For many people, the main goal when visiting the post office is to be out again quickly.
But the post office of tomorrow might aim to be as welcoming as the Starbucks or Borders of today.
Customers and employees at Schaumburg's Woodfield Station post office have the distinction of forging the future of post office service for the entire nation.
The facility at 651 Mall Drive has just unveiled a cutting-edge renovation that couples customer friendliness with state-of-the-art technology and is the first of its kind in the U.S.
What might surprise customers the most about the changes -- even before the circular center lounge, accessible service stations and comfortable furniture and TVs come into focus -- are the employees at the door asking to help.
"This is a new way to serve our customer's needs," said Postal Service spokesman Tim Ratliff. "They know when they come in, they're going to get expert service."
Schaumburg's Woodfield-area post office -- with its renovated area which opened last week in a section formerly used as storage -- was hardly a random choice as the site of this experiment, said John Nabor, the facility manager.
Not only is the area heavily trafficked, it contains one of the highest concentrations of small businesses in the country, Nabor said.
"There's more small business in Schaumburg than in some entire post office districts," he added.
WiFi service and a business lounge with soft chairs, TV screens and business-oriented magazines aim to encourage average customers to stay longer than they normally would.
But one byproduct of doing so is that they may learn how many services are available without coming in at all.
Visiting the post office's Web site at usps.com opens up a world of options, from buying stamps to sending birthday cards, Nabor said.
In fact, birthday cards for an entire year can be prepared in January and set for delivery at the appropriate times, he added.
One of the tasks of employees at the Woodfield Station is making customers comfortable with using Automated Postal Center kiosks for everything from buying stamps to sending packages.
About the only restrictions on sending packages from the kiosks are for very large boxes and international shipping, Nabor said.
Customer Service Supervisor Minnie Sanchez recently moved to the Woodfield Station from the main Schaumburg post office at 450 W. Schaumburg Road. She said seeing customers come in and leave so satisfied seems to be having a positive effect on employees as well.
While short lines are still possible, there are pagers available to summon patrons back to the service counter during passport applications or other waiting periods.
But will a model that seems to have worked for bookstores and coffee shops work at the post office? Patrons Wednesday morning seemed to like what they saw.
There was no sign of the frustration and long lines that characterized the facility only a couple of weeks before.
"Anything is better than it was," said Tom Cameron, who works nearby and was often plagued by long lines.
"I think it's marvelous ... No. 1 in the country," said Schaumburg resident Joan Coleman. "The copy machine is real handy to use."
The timing and location of the next such facility is undetermined but could take up to two years of studying what works and what doesn't in Schaumburg.