Wednesday, March 25, 2009

USPS changes the rules on addressing oversized mail

It’s been almost two whole months since the post office made any major changes, so I guess it’s overdue. But this one is a biggie. Literally.

If you’re mailing—or even thinking of mailing—a flat in the near future, you need to know that the new rules will probably impact on your design. Worse yet, if you don’t play the game by the USPS’s rules, your postage will escalate because you’ll sacrifice automation discounts.

Pause for a breath as you ponder the possibilities.

Ready to proceed? We’ll take it slow.

What’s a “flat”? Mail that is larger than 6-1/8” x 11.5” but not exceeding 12” x 15” is called a “flat.” I’m sure there must be some historic reason for this odd name, but I don’t know it. Ideas, anyone?

What’s the change? The location of the address block will hence forward be at the top of the mail piece. Currently most mailers put the address block at the bottom. (Think of your Time Magazine.) The new regs say you can put the address on either the front or the back (more on this critical point later), but the address cannot read upside down and must be within the top half of the mailpiece.

If your design calls for the address block at the bottom, you’re in trouble—unless you’re mailing this week. Which brings up…

When does the change take effect? This Sunday, March 29th.

What classes of mail are affected? First Class Presort, periodicals, standard mail, bound printed matter, media mail and Library rate mail sent at automation, presorted or carrier route price levels.

That just about covers the gamut, I think.

Have I lost you yet? Here are the details:

Self-mailers (ie pieces mailing without envelopes, like magazines, newspapers, annual reports and newsletters). The post office considers the spine to be the leading edge. The spine is the side with saddlestitches (staples) or folds. That’s why you can put the address on either the front or the back—it depends on where your spine is!

Hold your piece so the spine is on the right, in the “leading edge” position. The address block must be at the top. The address may be horizontal (ie parallel to the top edge) or vertical to the top edge. Vertical addresses can read left or right, and may cross the midpoint only if the address area begins or ends within 1” of the top edge. Address blocks parallel to the top edge cannot read upside down.

Envelopes. Horizontal format (ie booklet envelope) is acceptable, but the “top” is defined as the left or right side edge. Only a bureaucracy could call a side the “top” but anyway, the address must be fully on the left or the right of an imaginary midpoint line. So if you’re mailing a 9x12 booklet envelope, the “top” is the 9” side; and the midpoint is 6” from the left and right edges.
Got it?

What to know more details? OK, you asked for it…
Type must be at least 8-point. Barcodes need at least 4”.And the USPS prefers sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
Don’t worry, Paul&Partners will take care of the last three points when you mail with us, if you give us the space to work with. Be sure you allow for an area where we can put an address without obliterating your critical art. And be sure to block out a white area for your barcode. If it is too late in your design process to make changes at this time, we’ll create labels and affix them in the required spot. So all is not lost.
However, if you do have time, rally your art department. They need to know that the rules which have been in effect since the flood are null and void in just 5 days.

Remember the threat about losing your automation discount if you don’t conform and comply? That’s post office speak for play with our rules or pay more. Maybe a lot more.

On standard flats, you could see your 5-digit mail increase by 2.7 cents each; and your 3-digit mail increase by over 5 cents apiece.
And it only gets worse.
Are you still with me? Eyes glazing over yet? Need help in deciphering what this change means to you?

Call Paul&Partners and we’ll help you figure it all out. 703-996-0800.

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