As I was walking around the vendor booths at this year’s National Postal Forum, I noticed that most of the postage meter manufacturers were showing computers sitting next to even their smallest mailing systems. They are doing this to react to the USPS Intelligent Mail Package Barcode requirement that went into effect in January. This will create a big impact for the 1.2 million US entities that use postage meters and if you do not comply by January 25, 2015, you will see an increase of 7-78% on your USPS Priority Mail® and Priority Mail Express™ items.
The issue started about 5 years ago when the USPS gave discounts to mailers that could transmit electronic information on their packages to the USPS. Prior to this, there was only one rate for these services and with this change they created the following rate structures:
- Retail – For items done at the local USPS counter.
- Commercial – For items transmitted directly to the USPS
- Commercial Plus – Commercial items where the mailer commits to maintaining high volume thresholds.
The USPS stated that anyone using a postage meter could also get the Commercial rates because the meter manufacturers could send aggregate information about the volumes processed through the meters.
On January 26, 2014, the USPS mandated that all Priority Mail® and Priority Mail Express™ items be transmitted to them electronically with an Intelligent Mail Package Barcode as shown below. They gave an extension for Postage meter users until January 25, 2015 to comply with this change.
Postage meter customers will be the hardest hit due to the way their mail is processed. When most entities meter a Priority Mail® piece, they put the item on the scale, the system calculates the rate, and a meter tape is produced. Since the mailing system may automatically default to Priority Mail when the item goes over 13 ounces, the mailer may not even know the item changed from First Class Mail to Priority®.
With the new requirements, they will need to use some sort of computer software (Web based or installed on a PC) that can do the following in order to keep getting these reduced rates:
- Enter the address of where the item is going.
- Have the system check that it is a valid USPS address.
- Enter the weight, and package dimensions or pick from Flat rate or standard sizes.
- Print the label
- This can be sent to a local printer on standard paper, cut and pasted to the package
- Systems can come with label printers with 4X6 inch label stock.
- Transmit the package through the internet to the USPS.
The issue gets bigger for large mail rooms that have items coming down from multiple departments and workload issues will need to be addressed.
The good news about this change is that you will be able to track every item submitted through this process. Also, since the addresses are validated, it will reduce the undeliverable as addressed items. Finally, because the item is entered into a system, you will be able to store addresses and see a complete history on what has been sent.
There are multiple ways to meet this requirement and I have included links that may be helpful:
- Meter Vendors Provided Software – All of the meter vendors have solutions for their customers. Some may be included with your agreement or be at an additional charge. You should reach out to them to see how they can help you manage this change.
- PC Postage Providers – www.endicia.com and www.stamps.com have PC Postage options that start at about $10 per month that can manage this requirement as well as take care of other day to day mail.
- Free Offerings – www.usps.com and www.postageanywhere.com are free web based tools that can meet these requirements and are very easy to use.
If you want to keep processing mail the same way through your meter, you will still be able to after the deadline, but they will be metered at the higher Retail rates. Pay attention to your volumes to understand the financial implications. Remember that as items get heavier and are sent farther away, the costs go up considerably.
There is plenty of time to make this change and some mailers may like the improved visibility to tracking and package histories. The important thing is to be prepared for this change or the costs could be considerable to your organization. For more information about this change the USPS has provided the following FAQ that I hope is helpful.