By Marty Haywood
Ah, yes, “nothing is more constant than change.” At least that’s true at the U.S. Postal Service, where a new year brings new names, new pricing, and new rules that, at this writing, were scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 22.
To begin, the cost of a First-Class Forever® stamp is going up from 47 cents to 49 cents. This is actually a return to the 49 cent price in effect prior to a price reduction required by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
But the cost for additional letter ounces remains 21 cents, as does the $1.15 rate for international mail and the 34 cent cost of postcards. And the rate for Metered Mail is decreasing from $0.465 to $0.46, a commercial base (online postage) discount of $0.03.
One of the really, really good things for those of us mailing flats is a proposed change that would remove the Flat Sequencing System (FSS) pricing, a change resulting, in part, from considerable feedback from industry leaders. Sortation and tags would still come out as FSS, but the rate would be as it should be. For flat mailers, this will be huge.
To better align its name with its commercial use, Standard Mail will now be known as USPS Marketing Mail. In another proposed change, the postage cost for Commercial First-Class and Marketing (Standard) Mail would be the same up to 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 as one ounce. The USPS is also considering striking the 3.3-3.5 ounce weight and eliminating the associated rates.
And it is proposing changing the weight limit for Marketing Mail Letters and Flats piece/pound prices 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 mailer, I look at how I can help my customers reduce their postage cost while keeping my revenue intact. A couple of things I’ve discovered:
It began subtly enough, the requirement for only physical addresses (no P.O. Boxes) on the Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF). Then an official USPS notice went around to all NCOALink users with a link to the PAF Guide 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.”
The notice describes who the “list owner” and a “broker, agent” are and who can sign for whom and for many was a complete surprise. But this is 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” and that the USPS wants documentation of everyone in the custody link.
The PAF is a requirement of the Privacy Act of 1974. An audit by the Postal Inspection arm of the USPS discovered that not all Broker Agents were filling out the PAF for their customers. Hence the letter. The method of compliance is simple, although somewhat time consuming and a bit difficult to explain to customers why it needs to be done at all. But it must be done.
On other fronts, it was proposed that support for the current version of Mail.dat (14-2) would end on Jan. 8, to 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.
The Mailer Scorecard 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 happens when a barcode serial number is used more than once over any 45-day range. It can occur for mail piece barcodes or container barcodes, but more often it is piece barcodes. Sometimes this happens because of 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.
Other causes include 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; or 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.
Uniqueness is something that requires monitoring and management to remain under threshold. It’s not hard; just takes vigilance.
Marty Haywood is the Customer Support Specialist & Partnership Liaison Officer at AccuZIP, Inc. Marty’s history 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. You can reach Marty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About AccuZIP, Inc.
AccuZIP, Inc., a national software company based in Atascadero, CA, provides feature rich solutions to manage Contact Data Quality, Address Hygiene, USPS Postal Presorting and Compliance and Mail Tracking and Reporting. Our solutions are designed to be utilized across many industry verticals to streamline, standardize and simplify processes associated with data entry, data management and multi-channel communications. AccuZIP products and services make it easier for businesses to get their message out to the right people at the right location when they need to most. Now in our third decade of doing business, the company has built an outstanding reputation for value, service and innovation. For more information visit www.accuzip.com .
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