal executive earn by doing ALL that work (research and analysis). Must have been really hard work too. I mean all he had to do was to think of a new name and all the postal services problems are solved. The sad part of all this is his superiors thought this was a good idea from the start and approved it after untold dollars was wasted on it.

  • gregg moore

    I think the problem for me is that you have to buy at least a dollar worth of postage minimum. Also, they are cutting out a large swath of potential users by not offering a change feeder for purchasing single stamps. The amount of people without bank accounts and debit cards is staggering. Plus, for those who do have debit cards, who wants to risk a $35 dollar overdraft fee for a .44 cent stamp.

  • Russ

    Throw more money at yet another failed idea by postal mgmnt. The newest multi billion dollar failure is fss.. The postmaster general should make minimum wage in the lobby telling customers to use this thing..

  • Russ

    Perhaps postal mgmnt should stop throwing good money on failed ideas. The newest multi billion dollar failure is fss.

  • Pete

    HALLELUYA !!! We are saved !!

    Our peerless leaders have saved the post office.

    This calls for a least a million dollar bonus for all that were involved in this epic event.

  • o yea

    I have used them for years, the best and friendliest clerk in the building



    P-IECE of


  • Gregg

    Ah,lets see.First class mail volume is down by whatever percent.People now use the internet to pay bills etc…Apparently,this Self Service bla,bla,bla is aimed more at our customers who use the package services we provide.Why would they wanna wait in line(really inconvient)when they can use this SSSMC.This is how the USPS saves money.Spend millions,if not gazillions on sh** like this and FSS machines etc… At the same time,cutting hours of window clerks.It’s all about convience.Our customers do not want to wait in line for 10,15,20 minutes.If we had an ample number of retail clerks,this would not happen.I angry with Pete.Award the people who thought of this idea with a bonus!! They deserve it.NOT!!

  • Liam Skye

    How many millions of dollars is it going to cost to “rebrand” all those machines and all the pamphlets and websites that mention them?

  • postalnewsblogisamoron

    and one wonders why Issa is hell bent on destroying the P.O..

  • Lynn

    While I am now a retired PM, I had 3 APC’s in my retail units and they are outstanding pieces of equipment. Yes, my foolish leaders required me to take out stamp machines that were turning $10K each a month. Their goal expectation for the APC was also $10K Da….. HQ never understood that these two machines serviced different customer needs. I spent months arguing it’s better to make $20K each per month. But that concept was lost on retail. Their goal then was as it is today get rid of the employee (SSPC). Trust me, my SSPC was damn good at his job but he did not cost us $250K per year, which is what my total vending generated. Note: I use the APC today…..I STILL don’t understood why people (with a credit card) stand in line to mail a package when an APC is available. Then complain why their wait was so long……Oh Well.

  • franklin

    Another boondoggle. People’s eyes glaze over when you name something with more than two syllables. This gem has six whole words – fail. Also, the stamp machines were cool. When you really need that one stamp at midnite to mail something, there they were in the lobby. I’m sure someone in the marketing dept. (a dept. that needs serious scrutiny as per cost-cutting – I know, I worked in sales and they do virtually nothing) got a nice bonus for this winner.

  • Aleman

    I will never use an APC. Sorry, but if I need a stamp, I want one stamp and I want to put my quarters and nickels into the machine, not swipe my credit card. I also resent the idea that I have to have my picture taken to use that damned machines. So typical of postal management not to understand their target audience or to provide them what they need. About the same way they manage their employees, “common sense? nope, don’t do that here.”

  • cpttuna

    Trust me. “I can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

  • Marilynn Reeves

    The best thing we could call APC’s is GONE and give our customers the service they deserve.

  • Walt Da Malt

    Just one more in a long line of stupid upper-management decisions. This is the same logic that has resulted in the Finance/Accounting/Payroll units being dismantled because they were deemed to be “unnecessary support functions”. However, postal brain-trust continues to throw money at “Marketing”, “IOCS”, and various other “Resource Management” systems that are not really adding any value to the organization.

  • Karenepoo

    The number one question when I’m doing lobby sweeps is “Why did you take out the stamp machine?” Three years later, and that is still the number one question. There is still a blank wall where the stamp machine once stood, forever vigilant, forever waiting for dimes, quarters and nickels for the customer that only needed one stamp. No questions, no fuss. How silly we are as an organization to cut off our nose to spite our face.

  • Pingback: Problem: no one uses APCs. Solution: call them something else! at Postal Affairs Blog()

  • Retired HQ

    Factual error in the article. The APC’s were purchased well in advance of the decision to eliminate stamp vending equipment. APC’s were never intended for single or even multiple stamp purchases; they were to handle more complex package shipping transactions.

    Stamp vending equipment was eliminated because it got to expensive to maintain. Rather than just removed, it should have been replaced. Unfortunately, the powers that be just decided to eliminate and never had a strategy to replace.

  • PW

    APCs generate almost a $ billion a year. That is not too shabby for a hardto use system! Get your facts right. This unit was designed by end users, so if they don’t like it, they are bad designers

  • brian

    PW: Not according to the USPS- they say APCs took in about $600 million last year. That’s less than one percent of total revenue. But throwing out a big gross number (even if it’s vastly inflated to “almost a $ billion a year”) is meaningless. How successful has the program been? The goal was to double transactions and revenue by 2010. Did they? Given that they’re changing the name and “branding”, I suspect the answer is “no”.
    “This unit was designed by end users, so if they don’t like it, they are bad designers” Spoken like a true bureaucrat. So exactly who were the “end users” who took it upon themselves to design the APC? I don’t recall being involved, nor do any other postal customers I know. And how is it that they, rather than the USPS, were allowed to design it? Must be a fascinating story! Please tell us more!

  • Ugly Angel

    Maybe the Klu Klux Klan just needs to be “rebranded”. Then they’ll be ok. Yeah, that’s the problem. They just need a new name. Then they’ll be good.
    And they wonder why the Post Office has sunk to the bottom.

  • OD

    when they took out the single stamp machines–the idiot postmaster justified it with “if i want to buy gum, i have to buy a pack of gum, not by the stick.” where is that guy today? he filed an owcp claim for stress and is living the good life doing nothing–which is more than he did when he was the idiot postmaster. OIG are you listening?