Archive for category USPS

Mr. ZIP And The Zip Code Turned 51!

How Much Do You Think About ZIP Codes?

logo1It’s just a string of numbers you add to your letters, cards and packages, right?

There is a whole history, and a pretty cute character, that helped educate your parents and grand parents on how to use these codes and improve mail service.

In July 1963, the postal service implemented the Zone Improvement Plan or ZIP code as it is commonly called. The ZIP code is comprised of 5 digits specific to an area. These codes assist in routing mail efficiently for the USPS.

Predicting that the public would be less than enthusiastic about memorizing not only their ZIP code, but those of family and friends, the USPS introduced Mr. ZIP in late 1962.

Mr. ZIP appeared on buttons, signs, magazines, and even the edges of a sheet of stamps. The point was to educate the public and ingrain the use of ZIP codes to all mailers. Including a ZIP code promised “space-age speed”.

51 years later and Mr. ZIP stands as one of the most successful ad icons of all time. The USPS notes that by 1967, 80% of all Americans recognized him and knew what he stood for.

Mr. ZIP was retired in 1986, but last year (2013) was the 50 year anniversary. As expected, he has been popping up all over the place. He even has his own page on the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum websitemr_zip_650x300_a01_101201_e

This simple doodle was able to move the general public into participating in the Zone Improvement Plan – which increased efficiency and speed for the USPS for generations to come.

Please enjoy this video from the mid-1960’s starring our friend, Mr. ZIP!

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USPS Proposes Reduced Rates for Priority Mail

USPS Proposes Reduced Rates for Priority Mail

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The U.S. Postal Service has filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission that it intends to reduce rates on Priority Mail for those using Commercial Plus and Commercial Base shipping services.

Commercial Base Pricing does not have any volume requirements and these reduced rates are available for customers who use Click-N-Ship, PC Postage products, permit imprints, or digital mailing systems (meters) that generate an IBI (Information Based Indicia) and submit data electronically to the USPS.

Eligibility for Commercial Plus Pricing is based primarily on shipping volume.  For Priority Mail, 50,000 pieces are required within the prior year. In lieu of past volume, customers can instead complete a customer commitment agreement.

Pricing at Post Offices and other retail outlets will have a modest increase of 1.7 percent on average, while the Commercial Base prices will decrease 2.3% and Commercial Plus will decrease 0.9%.

The Postal Service will continue to offer Priority Mail customers free insurance, expected delivery day, flat-rate packaging options and Regional Rate Boxes. Priority Mail is one of the Postal Service’s most popular shipping products. Last year, 871 million pieces were shipped through Priority Mail.

“With the Postal Service, there are no shipping surcharges. We deliver on Saturdays for no extra charge, we pick up packages for free, and we deliver shipping boxes and envelopes, also for free. Just a few more ways we help businesses get the most out of their shipping,”stated Nagisa Manabe, chief marketing/sales officer.

Highlights of the new proposed retail pricing for Priority Mail products include:

  • Small box – $5.95
  • Medium box – $12.65
  • Large box – $17.90
  • Large APO/FPO box – $15.90
  • Regular envelope – $5.75
  • Legal envelope – $5.90
  • Padded envelope – $6.10

The PRC will review the prices before they become effective September 7, 2014.

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Penalties Assessed by USPS June 2014

Penalties Assessed by USPS June 2014

Screen_Shot_2011-10-02_at_3_22_44_PM_large_verge_medium_landscapeOccasionally readers ask me why I spend so much time reviewing postal rules and regulations. Most often these questions are regarding meeting Move Update requirements, specs for postcards, self-mailers and letters vs flats.

In the news this week were two good examples of why understanding these regulations is crucial.

The postal service hit Southern California Edison with $7.6 million in penalties for allegedly not keeping its address lists up to date. The postal service noted a “suspiciously high increase” in the amount of undeliverable and return-to-sender First Class mail SCE sent between 2006 and 2008.

SCE acknowledged two errors in managing its address correction procedures. These errors showed up in missing apartment or suite numbers and how to handle fractional number street address (such as 29 ½ Elm Street). They contend that these instances did not cause an appreciable increase in bad addresses.

The postal service ordered a refund of postage discounts SCE earned for mail presented between May 14, 2007 and November 26, 2008. The estimate was 82 million pieces of mail at a total penalty of $7.6 million.

The second news story involved Sears allegedly violating rules for folded self-mailers. The trouble was over the placement and type of seals used on 6.3 million folded Standard Class self-mailers sent out for promotions in 2009.

Sears stated that the pieces met postal regulations or were specifically approved by postal officials because they were designed not to jam letter sorting machinery. USPS determined that the pieces needed a second tab and that some were improperly sealed with glue instead of tabs.

Sears was dinged with $1.1 million for the alleged violation.

Both Sears and Southern California Edison have filed appeals of the USPS decisions with the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Keeping up-to-date on postal rulings and regulations is no laughing matter when your company is fined for non-compliance. Please reach out to USPS Mailpiece Design Analysts and/or your outsource mail vendor. Both are there to help guide you through maximizing your mailings.

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How To: Identify and Handle Suspicious Letters and Packages

Identifying and Handling Suspicious Letters and Packages

There have been a few recent incidences of mailed letters containing suspicious and/or lethal materials, typically of a powder consistency.

While your mail operation center may already x-ray incoming letters and packages, powdered materials would not be identified.

pos84Characteristics of a Suspicious Letter/Package

  • Unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you
  • Addressed to someone no longer with your organization
  • No return address or one that cannot be verified as legitimate
  • Unusual weight given its size or lopsided
  • Restrictive markings such as “Personal” or “Confidential”
  • Exhibits protruding wires, strange odors or stains
  • Postmarked from a city that does not match return address
  • Displays distorted handwriting or addresses with homemade labels or cut and paste lettering
  • Unprofessionally wrapped or secured with combinations or excessive tape
  • Excessive postage

What to do if you receive a suspected explosive device:

  • Do not open the parcel
  • Isolate the parcel
  • Evacuate the immediate area
  • Record the specific point in the screening process that caused the alert (excessive postage, no return address, lopsided or bulky).
  • Without touching the mailpiece, record from each visible side of the item all available information (name and address of sender and addressee, postmark, cancellation date, types of stamps and any other labels or markings).
  • Inform security team, call 911
  • If sent through the U.S. Mail, call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 2)

What to do if you receive a biological or chemical threat by mail:

  • Do not handle the mailpiece or package
  • Wash hands with soap and water
  • Evacuate the area
  • Isolate the mailpiece or package
  • Make sure all persons who have touched the mailpiece wash their hands with soap and water. Record all persons who have touched the mailpiece; include contact information
  • If the package or letter has been opened and powder spills out DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLEAN IT UP. KEEP OTHERS AWAY FROM THE AREA.
  • Inform security team, call 911
  • If sent through the U.S. Mail, call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 2)

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An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Thousands in USPS Fines!

US Postal Service EMM Trays

Perils of Printers without Mail House Experience

If your printed piece is going out in the mail, how important is it to choose a printer with in-house mail capabilities?

Last week we had a meeting with a local printer who found this out the hard way. Due to their lack of experience in mailing, they were subject to some hefty USPS fines.

Certainly an avoidable situation, but how do you make a print/mail vendor selection?  Contact them directly and by all means request a tour of the facility. Here are some helpful questions to ask.

  • Ask for credentials.
    • Are they a USPS sanctioned mail co-mingler?
    • Do they provide NCOA, LACSlink or Fast Forward services?
    • Do they provide CASS certification?
    • Do they have an onsite USPS verifier?
    • Do they have an onsite MERLIN?
    • Does the USPS pick up from their dock, or do they deliver to BMEU?
    • Do key employees hold any industry certifications?  How often are they updated?
  • What services do they provide within their own production facility?
    • Color, highlight color, and black and white printing?
    • MICR capable?
    • Inkjet addressing for postcards or envelopes?
    • Collating?
    • Folding?
    • Intelligent mail inserters?
    • Match mailings?
    • HIPAA compliant?
  • How secure is their facility?
    • What is their business continuity plan?
    • What is their disaster recovery plan?
    • Secure building access?
    • 24/7 video monitoring of facility and production floor?
    • If mail is delivered to them, is it left unattended on the dock?
    • Are employees background checked?
An ounce of prevention is worth thousands in USPS fines!

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Nine Surprising Facts About The Postal Service

Nine Things You Should Know About The Postal Service

“You probably know your mail carrier and the clerks at your neighborhood Post Office, but how well do you know the Postal Service itself? Here are nine facts that might surprise you.”

PostalFactsAbove is a quote from this great USPS blog we discovered. It can’t be said any better, “how well do you know the postal service itself?” Please take a minute to check out this wonderful blog: http://uspsblog.com/nine-things-you-should-know-about-the-postal-service/ and learn nine facts that might surprise you about the postal service.

We would love to hear your feedback and see if you knew any of the facts or if you were truly surprised. Comment below!

 

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Get Started and Save with Every Door Direct Mail

Get Started with Every Door Direct Mail

How much do you know about the USPS program Every Door Direct Mail?

eddmJust this week I was able to provide a customer with a $31,000.00 savings in postage. Wow! What a way to control your marketing budget, right?

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) gives you the ability to target a local neighborhood or to reach customers/prospects nationwide. The Simplified Mailing Process helps you identify which USPS mail routes to include in your targeted mailing area. There is a super cool, intuitive EDDM application available online to get you started.

You can access the online tool and get more information here: https://www.usps.com/business/every-door-direct-mail.htm

Who can benefit from EDDM?

  • Retailers
  • Auto dealerships
  • Arts organizations
  • Restaurants
  • Business services
  • Attorneys
  • Doctors
  • Dry cleaners
  • Contractors
  • Realtors

The list could go on and on. If you want to reach a local, or even national, audience EDDM provides an easy, cost effective marketing channel. Remember that $31,000.00 postage savings for my local customer?

Some things to keep in mind when planning your mailing:

  • Mailpieces must meet Standard flats specifications
    • Minimum length 11 ½” OR
    • Minimum height 6 1/8”
    • Weight equal to or less than 3.3 ounces
    • Must contain at least 200 pieces (with a maximum per day of 5,000 pieces for the EDDM Retail option, but unlimited for the EDDM BMEU option)

The USPS is hosting a series of FREE business seminars designed to help you gain a greater understanding of this new service and how it can support your marketing plan.

I suggest reaching out to your local Postal Customer Council to find where and when the next seminar will take place in your area. You can search for your local PCC chapter here: https://www.usps.com/business/local-pcc.htm

The Postal Customer Council is a terrific resource and I hope if you’re mailing, you are taking advantage of all the experience and expertise they can offer.

How do you see yourself using this new Postal Service program Every Door Direct Mail? We would love to hear your ideas and success stories!

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Increase ROI with Direct Mail Design | Top 10 Recommendations

Often I am asked by novice direct mailers what elements to include on their mail piece. They are simply looking to design the best mailer possible to yield a high ROI.

Here are my Top 10 recommendations                        (in no particular order)

  1. Make sure your list, mail piece and message are all targeted to the correct audience. What is your goal – lead generation, customer retention, a new product roll out?
  2. A clear, provocative call to action and a nice incentive.
  3. A compelling message – don’t forget, most people want to know “What’s in it for Me?”
  4. A First Class mail permit.  Don’t skimp on standard mail postage. 10% of your mailing list may never receive the mail piece and you’d be surprised how many people simply disregard any piece of mail with a standard permit.
  5. Add a PURL, or Personalized URL. This will tie your printed piece with an online experience. Make sure the PURL ties in with your theme.
  6. As long as we’re adding hot new technology with that PURL, let’s add a QR, or Quick Response, code. You’ve probably been seeing a lot of QR codes on all kinds or marketing – from billboards to pizza boxes. We’ll talk more about QR codes and using them effectively in an upcoming blog.
  7. Use a fresh, unexpected image and a memorable tag line. You only have seconds to grab the reader’s attention.
  8. You’ve probably heard it said a million times, and it’s true, your response rate is only as good as your list. We will delve into list effectiveness in future blogs.
  9. Include a follow up on the call to action. Perhaps include an expiration date. This also makes room for a second communication (perhaps an email?).
  10. Since we repeated the call to action, repeat the PURL as well. Remind them how to respond to that call to action!
Tell us, what are your thoughts on creating the ideal direct mail piece?  We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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USPS | Postal History In 15 Photos

Postal History In 15 Photos

Can you believe it’s been 238 years since the establishment of the United States postal system? Yep, that’s right. The postal system (as it was originally called) was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775.

There were no post offices in early colonial times, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. Nearly all mail was from overseas as the colonists had no need to send correspondence “locally”. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take months to arrive.

Today the United States Postal Service® delivers more mail to more addresses in a larger geographical area than any other post in the world. They deliver to nearly 151 million homes, businesses and Post Office Boxes in every state, city, town and borough in this country. Everyone living in the U.S. and its territories has access to postal products and services and pays the same postage regardless of location.

Before the internet, before email, texting and video chatting, there was the Postal Service. Take a look at photos from the Smithsonian Institute’s archives and watch how our mail system has changed as transportation and technology has changed our world.

1. The “Chesapeake” (1887)

The “Chesapeake,” a USPS steamboat.


2. Owney the stray (1895)

Owney was a stray that walked into a post office in upstate New York where he fell asleep on a pile of mailbags. Presumably he became attracted to the scent of the mail because he began following them on mail wagons and then trains.


3. Mail-sorting vehicle (1907)

Only two of these mail-sorting vehicles were in service in Wisconsin. They carried mail sorters around as they sorted mail between offices.


 4. Horse-drawn delivery (1909)

Posing for a picture on a horse-drawn delivery carriage, a carrier shows off his modified seat with a sling to carry the day’s mail.


5. Through rain, sleet and snow (1910)

Using a horse-drawn sleigh, a female mail carrier makes her morning rounds in deep snow.


6. USPS savings accounts (1914)

Ending in 1966, the USPS offered savings accounts to customers looking to hold money in a federal institution with the convenience of the location of a post office.


7. War-time censorship (1918)

During the first World War, the U.S. military began large-scale mail censoring to remove information that could aid the enemy.


8. Airmail is introduced (1918)

The first USPS plane takes off in Washington, D.C. to begin the service’s airmail.


9. Mail sorting (1920)

A post office mail-sorter puts mail into pigeon holes for Hazelton, NJ, Bellefonte, PA, Cleveland, OH, Bryan, OH, Iowa City, IA, Omaha, NB, North Platte, NB Cheyenne, WY, Rock Springs, WY, Salt Lake City, UT, and Elko, NV.


10. Rural mail carriers (1925)

Unlike city carriers, urban mail letter carriers had to provide their own transportation such as the Ford pictured. Though they weren’t required to wear a uniform, the unidentified carrier in this picture purchased and wore one on his routes.


11. Modified Ford Model-T (1926)

A modified Ford Model-T fitted for carrier service in inclement winter weather.


12. James A. Farley Post Office (1936)

At the James A. Farley Post Office Building in New York City, mail carriers head out on their morning rounds.


13. Making the rounds (1947)

Postal workers would collect mail from tree-mounted boxes.


14. “Mailsters” on parade (1954)

To introduce their latest three-wheeled carrier vehicles and celebrate the holidays, postal workers organized an appearance in a parade in Maryland.


15. The “Mailster” (1955)

A city “mailster,” a three-wheeled motor vehicle that was introduced following the second World War to help transport the ever-growing amount of mail.

City letter carrier seated in a three-wheeled “mailster” motor vehicle. Carriers used these vehicles to carry the ever-increasing amounts of mail that was being delivered to American households after end of the Second World War.

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USPS Promo | Using Variable Data Personalization?

Using Variable Data Personalization?

Take advantage of this current USPS promotion “Mail and Digital Personalization Program”.

USPSpromoMay 1 through June 30, 2014 USPS is allowing mailers using personalization such as personal URLs, web pages or mobile applications linked to the mailpiece a 2% discount on eligible postage.
Message and content of the mailpiece must be relevant and highly personalized to qualify. Personalized content must contain or be based on factual or behavioral information specific to the recipient. An address block alone does not qualify.

Each mailpiece must contain a pURL, or mobile technology such as QR codes, that direct recipients to an active, unique website. Unique URLs allow the mailer to track and measure individual web activity.

Eligible mail classes include First Class presort and automation letters, cards and flats as well as Standard Mail letters and flats. Postage payment may be permit imprint, or precancelled stamp permit. Some mailings using meter imprint may qualify – check with your local BMEU. Mailing must be presented between May 1 and June 30, 2014.

You can learn more about this variable data promotion by visiting Postal Explorer. A range of documents, including an FAQ can be found here – https://ribbs.usps.gov/mailingpromotions/documents/tech_guides/MailandDigitalPersonalizationPromotion.htm

 

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