WASHINGTON – Have a letter you need to mail, but you’re not sure of the zip code or the required postage?
No problem. The U.S. Postal Service’s World Wide Web site can give you what you need, any day or time. And you won’t have to battle crowds or lines.
The Web site (http://www.usps.gov) also boasts change-of- address forms, Express Mail tracking and a link to a site that allows you to order collector’s stamps.
But the zip code look-up was the site’s first major feature and remains its bread and butter, said Pete Stark, 45, of Bowie, Md., manager of Corporate Information Services and head of a seven-person team that coordinates the site’s content.
Type in a street address and the look-up will give the corresponding zip code. From there, a visitor can type the zip code and the weight of a letter or package into a postage calculator and it will display the costs of sending it overnight, by three-day delivery or parcel post.
For example, sending a standard 1-ounce letter overnight from Accident, Md., to Rescue, Calif., costs $10.75.
“We wanted this to be as customer-friendly and usable as possible,” Stark said.
Among the other useful features is “MoversNet,” a clickable guide that provides secure change-of-address forms that can be filled out on-line, printed out and mailed to the Postal Service. MoversNet also gives other moving tips.
Stark said he hopes to eventually set it up so customers can submit the address-change forms over the Internet.
And what’s a post office without stamps?
The Postal Service site has a link to the federal StampsOnline site, where collectors can view a wide variety of collectible stamps. StampsOnline gives an 800 number for stamp orders.
Stark said visitors to the Postal Service site will be able to order stamps on-line fairly soon.
This wouldn’t be a post office without fugitives’ posters. The site has a section devoted to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which includes pictures and descriptions of fugitives wanted for mail-related crimes.
Although the site is useful, it is not glitzy. The home page has a plain gray background to accommodate slower connections. “We realize that a number of our customers are coming at this via dial-up modem, and we don’t want to turn anybody off,” Stark said.
Visitors can move around to site offerings by clicking on mailbox icons.
Despite the simple graphics and almost no outside advertising for the site, Stark said it registers more than 100,000 hits a week.
He said usage has steadily increased since the site first went on-line in August 1994.
“It’s not the same people using the site more. It’s more people using the site more,” Stark said.
Several other departments, including marketing, advertising, corporate relations and consumer affairs, help decide what information goes on the site, he said.
“We take care of putting it into a package with a consistent brand and look and feel, so that everything looks like it’s coming out of the same company,” Stark said. The site also is being re-designed, to enhance it and “refresh the image.” Stark said his team wants to keep it functional but also “a lot more fun.” -30-