Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What do you think Flimsy, Floppy and Droopy are? 3 of the 7 dwarves?

Three USPS Dwarfs

Hint: They aren’t Santa’s back-up reindeer, either.

Give up? Flimsy, Floppy and Droopy are three of the Post Office’s deadly sins. You can overindulge every bad habit, you can lie, cheat and steal, covet and curse (but not at the Post Office, of course!), but you can not present mail that is flimsy, floppy or droopy!

Mailers of flats (ie pieces larger than 6”x11”): Get a drop on the droop test. Ignore this warning at your own peril.

Floppy flats are not a new phenomenon, nor a new concern at the Post Office. For years the Post Office has had a “droop test” for flats on the books. However, it has been enforced irregularly and without much consistency.

Penny  PincherHere’s how it worked: you presented your mailing (printed on thin, cheap paper to reduce cost, no doubt, you penny-pinching tightwad) to the bulk mail unit mail acceptance clerk. He took one look at the cheesy stock and realized it would fail the droop test. To prove it, he draped 4 inches of your piece over the edge of the counter he was working. If it sagged more than 45 degrees, the piece failed the droop test. You were busted and he got an atta boy from the Big Boss.

The test had two obvious flaws: the acceptance clerk’s idea of 4 inches and his perception of 45 degrees. Beauty—or not—was in the eye of the beholder. And that beholder was both judge and jury.

The postal clerk—or at least his boss—cared about your taste in paper because paper that is too thin simply can’t survive postal machinery. It will shred, tear and gum up the works for everybody.

YOU should care about the paper you select because substantial paper says your business is substantial. It’s a subliminal—but very important—message to your audience. But I digress.

Ouch!Anyway, if you insist on using tissue paper, you should reasonably expect that the money you save in printing will be donated to the USPS which can assess the “non-automation” rate. Depending on your mail list distribution, the penalty could be as much as 6.2 cents per piece.

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.

Newspapers, already hammered with declining ad revenues and the abysmal reading habits of our fellow US citizens, are feeling the pinch the hardest. Cataloguers are not far behind.

Well, the post office has decided that interpretation of the droop rule has been too loosey goosey for too long. So now it’s codifying the rule and making it tougher.

The new procedures reduce clerical subjectivity. For pieces longer than 10”, the clerk extends 5” over the edge of the surface. He then places a flat 12-inch ruler on top of the mailpiece and secures the ruler with a weight. If the piece droops by more than 3” (as measured with the second ruler) it fails the droop test. The clerk then repeats the test on the opposite end of the mailpiece.

If the piece is less than 10” long, the clerk extends 50% of the piece over the edge, secures the first ruler with the weight, and measures the droop using the second ruler. If the droop is more than 2 inches, the piece fails. He rotates the piece and repeats the measurements.

Pieces are exempted if delivered to the DDU (Destination Delivery Unit) thereby bypassing all the postal equipment enroute.

You've been warnedThe ruling goes into force on June 7th, but won’t be enforced until October 3rd. Hence mailers of flats have time to modify their designs and paper selections before postage penalties are assessed.

Mailers of flats: Procrastinate until October3rd to make the change, and you might have to dust off your St. Jude’s medal. St. Jude—the Patron Saint of Lost Causes—may be your only line of defense against the postal sins of Flimsy, Floppy and Droopy.

You’ve been warned.

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