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How the USPS Could Soon Bring Grocery Delivery to Households Around the Nation
Getting your grocery delivered can make your life easier in a number of ways. It can save you time and can even save you money. If you’re caring for young children, grocery delivery eliminates the need to haul them to the supermarket and deal with any tantrums that may occur when you refuse to buy the sugary cereal or the bag of candy they want. If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, caring for elderly parents as well as young children, getting your groceries delivered makes things that much easier.
Unfortunately, cheap, reliable grocery delivery may not yet be available in your area. But the USPS wants to change that. Carriers in at least one city are trying a new plan — they’re partnering with AmazonFresh to deliver groceries to postal customers in the early hours of the morning. If all goes well, the USPS could soon be partnering with other retailers to delivery more than just to mail to customers across the United States.
USPS Tests Grocery Delivery in San Francisco
During the summer of 2014, the San Francisco branch of the USPS teamed up with Amazon to deliver grocery items through AmazonFresh and household goods available on Amazon Prime. The 60-day trial saw postal carriers bring 160 grocery deliveries a day to customers in 38 zip codes. That brief market test was considered successful enough that the Postal Regulatory Commission approved an expanded, two-year market test of the new service in October.
Unlike regular mail deliveries, the USPS delivers grocery orders in the early hours of the morning, generally between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Customers may use roadside mailboxes to collect letters, bills, and other conventional mail, but they must pre-approve another designated location where postal carriers can leave grocery deliveries. The insulated AmazonFresh bags are, of course, too big to stuff into a mailbox. Customers may ask that the food be left on the front or back porch, inside a garage or shed, or inside a door, according to their preferences. Because the deliveries are made so early in the morning, postal workers don’t knock or ring doorbells. Instead they just quietly leave the groceries in the designated drop-off spot. Later, the customer can collect them at his or her convenience, and return the bag by leaving it in the drop-off location for the next postal carrier to grab when he or she comes by.
Also unlike regular mail delivery, postal carriers who deliver groceries don’t have set routes. They’re assigned different routes, and different customers, on a daily basis. That’s because customers don’t need groceries delivered every day, so there’s no need for postal carriers to work a set route when delivering groceries. In deference to the early hours at which they deliver these packages, postal workers are given special lighted caps and are allowed to carry flashlights.
Under the extended two-year market test, the USPS has permission to partner with other local retailers to deliver their products, too. Customers place their orders with the retailer, who drops off the groceries at the post office between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Grocery delivery has been extended beyond San Francisco to at least 15 other cities.
How Grocery Delivery Could Help You
The USPS’s grocery delivery scheme could be a huge stroke of luck for many of the nation’s busy parents. As any mother knows, taking your kids to the grocery store is one of the biggest hassles of the week. Having the USPS deliver your groceries saves you the time it takes to get the children ready and get them in the car; drive to the store; find a parking spot; and then herd everyone through the store and the checkout. If you’re caring for an elderly parent who can’t be left alone, grocery delivery eliminates the need to hire a nurse or find a relative, friend, or neighbor to fill in for you.
When you have your groceries delivered, you’ll have more control over what you and your family eats and you’ll spend less money, because it’s easier to resist impulse buys when you’re placing an order over the phone or online. You’ll save gas and wear and tear on your car from driving back and forth to the grocery store every week. And you’ll have more free time to spend actually enjoying your family, or doing things just for yourself.
Getting groceries is a huge hassle for every household, but it’s one that the USPS wants to make easier. Under a two-year market test plan, the USPS is delivering groceries to households in San Francisco and more than a dozen other cities. Soon, your local mail carrier could be delivering more than just the mail.