Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bulking Up First Class Mail?

Losing MoneyThe USPS, which has been hemorrhaging money for a decade or longer, is desperate to keep mail in the mailstream. Beset by reduced volume (thank you, internet, email and the economy), rising manpower costs (thank you, ballooning retirement fund), an aging infrastructure and too many facilities, the USPS is creatively looking for ways to reduce cost and increase mail volume.

To that end, the USPS has offered postage-on-sale promotions for the last 2 years that have been widely popular among their target groups. For instance, most recently the USPS announced that business mailers using a QR code in July or August of 2011 could receive 3% off First Class or Standard postage rates.

And now here's the latest thinking: Mailing the 2nd ounce of First Class mail for the same price as the first ounce.

Not bad, eh?

Consider the price difference between First Class and Standard mail: Three letters mailing at Carrier Route Saturation Standard rate equal approximately the cost of mailing one letter at First Class. Hence, it would seem logical that encouraging First Class mail usage would be a no-brainer for the USPS.

Less work. More money.

Today a letter weighing up to one ounce costs 44 cents to mail; the 2nd ounce adds 20 cents. That means in a letter you can get approximately 4 sheets of paper (or 3 sheets and a reply envelope) for the first 44 cents; but go to one more sheet of paper—even a tiny little lift note—and you're staring at an additional 20 cents.

Postage StampsBut at Standard you can mail up to 3.3 ounces for a much lower price. The weight differential is huge. In today's postal pricing structure, heavier packages almost always have to mail at Standard as the price difference is punitive.

But it's not just about money. It's about time. First Class is delivered in 2-3 days; Standard can take 2 weeks. If your hair is on fire because you botched your pre-event planning and your event is now two weeks away, you may have to mail at First Class. Cost be damned.

It happens all the time. Just ask me.

So if the USPS is willing to allow that 2nd ounce for the same price as the first ounce, maybe—just maybe—more mailers will use First Class. And maybe—just maybe—the USPS will benefit by higher mail volumes.

Best yet, because it is not a rate increase issue, the proposal doesn't require an Act of Congress or the Postal Regulatory Commission to approve it. Hence, it should be do-able with a minimum of fuss.

Making this happen would require very little—if any—additional cost to the post office. After all, it takes no more labor to process a heavier letter, and it requires no more machinery.

Now consider who wins—in addition to the post office:

  1. Printers win. They could print more materials.
  2. Paper companies win. They could sell more paper.
  3. Mail houses win. They could process more mail.
  4. Equipment manufacturers who serve the printers and mailers win.
  5. Mailers win. They could mail more materials for the same price.Win-Win

Who loses? I can't even think of a loser. It's a win/win all around.

The Post Office Board of Governors is considering the idea as I type. How long those considerations can take is TBD. If they give it a quick approval, it could be put into effect this Fall.

Just in time for the Year-in-Review family newsletters that go out at the Holidays.

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