Monday, August 31, 2009

Tabs Pt 2 : Revenge Of The Tabs

It’s been 4 whole months since the post office mandated a radical new rule. The last edict was to require tabs (those little circular doohickies that wrap around loose edges to keep the piece intact) on First Class letter-sized self-mailers. Here we go again.

This edict—Tabs V2, aka Tabs Redux—will undoubtedly make life more interesting for mailers of letter-sized Standard and Non-Profit rate , self-mailers, booklets and catalogs. Flats (ie pieces larger than 6-1/8” x 11-1/2”) are still exempted.

In a nutshell, effective September 8th, letter-sized self-mailers and catalogs must be between 3.5 and 6” tall and between 9 and 10.5” wide. Larger pieces can be refolded to bring them into size compliance as long as they retain the same thickness throughout.

The binding can be saddlestitched, perfect bound or glued, but not spiral bound. The bottom edge must be bound OR the spine can serve as the leading edge.

The pieces require at least 3 tabs (two on the leading edge and one on the trailing edge) unless the leading edge is also the spine. In that case, there are 2 tabs across the top and one on the trailing edge.

Confused yet? A picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the official USPS specs below:

Ready for more? Here we go…

Tabs must be at least 1.5” in diameter and can not have perforations to ease opening.

Pieces can be no thicker than ¼” and can not weigh more than 3 ounces.Pieces weighing more than 3 ounces must be put in an envelope.

Additionally, while the specs say paper can be as light as 40#, the USPS has stated its preference loudly for 70# as it is both stronger and more durable.

For designers who still don’t have the new flats addressing requirements down pat yet—6 months into that rule change—this could be a shock, as many formats will now have the addressing panel on the back cover.

Similarly, designers who don’t like tabs anyway as they obscure the designs they labor so hard to create, will find little to celebrate here. Removing the perf-less tabs will tear paper during opening. Guaranteed.

For customers who are long accustomed to one tab at top securing a piece, this could be upsetting, too. Tabbing prices will surely rise as at a minimum 3 times more material is required. The 3rd tab may also necessitate multiple passes to affix the tab in a 900 rotation, adding to run time and manpower costs.

For mailers, there is a significant financial downside. Not every tabbing machine is capable of running a 1.5” tab, so some very expensive equipment will be come obsolete overnight. For those lucky enough to have equipment that can run 1.5” tabs, it may take two or more passes on every brochure to accommodate the USPS. That means more staff time has to be allocated, there is more equipment wear-and-tear, but fewer jobs can be scheduled, there are more operational costs like utilities, and three times more supplies.

And as if that weren’t enough, mailers will have to listen to disgruntled customers who do not want to hear about 3 tabs or the extra costs…and designers who haven’t figured out that the post office is really, really serious.

More than 900 mailers contacted the post office during its “comment period” (ie in the time between when the rule was first publically proposed and the time it was cast in stone.)

The comments ranged from mailshops begging the post office to delay implementation until after the recession recedes because of extra machinery costs…to warnings about the lack of equipment on the market that can do multiple orientation affixing in one pass…to end-users complaining that perf-less wafer seals/tabs are harder for seniors to open. The USPS dismissed each objection.

So what happens if your piece does not conform to the new regs?

This is the post office we’re talking about here. The answer is obvious: you pay more postage!

How much more? Since you lose automation discounts, your postage rates could be penalized by 30 cents each!

But wait! There’s more bad news. Your piece may also take longer to deliver and it may not be in pristine shape when it arrives because it has been passed through more postal machinery.

Got it? You’ve been warned.

Questions? Call for clarification now—before you’ve set ink to paper.

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