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Jun 1, 2007 12:00 AM
Postal rate cases are a fact of life for most printers — compliance typically requires plugging the new rate information into a company's spreadsheets. But implementing the latest postal rate case poses some challenges, particularly for catalogers.
The current postal rate case, (R2006-1), will require many mailers to overhaul their mail preparation processes as well as obtain and install updated software. Some also might wish to bring in fainting couches and smelling salts for their customers' convenience: On average, first class rates are going up by seven percent, periodical hikes range from 20 to 25 percent, and rates for standard mail, depending on shape, will increase by zero to 40 percent.
The new rates are slated to take effect May 14, except those for periodicals (magazines and newspapers), which become effective July 15. As our sister magazine, Multichannel Merchant (www.multichannelmerchant.com), reports, the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) modified two earlier rate case recommendations: lowering the proposed price of the Priority Mail flat-rate box from $9.15 to $8.95; and extending the nonmachinable surcharge (which encourages mailing efficiencies) to all single-piece and presorted First-Class Mail letters, regardless of weight.
But, a scant two weeks before the implementation date, the PRC hadn't ruled on its reconsideration of pricing for Standard Mail flats, the category affecting most catalogers.
Bob McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council (Arlington, VA), said the late revisions and a split implementation date are unusual for a postal rate case. “This will be very costly for mailers, because the key thing to understand is information, and the numbers have changed,” McLean added. “This is a perfect example of why mailers need more time between a rate case decision and the implementation date.”
Erv Drewek, postal affairs manager for Brown Printing Co. (Waseca, MN) echoes McLean's concerns about the potentially tight timeframe for modifying processes and software.
The best thing to do, says Drewek, is to work closely with your postal reps. “Contact your business mail entry manager,” he says. “Mailers are encouraged to bring in their mail pieces [for evaluation]. The manager will look at them and might suggest folding and tabbing a flat-sized piece so that it can go out as a letter. The USPS is willing to work with customers to help them redesign their mail pieces.”
Speaking at the recent “Offset & Beyond” conference in Toronto, Drewek offered some additional coping strategies, including:
Drewek further noted some potential mailing hurdles in the months and years to come: Effective August 2007, the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) must meet Delivery Point Validation (DPV) requirements. DPV works in conjunction with existing CASS-certfied addressing machine products to validate addresses by identifying inaccurate or incomplete addresses in a mailing list.
R2006-1 creates a new rate category, “not flat-machineable” (NFM ), based on a mail piece's rigidity/flexibility. Now is the time to determine if a mailpiece is compatible with the USPS' flat sorters.
New barcode technology also is on the horizon. By 2009, a four-state barcode will be required.
There's much to criticize in R2006-1. Small publishers will be hard pressed to pony up additional postage funds. And even the largest mailers must scramble to cope with complex new mail preparation requirements. Nonetheless, some printers are taking a pragmatic view.
Richard Willis, pub express logistics solutions manager for
Publishers Press (Shepherdsville, KY) notes that unlike the
Internet, only the USPS can reach every single address in the
United States. “Not every household has the Internet,”
Willis told FOLIO magazine. “But all households
receive mail. The USPS is a necessary partner to keep magazines
viable. Anything we can do to help them improve, as a partner,
helps the whole industry.”