Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Get a USPS Endorsement

First a truth-in-advertising confession: Anyone can get an endorsement from the post office.

No, a postal endorsement is not a letter of recommendation that adds glowing creds to your resume. But it does sound important, doesn’t it?

An endorsement is a line of type under the return address that instructs the letter carrier to do something specific with the mail piece should the intended recipient not live there anymore.

In today’s economy, 40% of people moving in this country are sneaking out in the dead of night to avoid creditors. Not surprisingly, they fail to report their new location to the post office. And because they don’t report their whereabouts, USPS NCOA (National Change of Address) processing can’t find them.

So what’s a mailer to do? You don’t want to mail to people who have skipped town. After all, they are no longer the good prospects you had hoped they would be.

Self-protective act #1 is to run an NCOA on your data before you mail it. NCOA casts a wide net, and you’ll catch most—but not all—of your bad addresses.

Self-protective act #2 is using a postal endorsement to catch the people who fell through the NCOA safety net.

One endorsement reads ‘RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED.’ This instructs the postman to return the original mail piece to you. There will probably be a yellow sticker on it with an (not The) explanation. “Moved. Left no Forwarding Address”…“Addressee Unknown”…“Bad Address” etc. Then you remove the name from your mailing list as they are gone. Skeedaddled. Voted with their feet. Vamoosed.

If you’re lucky, they’ll show up another day, another time. But for today, they are probably laying low at the nearest KOA kampground.

Another endorsement reads ‘FORWARDING SERVICE REQUESTED.’ This wording instructs the postman to make a photocopy of the piece—with the yellow sticker affixed to it. He forwards the mail if he can and returns the photocopy to you.

The theory behind this processing is that your info gets to your recipient faster, and you can correct your data for your next mailing.

There are three major flaws with this thinking:

#1. Your intended recipient is gone. He hasn’t left a forwarding address. There simply is no one and no where to forward that letter to.

#2. Some idiot at the post office regularly puts the yellow corrective label directly over the addressee’s name and address. So even if you can read the corrected address, you can’t tell whose address is being corrected.

#3. The copier machine badly needs a new toner cartridge and you can’t read the information that the post office is so helpfully sending to you anyway.

You’ve probably guessed that this service has a price tag. However, if you’re mailing at First Class, your cost per piece returned is FREE. You saw it right: your cost is Zippo. Nada. If your piece weighs less than one ounce.

However, if you’re mailing that same piece at Standard or non-Profit rates, your cost per piece returned is $1.09.

And while $1.09 sounds rather high, if you consider the cost of not mailing to this non-existent person again and again with all that incumbent expense, it becomes much more reasonable.

Check with your post office to ensure you’re getting exactly the endorsement you want. And while you’re at it, check on other critical USPS requirements for endorsement lines including point size, spacing, and positioning.

Bottom line: a USPS endorsement sounds impressive, but it won’t help your resume at all. It can, however, help your mailing list stay up-to-date.

After all, keeping your list clean really is important when every penny counts.

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