February 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

U.S. Postal Service and UPS team up on package returns service

Over the next several months, the U.S. Postal Service and rival UPS will cooperate in a test of a new service that picks up packages from consumers’ addresses and ships them back to retailers.

If all goes well, the U.S. Postal Service and rival delivery services company UPS will make permanent a few months from now UPS Returns Flexible Access as a service that picks up packages from consumers’ addresses and ships them back to retailers.

The service started last month as a test that will run through late spring or early summer. It covers the continental U.S.

Terry Rowinski, vice president of operations at online retailer BuySeasons Inc., one of several retailers participating in the test, says the returns program is a way to enhance his company’s product offerings and improve customer service. BuySeasons operates the costumes and party supplies retail site BuyCostumes.com.

To use the service, customers of participating retailers will affix to their packages return shipping labels received with every order. Packages affixed with the labels, which display bar codes for both UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, can be left in a home mail box, in a UPS or U.S. Postal Service drop box, or taken to any UPS or U.S. Postal Service facility. UPS then will pick up the package and return it directly to the retailer, expediting shipment by eliminating the need to transfer the package to multiple U.S. Postal Service mail-handling facilities. A fee schedule has yet to be worked out.

The Postal Service also provides a returns service in conjunction with Newgistics Inc., which picks up packages at consumers’ addresses and takes them to a U.S. Postal Service mail facility for delivery to retailers. That service will continue separately from the UPS program.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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