Innovative Post

The German Post has implemented some innovative services which either haven’t been copied abroad, or only took off in other countries quite a bit later:

1. Packstation

If you work during the week, which let’s face it many of us have to, it can be quite a pain getting goods that you have bought on the internet delivered at a time when you are in.

You might end up having to wait until the weekend to pick up a parcel, after the postman or courier tried to deliver during the day, and then left a note saying the parcel is at the depot. DHL (a subsidiary of the German Post) offers a free service called Packstation which allows you to have your parcels sent to an automated unit from which you can collect parcels and also send parcels – 24×7. You get an electronic card like a credit card, and a secret number and use these to collect or send your post. Sending parcels via a Packstation is cheaper then if you take it to the Post Office.

It’s a win-win service. Customers can collect and send parcels when they want, and because only DHL and the Post can put deliveries into the Packstation, it means these customers favour vendors who deliver by DHL / Post, thus securing them more business. And it saves them delivering to each customer individually, so saves money too. Strange, that most (all?) other countries don’t have similar services.

2. Printing you own stamps and address labels

I know that some other postal systems also offer a similar service, but in Germany it has been available for several years. Here it is called Internetmarke (“Internet Stamp”) and again it is offered by DHL and the Post.

This service allows customers to print stamps (they can choose a logo or image to be printed on the stamp) and package labels on-line on their own labels. They pay using several different systems, including PayPal. It means you always have a stamp with the right value at home, even if you are sending something to an unusual destination or at a non-standard tariff.

3. Postident

Postident is a service which allows you to have your identity validated at a post office.

Suppose you want to open an internet bank account. The usual process in Germany is to send of the application via the internet. A few days later, you will receive a postident form from the bank with a request to take it to the post office to have your ID verified. You take your passport or ID card, and the form and they check your documentation, fill in the details on the form and return it at the bank’s cost. This is a lot more convenient than getting copies of your passport certified by a notary or sending off recent copies of several utility bills to prove who you are (which is the usual system in the UK, for instance).

As far as I know, this service hasn’t been copied anywhere else.