FedEx SmartPost, USPS Team Up on Returns Service

Sep 12, 2009 2:11 AM  By

FedEx SmartPost has announced a new way for consumers to return items to a retailer using the U.S. Postal Service. The service provides the convenience of USPS access points for a return pickup at collection boxes and post offices, and free package pickup from home or business addresses.

FedEx SmartPost Returns Service uses the Postal Service’s Parcel Return Service. Participating retailers will include a prepaid label in the original shipment along with return instructions.

After packages are picked up by the USPS, they will be consolidated into larger shipments at local post offices and picked up by FedEx for shipment to the original retailer. The service will initially be available for shippers with high volumes of returns.

FedEx SmartPost, a wholly owned subsidiary of FedEx Ground, specializes in delivering lightweight, business-to-consumer packages (typically less time-sensitive parcels), using the USPS for the final mile to residences.

USPS spokesman Dave Lewin says Parcel Return Service is designed to meet the needs of consumers returning items to retailers. “The addition of return service for FedEx SmartPost broadens the relationship between the two organizations. The Postal Service has unmatched access to every household in the nation, a business advantage FedEx leverages as part of our last-mile residential delivery for small packages.”

Although the USPS and FedEx are competitors in the shipping industry, Lewin notes that they also work cooperatively. “FedEx holds a contract with the Postal Service to move mail across the country through its air network, and the Postal Service now provides both final delivery and customer return service through our Parcel Return Service for FedEx SmartPost packages.”

Gerard Hempstead, president of Hempstead Consulting and a former vice president for DHL, believes this partnership between the USPS and FedEx Smartpost makes sense. “It’s the logical extension of the outbound services offered by Smartpost to b-to-c catalog, Internet and telesales companies.”

This new agreement allows the recipient to return a transaction by giving it to the USPS, Hempstead says. The USPS will then terminate that package at the DDU or DBMC and turn it over to the Smartpost driver while he is there dropping off his incoming shipments for delivery.

“The Postal Service has the most ubiquitous network for individuals to send back an unwanted item,” Hempstead notes. “Returns management is one of the most overlooked areas for retailers, but interestingly, one of the most frequently cited areas for sale abandonment by purchasers.”