Postal service missing thousands of scanners

You know that mysterious Postal Service gadget that's been in your desk drawer since the day you took the job? Or perhaps it's on top of a cupboard in the mailroom, by the dessicated remains of a long-dead potted plant.

Either way, the service wants it back. Thousands of USPS hand-held scanners are missing, and it has run out of new ones.

"We have a critical shortage," writes the service's Jim Cochrane in a press release. "Check storage areas and cabinets. Talk with everyone who has been a part of the program. Let’s find them and get them back in inventory."

Handed out as part of the Surface Visibility program, which began in 2004, the scanners are used to collect data on letters and packages. As time has gone by, nearly 2,300 of them have fallen into disuse without being returned to the service.

Refurbishing existing handsets avoids the expense of manufacturing new ones: an unappetizing prospect, given the USPS's business woes.

The Postal Service wants them back before the end of January, 2012, with any batteries removed. Send them to: Critical Parts Center, Attn: Surface Visibility Recovery Program, 758 Columbia Road, Suite 101, Plainfield, IN 46168. More information is at the USPS's Surface Visibility page.



  1. “Let’s find them and get them back in inventory.”

    Lets keep track of them in the first place?

    If only they had had a scanner scanner

  2. This would explain why only 25% of the packages my business sends w/ Delivery Confirmation service actually get tracked.  They should use the .19 cents they are collecting from each purchase of this service to buy new scanners.

  3. Charge more for postage.  So tired of these poor post office stories.  Charge more for postage, problem solved.

    1. 1) Like any product or service, there’s a point at which the current customers will either change their habits and reduce or eliminate their dependence upon your business or move to a competitor. This would accelerate the loss of income and speed the decent into insolvency. “Problem solved,” since there would then be no more post office, I guess.

      2) There didn’t seem to be any “poor post office” story here, other than one of a bit of ineptitude in keeping track of their scanners.  You seem to be trying to fit it into a narrative it doesn’t conform to.

    2. They need to be more responsible with the things they buy with the money they already get. The law blocking private companies from offering first class mail delivery should be abolished. Let them compete in a full area against Fed Ex and UPS. Then you’ll find out how much money they really need.

      1. And then when USPS is gone, Fedex and UPS will deliver a letter to my grandmother in a small town, or my family just outside of the boondocks, for a competitive price to what USPS offers — the same almost everywhere. Or wait, this is more probable: they won’t.

        There’s a reason for not letting the market have a free hand everywhere, and it’s a damn good one.

  4. “Because these scanners are no longer manufactured and the current inventory is nearly depleted, the scanners must be col­lected and returned for refurbishment.”

    so their system is depending on getting their hands on a no longer made model?
    and it’s not possible to get something else that works?

    lovely… :)

    1. Snark aside, it makes perfect sense to have them returned. They probably have a zillion existing customized charging stations/etc that would be expensive to replace as well. Refurbishing is almost always more economical that buying new, when it comes to gadgets like this.

  5. Wow, I remember when I worked retail that if a scanner went missing it was your a$$. If it was gone more than 24 hours it came out of your pay and you signed a written reprimand. If you lost it again you were fired on the spot.

  6. Every time one of these scanners downloads its contents to the central server, it should report its ID.   Just scan the logs for the last time a missing scanner checked in and who checked it in.  Then ask them.

  7. See, THIS is why the Post Office is broke.

    (Wait, no, it’s that 2006 law that mandates 70 years of retirement benefit pre-payment in a criplingly short timeframe which is the cause for most of USPS’s woes, so the entire “USPS is broke” meme is a manufactured crisis designed to force privatizing an embarrassingly successful governnment program (that is not funded by taxpayers).)

  8. what the heck??  How on earth did they lose these?  These scanners aren’t just some little flimsy pieces of junk, they’re expensive.  If they were loaning them out to private businesses….they should have kept a log of who and where!!  Dumbass management at USPS.

  9. Who uses mail?  Not trolling – I seriously want to know.  I have not received real mail in years – literally, multiple years.  All I get is advertisements for credit cards and solicitations for donations.

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