A USPS-approved Move Update method is required to receive presorted or automation prices for First-Class Mail or Standard Mail. Since 2008, mailers have been required to prove (and sometimes demonstrate) to the USPS that an approved Move Update method has been applied to the address at least 95 days prior to the mailing date.

The USPS offers several approved methods to comply with the Move Update requirement. Among the approved methods are the National Change-of-Address Linkage System (NCOALink), Address Change Service, and Ancillary Service Endorsements. There are a few other alternatives, but by and large, these are the most commonly used today. Of these, only NCOALink is a true pre-mailing Move Update method, as the address can be updated prior to inducting the mail piece into the USPS. However, post-mailing Move Update methods are also widely used when repeated mailings occur within the 95-day window and are also excellent complements to the NCOALink pre-mailing solution. With an average of 6,500 or more changes-of-address occurring every hour in this country, the combination of a pre-mailing and post-mailing solution makes sense to keep up with customers on the move.

However, when mailers start using Ancillary Service Endorsements, they need to pay very careful attention to what type of correction service is being requested. Traditionally, there are five different types of services that can be requested: Address Service Requested, Change Service Requested, Forwarding Service Requested, Return Service Requested, and Temp-Return Service Requested. Each of these services has different final disposition of the mailpiece, and each of these can carry very different costs. In short, one changed word can make a huge difference, and often result in unintended consequences.

Consider the difference between Change Service Requested' and Address Service Requested' used on a Standard Mail piece addressed to someone that moved more than 12 months ago. For Change Service Requested, the USPS would dispose of the piece and return USPS Form 3547, along with the new address or reason for non-delivery. The fees associated with this service range from 55 cents to free if mailed as part of a qualifying Full-Service IMb mailing.

Putting Address Service Requested' on the mailpiece, however, results in the USPS returning the undeliverable mail piece to the sender, either with the new address or with the reason for non-delivery. The fee associated with this requested return service is calculated as the appropriate single-piece First-Class Mail or Priority Mail rate for the piece, plus a Nonmachinable surcharge if applicable, and then that final amount is multiplied by 2.472 and rounded up to the next whole cent. In some cases, mailers have seen fees well exceeding two, three, even five dollars per piece! Depending on the size of the mailing, these unintended fees could wipe out an entire year's mailing budget.

To be clear, there is a time and place where Address Service Requested might be appropriate. For example, if the mailer is sending out a very expensive direct mail piece and would like to have it returned to send to someone else, they might consider Address Service Requested. However, it is not uncommon that someone simply used the wrong first word in the endorsement and ended up with an unexpected result.

In January 2014, the USPS will start requiring Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes. With the IMb comes an additional service endorsement, Electronic Service Requested.' Electronic Service Requested is meant as a signal to the USPS carrier that the specific disposition of the piece is "baked" into the barcode. Embedded into the Intelligent Mail barcode is a Service Type Identifier (STID), which directs the USPS systems to process the mail piece using an appropriate type of Address Change Service (ACS).

For example, the STID for a Full-Service IMb Standard Mail piece requesting Change Service Requested is 562. A similar mailpiece in the same mailing requesting Address Service Requested would have a STID of 541. Both pieces would have the same human-readable endorsement Electronic Service Requested' printed on the mailpiece. It is only within the IMb that the specific service requested is known. And since the IMb is designed such that it is nearly impossible to decipher the codes by simply looking at it (unlike the POSTNET barcode), some type of scanner or barcode verification device would be needed to avoid unintended consequences. In short, quality assurance devices need to be seriously considered to avoid this this costly embedded mistake.

Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) mail is a costly problem and remains a concern for the mailing industry. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce UAA and to stay compliant with the Move Update rules. With Full-Service IMb requirements just around the corner, mailers using Ancillary Service Endorsements should start looking now into how these requested services are embedded into the IMb, to ensure they know precisely what type of service is actually being requested. For more information on Move Update and a list of all the Service Type Identifiers, visit http://ribbs.usps.gov.