Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Here's Looking at You, Self-Mailers

The only thing we can be sure of is death and taxes. Oh yes, and the USPS changing its rules. Already this spring the Post Office modified some international shipping regulations, changed the address positioning rules for flats (pieces of mail larger than 9"x12), changed 8000 carrier routes, announced a postage increase for May 10th, and now they are changing the rules on processing self-mailers. Whew.

A self-mailer is a flyer,
booklet, brochure, newsletter or other piece that mails without an envelope to contain it. Hence, self-mailer. Got it?

Self-mailers are neat little guys. A recipient can get right into its message without wasting time or energy to rip open the envelope. However, they can really mess up the postal equipment if not prepared properly.

Here's the background: mail is processed at the post office at enormous rates of speed. Time is money. The faster it moves, the more mail can be processed. Hence, more mail in the mail. And that is a good thing. In fact, mail is moving so fast it's moving at blur speeds.

Today, most mail is
barcoded to help the postal scanning equipment move it along its route faster.

So a mail piece hits a "Y" junction during its high speed processing. "Does this piece of mail have a barcode?" the scanner queries. If the response is "yes" the piece goes down the left arm of the Y. If not, it goes down the right arm.

Soon the self-mailer encounters another scanner and another question. "Does this barcode have zip+4?" the second scanner asks. If the answer is "yes" the piece goes down the left arm of the Y. If not, it goes down the right arm.

In no time at all a third scanner asks "Is this barcode zip+6, destination point?" If the answer is "yes" the piece goes down the left arm of the Y. If not, it goes down the right arm.

Each time mail piece has to change directions at that Y intersection it has the potential to cause a back-up. Just one small self-mailer can bring this process to an immediate grinding halt.

Consider the ill-designed self-mailer that has an open edge at the bottom. It has the very real possibility of the left side moving down the left arm of the Y even as the right side is moving down the right arm.

Instant gridlock! Route 66 outbound at 5:00 on a Friday! The
purple tunnel below the Mall on inauguration day. Disaster!

So the good folks at the Post Office are mandating, effective on May 11th, that all self-mailers MUST have tabs (aka wafer seals) to secure loose edges to help the little guys through the processing maze. It makes sense; it helps the trains running on time; it reduces damage caused by high-speed accidents.

But as any designer worth his
MFA will tell you, a self-mailer is merely a reason to try to fold a piece of paper in ways the post office never thought of before. Folds here. Folds there. Off folds. It's origami, American style.

Getting creative may cost more starting soon...in the number of tabs required to secure a mail piece...in the number of passes required to affix all the tabs and wafer seals. And yes, three tabs probably does mean 3 passes on the tabbing equipment. And yes, tabs not parallel to the address block definitely mean additional passes. Extra passes mean extra money in the mailshop, and extra time before your self-mailer can make it out the door and start working for you.

So on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, here is the definitive show-and-tell version of how the post office will require self-mailers to be presented in short order.

Questions? Call us.
We'll help you make sense of this. And if that doesn't work, we'll sympathize.

If you would like to recieve alerts when Postal Regulations change, send us a quick note with your email address, and we will add you to our FREE Postal Regulations Alert notification newsletter.

43670 Trade Center Place, Suite 150, Dulles, VA 20166
Phone: 703.996.0800 Fax: 703.996.0888 1.866.365.2858
www.paulandpartners.net sales@paulandpartners

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