Mail, Part I: Understanding USPS Changes Slated for May
On May 14, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will enact its most sweeping change since the 1996 Domestic Mail Classification Schedule and Rate Schedule Change. A new weight- and shape-based postal rate system designed to reward mailers whose items are compatible with the USPS’s automated equipment is going into effect. Items requiring manual processing because of size or shape are going to cost more—a lot more.
Mary Ann Bennett, president and CEO of The Bennett Group, Rochester, N.Y., and a leading expert in mail and postal regulations, explained the USPS is designed to move mail, not store and warehouse it. Mail must move through the system as quickly as possible. “Every postal program, every piece of equipment, every requirement is to facilitate the efficient and accurate movement of mail from the acceptance dock to ... mailbox[es],” she said. The keys, stressed Bennett, are avoiding flats and parcels, and discovering what constitutes a letter at the USPS. “Most people would be very surprised. Certainly, 99 out of 100 designers don’t realize the difference,” she commented. “In fact, a 64-page catalog can be a letter. Anything that is 61⁄8x111⁄2” and 1⁄4” thick is a letter. The discounts are out there; the knowledge is not. Part of the revenue [the USPS] generates is due to our ignorance.”
Bennett believes the new postal rate system is a golden opportunity for distributors to show direct mailers and customers conducting promotional marketing campaigns how to take advantage of significant price incentives rewarding efficient, automation-friendly mailer designs. For instance, marketing and advertising pros typically like mailing materials unfolded as flats for purely aesthetic reasons, but “tradition is out the door when it comes to postage,” she said. “Folding [promotional] materials into a letter-shaped mail piece will not change the impact of the information, but it will affect the mailing costs considerably.”