April 25 2007 11:41 AM

So, by now, you may have May 14 etched on both your calendar and your brain. That's the date the U.S. Postal Service is significantly changing its rates. But what may not be as clear in your sights is just how complicated the new rate structure will be. And while you may not have considered using a third-party mail services provider before the rate change, you may want to examine your options now before the changes are implemented so that you can prevent unpleasant surprises for your business.


The upcoming rate changes are complicated. In some cases, the rate for a mailpiece may go up, while other mailpieces may see rate decreases.


What does this all mean for businesses nationwide? The U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission is reviewing 4,400 other postal rates for changes that need to be made. Here's how this all plays out:

  • A mailpiece that now costs 63. First-Class will cost $1.30 after the rate change a 106% increase.

  • A flat piece that costs 87. First-Class will cost 27. more after the rate change a 31% increase. 

  • However, some mailpieces are being re-classified based on their dimensions, which might result in rate decreases. For instance, a mailpiece that currently costs $3.27 First-Class will cost 10. less after the rate change. And a flat that costs $3.27 First-Class will now cost 43. less after the rate change.


    For companies sending out hundreds, or even thousands, of mailpieces each month, these costs could impact their bottom line in dramatic fashion. Businesses that have been focusing on the impending changes are examining the types of mail they are currently sending out and figuring out how to re-engineer their mail systems to make them as efficient and cost-effective as possible. And many are wisely considering partnering with a mail services provider to prevent confusion and save money.


    Plan Ahead

    Here is a simple game plan for the next few months to ensure that your business comes out on top:


    Take into consideration the weight, shape and bulk of your mail. Consider reducing the weight of your packages by packaging shipments creatively, using lighter materials, such as paper-based envelopes and folders, or combining several shipments into one. Keep in mind that the less space a package occupies in a mail carrier's truck, the less it's going to cost you.


    Carve out some time to review the final recipients of your mail and their addresses. The U.S. Postal Service is offering discounts to companies that keep their addresses current because this saves time and money. That said, the rules will be strictly enforced when the rate change is implemented, so update those addresses now so that you can qualify for the discount.


    Consider Partnering with a Mail Expeditor

    Some companies rule out the option of outsourcing some or all of their mail sorting, weighing and postage applications to an outside vendor because of cost considerations, but with these new rate changes, this option could prove to be a win-win situation on both sides. By partnering with a mail expeditor one that can sort your mail and prepare it for final delivery by the Postal Service you can save a substantial amount of time and money internally. Also, keep in mind that an outside mail services provider is up-to-date and must be fully compliant with the Postal Service regulations. So cross that off your list of worries.


    In addition, some mail will be re-classified. For example, rigid flat pieces such as CDs that are sent First-Class will be re-classified as parcels. How can you tell if your flat pieces will qualify for the re-classification? The key is the degree of rigidity of the piece, and the USPS has a complicated test for mailers to determine whether their mailpieces qualify. Consider having a representative from a mail services provider come to your mail center and evaluate whether they qualify. That will save you time (and certain frustration) and prevent worry about whether your mailpieces will pass through the system with the planned cost structure. Said more succinctly: no surprises.

    Also, by working with a mail services provider, your business could save 25% off all First-Class Mail. That's a lot of green. Across the board, businesses that work with third-party experts save about 25% more on their flats and parcels. This enables businesses to cut costs on labor and sorting, as their mail centers become less time-intensive. For those who have additional questions and need help with the postal rate changes, mail services providers can offer easily accessible tools and resources on the web.


    In the end, the postal rate change does not have to be a life-altering event. And what better impetus to examine your current operations and organize your mail center? Now you can check at least one "To Do" item "Get Organized" off that New Year's resolution list. Hmmm Now, onto that goal of losing those extra 10 pounds


    John Walsh is Vice President of Business Development for UPS Mail Innovations, and further information can be found at www.upsmailinnovations.com or by calling 800-500-2224.


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