Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What’s the Big Idea this time?

You’ve got to hand it to those folks at the Post Office.  They keep coming up with new and inventive ideas.  Some of the ideas are great (intelligent mail tracking comes immediately to mind), some fail (remember banks, drug stores, toy trucks and stuff animals?) and some simply drive us nuts.

Their latest idea falls into the third category.   But let’s back up a bit. A couple of years ago the Post Office allowed people and organizations to create their own customized stamps.  They anticipated (with an excess of exuberance, apparently) that people would pay extra moola to personalize their First Class stamps.
stampThe idea was to have the happy couple’s wedding portrait on stamps they used to mail their wedding invitations.  Or a grieving pet parent could memorialize Fido and Fluffy forever.  Or a school could have its mascot on the appeal letter sent to doting grandparents.  Or whatever. 

Despite all the hype, I saw one stamp in actual usage.  That’s it.  One.

So if the idea fell flat the first time around, the Post Office reasoned, let’s give it a new spin and try it again.  OK, I’m into leftovers and recycling, maybe the idea could work this time. 

The “spin” this time is that a business mailer can create a Picture Permit Imprint Indicia.  It’s not even a stamp.  It’s a fancy schmancy indicia.
Indicias:  those preprinted thingies that replace stamps, scream “Junk Mail” and for legitimate reasons get opened less frequently than postage meters or the aforementioned stamp. 

Anyway, should this idea appeal to someone who wants to invest a lot of time and energy in the effort to have his mail labeled “Junk Mail,” here is what it takes:

Step 1.  Complete the online registration process.  You’ve got to get the ball rolling somehow.

Step 2.  Complete a second online registration form.  This one for the Picture Permit Application. The USPS is, after all, a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies like things in duplicate.

Step 3.  Assuming your application is approved by the USPS Program Management Office, you then need to submit a PDF copy of your proposed indicia design online.

Step 4.  If/when your proposed design passes the postal censors’ scrutiny, you must then submit 500 live (aka “real”) mail pieces with the approved design.  Give yourself some leeway.  The test on these live samples takes the USPS 30 to 45 days to render their approval.  If you’re on a tight production deadline, this couldn’t be good.

Step 5.  Schedule the mailing date with your friends at the Post Office.  Oh yes, you must also tell them exactly how many pieces you will be mailing on that specific day.

But wait!  There’s more.

The mail has to have an intelligent mail barcode or IMB, effectively eliminating any do-it-yourselfer, small business or nonprofit from taking advantage of the idea.  Guess I should have mentioned that little fact earlier.  Oops.

And the surprises keep coming.

So not only did your mailing get hung up for 2 months in the postal bureaucracy, but you get to pay extra for the privilege!   You get to pay an extra 2 cents per piece if you’re mailing at Standard rate and an extra 1 cent per piece if you’re mailing at First Class.  

Is this a deal or what!

At the end of the day you’ve still got an indicia on your mailing.  An indicia that says this piece you fought so hard to get into the mail is part of a large, impersonal mailing. 

You’ve expended extra time…extra effort…extra cost…and the result is what?  A lower response rate?

The geniuses at the Post Office need to take this one back to the drawing board. 


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