Updated at 9:50 a.m. PDT with new information.
While the federal government scrambles to find ways to stimulate economic activity, one of the U.S. Postal Service's most popular online services was malfunctioning and temporarily out of service during the Post Office's second-busiest week of business for the year.
The U.S. Postal Service Web site experienced a system-wide failure Monday morning, bringing to a halt one programs such as one Web tool that powers 20 online services including the site's free package pick up service, its zip code locator, and its rate estimator. Those programs were running again by Monday afternoon with intermittent interruptions, according to U.S. Postal Service Spokesman Michael Woods.
However, the Postal Service's "Click-N-Ship" application, which allows customers to go online and print and pay for postage and shipping labels, continued to malfunction, preventing customers from printing labels. The Postal Service took interim steps to mitigate the problem throughout the week, and as of Friday morning, the service is once again functional, Woods said.
"This is one of the busiest times for the Postal Service, and we're very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused," Woods said. "We worked around the clock internally and with external business partners to find a solution."
Woods said he could not elaborate on the nature of the problem because they are still diagnosing the root cause of it. He said, however, that "it was a technical glitch in the system we had not been aware of" and that increased traffic was a factor. He said the glitch is resolved and it should not reoccur.
"We're confident we found the solution, but we're being very cautious and continuing to troubleshoot and do diagnostic tests of USPS.com," Woods said.
The Postal Service took the Click-N-Ship application offline completely for a brief period Tuesday night, Woods said. During the outage, as well as the rest of the week, customers were encouraged to sign up for free trial services at Stamps.com and Endicia.com.
With two million registered users, Click-N-Ship is one of the Postal Service's most popular online features. Thirty-four million labels were printed last year-- and the second week of December is typically the second-busiest week of business for the Postal Service. The third week is the busiest week of the year.
The Postal Service sent out 900,000 e-mails this week to explain the problem to its most active users, Woods said, and even put in some personal phone calls.