July 1 2009 08:45 AM

Soooo many changes... The postal service, like most businesses these days are working to cut costs. Consolidating, reorganizing, streamlining operations, they are all part of the plan. We in the mailing industry realize that whatever the postal service chooses to implement will always affect us.

Some changes are met with resignation. Those changes that we know are going to happen, and yet every time the first thought is you're kidding me.' - Yes, it's that time of year (postage increasesagain)

There are some changes that are met with frustration. Now Machinable letters have the Automation requirements. They require tabs just the same as if automation discounts were being claimed. The only difference will be that they are not barcoded. - But what about the very small mailers and non-profit mailers that try to cut their costs by preparing mailings in-house? Those mailers that don't have the ability to have professional list services performed? They are socked with the NON-machinable rates. Non-machinable? Wait a minute. Last week, and since the barcoding discount implementation they were machinable, now suddenly this week they're not? I was also quite surprised to learn - although I'm not sure why - that most mailpieces - even non-machinable' mailpieces, do get processed on a machine but they still aren't considered machinable'.what???

Some changes inspire an all out revolt like that pesky three-sided tabbing idea that got a very unpopular response. Your voice does make a difference. (Thank goodness they've put that idea off for self-mailers - at least for awhile.)

Every once in awhile though something good comes along. Or something that with a little tweaking, will be good. I'm referring to the launching of the USPS Business Customer Gateway. If you haven't had the opportunity to register you should check it out. The postal service has consolidated its online business services into one access area. Once registered and approved you have access to an abundance of mailing information. Permit balances and mailing summaries can be monitored easily and postage deposits can be confirmed. Mail service providers can request access to their customer's permit status. Track & Confirm, ACS, and FAST drop shipment appointments; this is a gateway' to all your mailing services. It used to be that all these activities had to logged into individually. Now they been centralized and simplified.

For those who are interested, there is a recorded webinar that will introduce you to the Business Customer Gateway. I attended the live session prior to the launching of the gateway May 11th. I found it quite helpful. It walks you through the process of registering and requesting access for the different services. As with any new system there will be that inevitable period of adjustment. But I think this time the change the postal service has thrust on us is a good one. It will be useful to small and large mailers alike.

No, I'm not a cheerleader for the USPS and I'm not saying it is without flaws. But I can appreciate a user-friendly website that promises to make my job a little easier. Be patient and give them time. They did a good thing this time.
Melinda Bozak is the Mailing Lists Manager at Printing Concepts, Inc.