Archive for category Presort

USPS | What’s the Difference Between CASS and NCOA?

CASS vs NCOA – What’s the Difference

NCOAHow can you increase the number of mailpieces successfully delivered and reduce the number of those pesky return pieces? Return mail, or Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) is costly for you (think printing and postage) and costly for the USPS to handle as well.

So what can be done?

Always, always, always run your mail through CASS and NCOA processes prior to printing.



What is CASS and why do I need it?

CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System. The process standardizes address data and certifies that your mailing list meets automation rate specs and USPS presort discounts. Note that this is only improving your address by confirming the carrier route, five-digit zip code, zip +4 code, and delivery point barcode. Name-related fields are not taken into consideration during CASS processing.

What is corrected:

  • Misspellings in street and city names
  • Street suffixes such as Way, Court, Terrace
  • ZIP code and ZIP+4

We let our customers drive what happens if an address fails CASS certification. We receive a report back of any UAA addresses and can either suppress them from the mailing, mail to that address knowing that it will result in UAA mail (some clients must mail to address as given for legal reasons), or return these addresses to client for research/updating as necessary.

What is NCOA?

National Change of Address (NCOA) meets USPS mandated Move Update requirements by bouncing your mailing list against an updated USPS database. The USPS database contains any moves where a Change of Address has been submitted. In 48 months the USPS records more than 150 million permanent address changes filed by postal customers.

In NCOA processing, both the name and address are compared in the database. Strahm receives a report back when a record is identified as having a change of address. This allows our clients the opportunity to update their own database with the new address information. It also prevents mailing to an old address resulting in UAA mail returns.

Keep in mind that you will still receive some amount of UAA mail even after NCOA processing. Not all movers submit a Change of Address to the Postal Service. Sometimes the CoA submitted to the Postal Service is not an exact match to the name in your database (John A. Smith on the CoA, John Smith in your data, for example).

What you gain with NCOA:

  • Reduce printing/mailing costs by reducing the number of UAA pieces
  • Ability to update your mailing list for future mailings
  • Reduce internal processes for handling returned UAA mailpieces
  • Speed delivery to mailboxes since USPS won’t need to reroute from an old address to a new address

To recap, you should always use CASS certification part of a process to qualify for presort postage discounts. Use of NCOA will reduce printing/mailing/handling costs associated with mailing to address which would result in UAA mail.

While you will probably not ever eliminate all Undeliverable as Addressed mail, managing the amount will reap rewards!

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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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USPS | DC Court Rules on Postage Discounts

DC Court Rules on Postage Discounts

Postal ProblemsThis week the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the Postal Service’s discount for presorted mail cannot exceed the cost the office saves by not having to sort the mail itself.

One of the many services that Strahm Automation provides our clients is presorting of their mail so that clients are able to take advantage of discounted postage rates. This discount encourages mailers to presort, which in turn lowers costs for the Postal Service, but the current discount is greater than the Postal Service would pay to sort the mail themselves.

The Postal Service is not pleased with this ruling because it believes that it needs to offer mailers large discounts so that bulk mailers (including co-minglers, combined mailers and continuous mailers such as Strahm) will continue to use First Class mail.

“Through snow and rain and heat and gloom of night, the Postal Service delivers the mail,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the three judge panel.  “But the Postal Service does so under the watchful eye of a separate independent agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission.”

The PRC establishes rates that the Postal Service may charge for mail.  The commission states that the reason customers choose to presort their mail is based on the lower price, and a 1% increase in price will cause a “significant change in demand”.

What are your thoughts?  Would a decrease in your presorted postage savings cause you to change how you process your mail?  Would you reconsider presorting?

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USPS | Commingling Mail

Commingling Mail

presortIn today’s economy, businesses are seeking more opportunities to cut or lower costs. But how many of them consider commingling their mail?

For that matter, how many businesses understand what commingling mail is all about?

Although it may sound too good to be true, it’s not. Using an authorized mail house to process your mail can save your organization as much as 20% in postage.

In a nutshell, the mail house is providing a work share with the USPS.  This cuts several steps out of the USPS work flow and in return, the mail house can offer discounted postage rates from the current $0.46 for a First Class letter.

Your mail is combined with other companies’ mail, sorted and released to the USPS.  Other than your local authorized mail house collecting your mail, nothing changes – your mail still goes out same day, is still delivered in the same timely manner by a USPS letter carrier.  But you SAVE $$$!

And doesn’t saving your organization money make you some kind of hero?  Of course it does.

Contact Strahm today and we will show you how easy it is!

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USPS | 2013 Promos and Incentives

USPS Promotions and Incentives Announced for 2013

promosFirst Class and Standard mailers have six (6) new USPS promotions/incentives to take advantage of at various times throughout 2013.  The objective is to increase mail volumes from mailers.

The USPS was so successful with the Mobile Barcode incentives over the past two years, that similar incentives are offered and new incentives are being rolled out.


All programs will require the use of Intelligent Mail barcodes and electronic documentation submission.

Mobile Coupon/Click to Call

March 1 – April 30, 2013 (registration January 15 – April 30, 2013)

This promotion is based on showing the value of direct mail by encouraging customers to integrate printed coupons in the mail with mobile accessibility to redeem the coupon.  An upfront 2% postage discount is offered.

Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion

April 1 – June 30, 2013 (registration January 1 – March 31, 2013)

First Class Mail Business Reply and Courtesy Reply mailers will receive a $0.02 postage credit for each piece of Business Reply Mail (BRM) or Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) piece that is scanned in the postal network.  This promotion encourages mailers to provide a reply mechanism that would utilize the USPS as a service provider for consumer replies.

Emerging Technologies

August 1 – September 30, 2013 (registration June 15 – September 30, 2013)

Designed to promote awareness of new technologies such as Near-Field Communication, Augmented Reality and Authentication, this promotion builds on the success of past Mobile Barcode promotions.  Mailers receive an upfront 2% postage discount.

Picture Permit

August 1 – September 30, 2013 (registration June 15 – September 30, 2013)

The Picture Permit promotion is designed to increase the use of picture permit indicia, which improves a mailpiece’s visibility and impact as a marketing tool.  First Class letters and postcards will receive a $0.01 discount per piece, and Standard Mail letters will be discounted $0.02 per piece.

Product Samples

August 1 – September 30, 2013 (registration May 1 – September 30, 2013)

The Product Samples promotion rewards mailers with a 5% upfront postage discount on qualifying mail that contains product samples.  The objective is to re-invigorate product sampling through the mail.

Mobile Buy-It-Now

November 1 – December 31, 2013 (registration September 15 – December 31, 2013)

An upfront 2% postage discount to mailers adopting and investing in technologies that enhance and engage consumers with mail.  Objective is to show how direct mail combined with mobile technology can be a convenient method for consumers to do their holiday shopping.

Details of each program in a handy, downloadable guide –

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USPS Update | Move Update Requirements

On January 27, 2013 ,

FASTforward Service Will No Longer Satisfy USPS Move Update Requirements.

Many presort service providers use FASTforward for their customer’s mail in order to meet mandates. The FASTforward system uses Multiline Optical Character Readers (MLOCRs) to update and spray change of address (COA) information on mailpieces prior to submission to the USPS. 

Move Update requirements help mailers claiming presort or automation prices for First Class Mail or Standard Mail to reduce the number of mailpieces requiring forwarding or return by matching their address records with COA listings maintained by the Postal Service. 

New services using MLOCR include NCOALink  Mail Processing Equipment. This solution allows mailers to process mailpieces against the Postal Service COA database, providing current address information for customers who have filed a COA order. There are approximately 160 million permanent USPS COA records. Licensees (such as your presort service provider) receive a weekly update for all address changes over the last 18 months. 

Make sure to check in with your service provider to ensure a smooth transition. It may mean signing a new Process Acknowledgement Form (PAF) for whatever new system your provider chooses after January 27th.

A Process Acknowledgement Form (PAF) is required by the Privacy Act of 1974. The USPS requires that each mail service provider using an NCOA product for their customers must have a completed NCOA PAF for each customer. These agreements should be updated annually. 

What steps should you take?

  1. Speak with your presort service provider. If you are currently using FASTforward to meet Move Update requirements, what method will they use moving forward
  2. Ask if you need to complete a new PAF for your service providers files.

If you have any question about these changes, please feel free to contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at (816)756-2733.

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Presort Services Provider | Postal Discounts

Presort Services: Changing the Way You Mail

With new services and programs offered by the USPS, not to mention changing mail characteristics, have you changed the way you think about your outgoing mail?

Engaging with a Presort Service provider allows companies to take advantage of postal discounts. Discounts are achieved when many pieces are sorted to the same 5-digt ZIP Code. By commingling your outgoing mail with mail from other companies, Presort Service providers are able to maximize postage discounts and pass that savings along to you.

The number of organizations choosing to partner with Presort Service providers has grown over the past several years. The driving factors include security, control and economics.

Presort Services have made large investments in new technology – both equipment and software.  Providers have been working closely with the USPS and mailers to improve workflows and standards. While this has forced many smaller shops to close their doors, larger more robust service providers have been thriving.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask a potential service provider:

  • How many pieces of mail do they process daily/weekly/monthly? Is this primarily local or national mail? (This information may help determine your postage rate.)
  • Do they process First Class, Standard and Non-Profit Mail?
  • Do they process letters and flats?
  • How secure is their facility, including the dock area?
  • Do they provide pick up service? Is there a fee for this service?
  • Will they also meter mail for you? Will they agree to serve as a backup should your own meters be out of operation?
  • Are they up-to-date with Intelligent Mail barcode? This will be mandatory beginning January 2013.
  • Are employees background checked?
  • Is there an on-site USPS postal verifier?
  • Does USPS pick up from their dock? Or do they deliver to the nearest postal sorting facility?

Take a few minutes and think of the ways a Presort Service provider could benefit your organization. Cost savings, improved workflows, and security of your mail are just a few of the advantages these vendors bring to your company.

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USPS | Metered Mail

What is a Postage Meter and Do I Really Need One?

Postage meters are machines that can be rented to apply postage themselves instead of taking mail directly to a post office. Postage is applied via an ink stamp and is more time effective than hand applying stamps. Postage is added to the meter machines electronically and funds are reduced as postage is used.

According to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), postal meters can be used to affix postage for these classes of mail: First-Class Mail®, Priority Mail®, Express Mail®, international mail and presorted First-Class Mail®, which provides a discount for mailing 500 or more pieces that meet certain criteria. The USPS also allows postage meters to be used to apply postage (via an adhesive tape) to packages. The USPS does not allow periodical mail—a special class of mail usually reserved for publications such as magazines—to be processed using postage meters.

Strahm Automation provides metering service to most of our customers as an addition to presorting services. This has allowed them to discontinue costly leases, maintenance (including downtime for repairs), and expensive software updates.

Our presort capabilities enable mailers to qualify for higher postage discounts by combining mail from multiple clients and sorting it by ZIP Code™. This mail realizes faster delivery times since it bypasses local postal facilities and heads straight to its postal destination.

Address quality is improved by applying updated addresses to the mailpieces as necessary (meeting Move Update requirements), as well as use of the Intelligent Mail barcode as part of the presort service.

Strahm offers both metering and presorting services and in return our customers benefit from our industry expertise and relationship with the United States Postal Service.

Strahm Automation will help you eliminate the cost of postage meters and improve your mail quality at the same time! | Visit:

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USPS Automation Compatible Mail Specifications!

Meet USPS Automation Compatible Mail Specifications!

You’ve made the decision to use a mail service provider to presort your mail in order to take advantage of lower postage rates. Good decision!

Automation Benefits:

  • Greater postage discount
  • Faster mail processing
  • Better, more consistent service

Now you need to know what specifications your mail must meet in order to be considered automation compatible by the USPS.

Designing for Automation (First Class Letters and Postcards): 

    • Physical Characteristics Letters
      • Minimum size 3 ½” x 5”
      • Maximum size 6 1/8” x 11 ½”
      • Minimum thickness .007”
      • Maximum thickness .25”
    • Physical Characteristics postcards
      • Minimum size 3 ½” x 5”
      • Maximum size 4 ¼” x 6”
      • Minimum thickness .007”
      • Maximum thickness .0095”
    • Must be rectangular in shape
      • Length must be greater than height
      • Aspect ratio (length divided by height) between 1.3 and 2.5
      • Example: 5” x 9” mailpiece 9 divided by 5 = 1.8
    • Must meet rigidity and flexibility standards
    • Tabbing for Self-mailers and Booklets
    • No polywrap, polybag or shrink wrapping please!
    • Barcode clear zone
      • 5/8”  from bottom edge
      • Extending 4 ¾” from right edge
      • This entire area must be kept free of logos, verbiage, etc
      • This is the conventional barcode placement although the barcode may be printed above or below the address block as well
    • OCR Address Read Area
      • Begins ½” in from left and right edges of mailpiece
      • Extends up 2 ¾” from bottom of mailpiece
      • Don’t forget to leave the bottom 5/8” of the mailpiece clear for the barcode!
    • Return Address Area
      • Within left half of mailpiece
      • Top 1/3 of mailpiece
    • Preferred Type Fonts
      • Century
      • Arial
      • Univers
      • Trade Gothic
    • Address Format

Sue Sample
ABC Company
123 Main Street
Anytown, MO  ZIP+4

      • Address Tap Test (address readability through envelope window)
        • Mail using a window envelope must show complete address, with 1/8” clearance at top, bottom and both sides of window
        • Test address placement with two taps on bottom and two taps on each end – address should remain within window with 1/8” clear space

      • Print Contrast
        • Preference is dark type on light paper
        • Recommend light pastels or neutrals
        • Avoid dark, bright or black papers
        • Avoid dark fibers
        • Avoid bleed through

Is your mail automation compatible so that you take advantage of the best postage discounts?  Where could you make improvements?

As always, if you have questions or need more information, please contact one of Strahm’s Customer Service Representatives.  They can be reached at or (816) 756-2733.


What Makes Mail UAA?

Why Was My Mail Returned As Undeliverable?

What makes mail UAA?

Last week we suggested that reducing Undeliverable As Addressed mailpieces could provide savings to your mailing budget. What are your costs when you consider designing, printing, folding, inserting, and applying postage to mail that never gets where it is intended? It costs the USPS, on average, $0.513 per piece to handle this undeliverable mail.

What factors go into determining whether mail is Undeliverable As Addressed?

  • No postage
  • Incomplete, illegible, or incorrect address
  • Addressee not at address (unknown, moved or deceased)
  • Mail  unclaimed
  • Mail refused by addressee at time of delivery
  • Mail refused by addressee after delivery when permitted
  • Minimum criteria for mailability not met

Mail that is undeliverable as addressed is forwarded, returned to the sender, or treated as dead mail as authorized for the specific class of mail.

UAA mail returned to sender is marked by the USPS with the reason for nondelivery. You most often see this as the “yellow stickies” applied to your mailpiece when it is returned to you.

What do the notations on the “yellow stickies” mean?

The following are a few, but not all of the reasons you may see given on your returned mail:

  • Attempted – Not Known: Delivery was attempted, addressee not known at place of address
  • Box Closed – No Order: Post Office box closed for nonpayment of rent
  • Deceased: Used only when known that addressee is deceased and mail is not properly deliverable to another person. Important: This endorsement must be made personally by USPS delivery employee and under no circumstance may it be rubber-stamped. Mail addressed in care of another is marked to show which person is deceased.
  • Illegible: Address not readable
  • Insufficient Address: Mail without number, street, box number, route number or city and state omitted and correct address not known
  • Moved, Left No Address: Addressee moved and did not file a Change of Address order with USPS
  • Not Deliverable as Addressed – Unable to Forward: (Any of the following) Mail undeliverable at address given; no Change of Address order on file; forwarding order expired
  • Temporarily Away: Addressee temporarily away and period for holding mail expired
  • Vacant: House, apartment, office or building not occupied

I urge you to take the opportunity to review these notices and take action.

Update your mailing list! Remove any addresses that can not be corrected or improved and certainly any notices of deceased addressees. Take the time to research addresses in order to update them, or provide a list of these addresses to your appropriate vendor and ask them to process them through National Change of Address (NCOA) database. When you receive updated addresses back from the NCOA process, update your mailing list accordingly.

It can be time consuming, but remember – you won’t make a sale, receive payment for a bill or get valuable feedback from your addressees if they never receive your mailpiece.

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