Proposed changes at the USPS . . .
Ah, yes. “Nothing is more constant than change”
First would be retail price increases: The cost for a First-Class FOREVER® Stamp is going up from $0.47 to $0.49. For those of you that mail First-Class Mail® letter rate, time to stock up on FORE
VER®Stamps while you still can.
The good part for retail is that additional ounces, international mail and postcard rates all stay the same! Yea!
Standard Mail® is dead, long live USPS Marketing Mail®.
For some reason known to USPS insiders, they are changing the term Standard Mail to USPS Marketing Mail. Not that it’s a bad thing, but why? As it doesn’t happen until next January, I’ll keep calling it Standard Mail.
One of the really, really good things for those of us mailing flats is to remove the Flat Sequencing System (FSS) pricing. This was due to much feedback (pushback) from industry leaders. Your sortation and tags will still come out as FSS but your rate would be as it should be. For flat mailers, this will be huge.
Also being considered:
Commercial First-Class and Standard Mail with have the same postage cost if it is one ounce or 3.5 ounces.
Instead of different prices tiers for heavy letters, now all commercial letters up to 3.5 ounces will mail for the same price. That makes it a lot easier. They are considering striking the 3.3 – 3.5 ounce weight and eliminating the associated rates. While we are on the weight subject, the USPS is also considering changing the weight for Standard Mail Letters and Flats piece/pound price begins from 3.3 to 4.0 ounces. This change would be for Automation, Machinable, Carrier Route Automation and Carrier Route EDDM Letters only.
As a customer care specialist, I look as how I can help my customer partners reduce their postage cost while keeping revenue intact. A couple of things I’ve discovered:
First-Class presort can be a bit less expensive than before but not to the point where I would begin to suggest to customers not to mail Standard but to mail First-Class instead. But I would keep it in mind.
The big takeaway would be for flats and heavy letters. Between the rate being the same for a 1 ounce or a-3.5 ounce mailpiece, the Standard mail weight increase to 4 ounces, and the elimination of FSS rates, flat mail is almost a bargain.
And as always, Enhanced Carrier Route high-density, high-density plus and saturation rates are still very attractive.
It began subtly enough, the requirement for only physical addresses (no PO Boxes) on the PAF form. Then an official USPS notice went around to all NCOALink users with a link to the PAF Guide (https://ribbs.usps.gov/ncoalink/documents/tech guides/PAF GUIDE.PDF) and a stern warning that “companies that are acting as Broker Agents for NCOALink services are not completing the NCOALink Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) accurately.” It goes on to describe who the “list owner” and a “Broker, Agent” are and who can sign for whom.
It has been a long-standing rule to have a PAF for each of your customers for which you use NCOALink. Think of it as a “Chain of Custody.” The USPS wants documentation of everyone in the custody link.
This all started in 1968 when the Freedom of Information Act was passed and the flood gates opened. Until the Privacy Act of 1974 was passed there were little controls on what personal information could be sought. The PAF is a requirement of the Privacy Act of 1974. An audit by the Postal Inspection arm of the US
PS discovered that not all Broker Agents were filling out the PAF for their customers. Hence the letter.
The method of compliance is simple although time consuming and a bit difficult to explain to customers as to why it needs to be done at all. But it does have be done and as a group we will do it.
It is proposed that in January 8, 2017 support for the current version of Mail.dat (14-2) will end. It will be replaced by Mail.dat version 15-1. This, for the most part, will be a seamless transition for most of us. You may see some new error messages and, of course, you will see a new version of the MD Client software. Stay tuned.
Mailer Scorecard Blues
The assessments have begun to roll in. After our initial surprise, many of us are now checking our Mailer Scorecard almost daily. From the phone calls I get, Barcode Uniqueness seems to be the most troublesome for mailers.
Barcode Uniqueness occurs when a barcode serial number is used more than once over any 45 day range. These can occur for mail piece barcodes or container barcodes but more often it will be piece barcodes. There are a few reasons why this happens.
- Incorrect setup of the Mailer’s information including using a 9-digit Mailer ID with a 9-digit Barcode Serial Number Range or using a 6-digit Mailer ID with a 6-digit Barcode Serial Number Range.
- Imbedding the Intelligent Mail Barcode and/or the Intelligent Mail Barcode Digits fields in the list processing allowing reuse of the same barcodes twice.
- Not managing the Barcode Serial Number Range between different workstations using the same Mailer ID.
- Using a 9-Digit Mailer ID with a 6-Digit Barcode Serial Number when your volume demands you using a 6-Digit Mailer ID and a 9-Digit Barcode Serial Number.
Barcode Uniqueness is something that requires monitoring and management to remain under threshold. Not that it’s hard, it just takes vigilance.
As industry leaders and business partners of the USPS, while change is constant and sometimes chockfull of challenges, it is our job to embrace it and help navigate these paths of change for our customer partners and industry associates.
Marty Haywood is the Customer Support Specialist & Partnership Liaison Officer at AccuZIP, Inc. Marty’shistory includes custom manufacturing, advertising copywriting, and over 20 years experience in the Print/Mail industry. He is an Idealliance® Advanced Certified Mail Professional. AccuZIP, Inc. is a national software company that has provided feature rich solutions to manage Contact Data Quality, Address Hygiene, USPS® Postal Presorting and Compliance and Mail Tracking and Reporting for over two decades. Its solutions are used by many industry verticals to streamline, standardize and simplify processes associated with data entry, data management, direct mailing and multi-channel communications.