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The Berkshire Company Blog

Ready, Fire, Aim! – A Misstep by the US Postal Service

Posted by Mark Fallon on Sep 12, 2018 5:01:00 AM

At a time when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is struggling with declining volumes, someone at that organization has decided that one answer is to create additional restrictions on what could be mailed at Marketing Mail rates.

On August 23, 2018, the USPS published a notice in the Federal Register that they are contemplating amendment of Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) to “limit all USPS Marketing Mail, regular and nonprofit, letter-size and flat-size, to content that is only paper-based/printed matter; no merchandise or goods will be allowed of any type regardless of ‘value’.”

The top 5 problems with this proposal:

  1. Over 50 years ago, the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) was established. The role of MTAC is to provide advice and recommendations on technical and other mail related issues. Reviewing proposals on what can be mailed at certain rates is exactly why MTAC was created. However, the USPS decided to ignore this valuable resource.
  2. The USPS is needlessly antagonizing mailers directly before the largest rate increase in almost a decade. Even if the new rate structure proposed by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) isn’t adopted until 2019, the next rate case will be significantly higher than recent years. The rate of inflation was 2.95% in July, the highest since 2011.
  3. Savvy mailers already make sure what they send is machinable. One reason being given for the new rules is to improve the percentage of machinable mail. For decades, marketers and fundraisers have worked hard to design pieces that would capture the interest of the recipient and be machinable. The new rules will force businesses and charities to look for other means to communicate with their target audience.
  4. New production printers, especially inkjet, allow for printing on multiple substrates. We’re in the middle of significant changes in printing technology. Companies have more choices on the type of material to use when printing, creating dynamic messages that are colorful and tactile. A personalized plastic sign, which may positively impact a customer, could be merchandise under this rule.
  5. Instead of Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility, this proposal will be the topic of concern at the upcoming Postal Customer Council Week events. The positive messages of how companies are taking advantage of postal data will be overshadowed with negative comments about the Federal Register notice.

This proposed change demonstrates how little the USPS understands their customers. Business mailers are already nervous about rates. The transition from “Standard Mail” to “Marketing Mail” is still in flux, with inconsistencies on permit indicia wording. Mailers associations are urging their members to write to the USPS and petition the PRC. Charities are urging supporters to contact their congressional representatives.

Just because this is a flawed proposal, and that major mailing associations have come out against it, doesn’t mean the USPS won’t adopt the new rules. The USPS is accepting comments on the proposed change – they must be received before October 22, 2018. Written comments can be mailed to:

Manager, Product Classification
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 4446,
Washington, D.C. 20260-5015.

Comments can also be emailed to with the subject line “USPS Marketing Mail Content Eligibility.”

Mailers need to take action today.

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Technology / USPS / U.S. Postal Service

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