Postal Service Defends Pricey Conference as Chance to Boost Revenue

Seth Perlman/AP file photo

The U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday defended its decision to spend more than $2 million on an upcoming conference, saying the event is an opportunity to grow revenue.

USPS is sending 400 employees to the National Postal Forum Conference, an annual event held to educate businesses and mailing industry professionals on the services available to them. The vast majority of USPS attendees participate in the conference for free, as they are deemed to have added value, according to the Postal Service.

The mail delivery agency’s expenses come from the minority of participants who do have to pay attendance fees, exhibit space charges and various display and presentation costs.

Postal Service officials said the ends justify the means, as all the major mailing players attend the conference each year. In 2012, USPS customers who spent more than $22 billion in postage attended, which represents one-third of all Postal Service revenue, a spokeswoman said. The agency spent about $1.9 million on the conference last year, but brought in $160 million in revenue from closing nearly 100 sales.

“This is a revenue-generating opportunity,” Zy Richardson, the spokeswoman, told Government Executive. “This is a public event that anyone can attend. It’s not a secret, internal event.”

Some news reports have noted the conference -- hosted in San Francisco by the National Postal Forum, a non-profit educational corporation -- includes a golf tournament networking event. However, the golfing is not included in the registration fees for the conference and any Postal Service employee participating must pay his or her own way to participate. The reports also pointed to a “dance party” as a dubious expense for the struggling agency, but Richardson said USPS in no way contributed to the associated expenses and the party is not a part of its $2 million conference budget.

About 4,000 mailing industry professionals are expected to attend the conference. 

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