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.