COA, Ancillary Service Endorsements and Postage Rates

Undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail is forwarded, returned to sender, or treated as dead mail as authorized for the particular mail class. An mailer endorsement is used to instruct the Postal Service regarding the mailpiece’s appropriate disposition upon determining that it is UAA. On First-Class Mail® service, the following endorsements may be used as an updating method to meet the move update standard:

Return Service Requested. If UAA, the mailpiece is returned with the new address or reason for nondelivery; no charge.

Temp-Return Service Requestd. If UAA and a temporary change-of-address has been filed, the mailpiece is forwarded at no charge. No separate notice of a new temporary change-of-address is provided.

Address Service Requested.

  • Months 1 – 12: the mailpiece is forwarded; no charge; a separate notice of the new address is provided; an address correction fee is charged.
  • Months 13 – 18: the mailpiece is returned with the new address attached; no charge.
  • After month 18 or if undeliverable: the mailpiece is returned with reason for nondelivery attached; no charge.

Change Service Requested. Separate notice of new address or reason for nondelivery provided; in either case, address-correction fee is charged; mailpiece is not forwarded or returned but disposed of by the Postal Service. This endorsement option is available for First-Class Mail only when used in conjunction with electronic ACS™ Service.

Ancillary service endorsements allow the sender to obtain on request (provided the appropriate endorsement is used) the addressee’s new (forwarding) address (if the addressee filed a Change-of-Address Order with the Postal Service) or the reason for nondelivery. These endorsements also provide the Postal Service with instructions for the disposition of UAA mail. These new endorsements provide a simpler and more consistant system than the previous endorsements.

Optional Ancillary Service Endorsement Locations

In addition to the current location under the return address (1), ancillary service endorsements may be placed above the delivery address block (2), to the left of the postage area (3), or below the postage area (4) (postage stamps, meter stamps, or permit imprints). See DMM M012.4.3 for more information.

Optional Ancillary Service Endorsement LocationsFor accuracy sake this has been taken directly from the USPS.com website http://www.usps.com/ncsc/addressservices/moveupdate/ace.htm

Direct Mail Flats Postage Rates are Under-Attack

What do you get when you take the heaviest piece of mail possible and force it to either jump through hoops or pay huge postage increases? You get the single largest opportunity for the US Postal Service to increase its income quickly.

As someone who has processed flats and catalogs, I can’t say I blame them due to the backbreaking nature of these heavy cumbersome pieces. But we like to help you save postage at each turn.  So I am here to guide you through this new information.

USPS Poster 182, January 2009 Specifically Reads:

New Address Standards for Commercial Flat-Size Mail
Effective March 29th 2009

Since you can download the document I won’t copy it verbatim. But I do want to talk about what I see and how it relates to all of you.

The first and most obvious aspect of this entire change of mail processing category is the conversation about the “top” of the mailpiece and specifically if it is on the right or on the left of the publication.  Let me repeat that because it sounds so odd (so postal).  The TOP is on the RIGHT or LEFT. *chuckling to myself*

Anyway, once you get oriented about RIGHT, LEFT, TOP and “bound edge” this gets easier to understand.

Look at this example:

Notice the Magazine is upside down to us and the address is vertical and parallel to the bound edge. To us this makes the most sense because if you rotated this 90 degrees to the right it would be envelope shaped and the address would be in the correct area.  Unfortunately, this is with an address block on the front cover. However, “front cover” is not required but the orientation is.  This is not the same place all of you are addressing right now so this was the most important change to look at. Be aware of the address block to the bound edge.

Here is another example:

This is where it goes from obvious to bizarre. First, you now see the “top half” is the bottom half of the magazine. You also see that the address is no longer in the top half and the address block is also inverted.  Interestingly enough this is considered with a “loose enclosure” which means it can slide around, however they want it in a specific location.  I have to imagine this was built very specifically to a certain project or projects because it doesn’t make much sense at first glance.

Here is another example:

This format seems like it makes sense to the Post Office but I imagine they just don’t realize that this is one of the biggest money spots on a magazine. A back cover ad is real estate that we do not want to give up.  It is very common to address on the lower half of the back cover, but rarely ever on the top.

I see this example as the most common money maker for the post office as they struggle to make you give up the largest money makers for you. You’re just going to have to move your customers’ ads to the bottom half and make them happy about it somehow. It is the same square footage ad space but it does feel submissive to the addressing itself.  Remember, this heavy magazine mails at first-class rates without it. $1 or more each.

Perhaps it is time to start addressing on the cover to save this valuable ad space.
Put it where you would put the newsstand UPC for non-mailed versions.

Last Example:

I think the most important part to observe on the large envelopes is that in either example the return address is on the left. The “top half” appears to be whichever side the mail-to address is on. These two formats have the smallest change and the option at the right is already the standard in all the large envelopes we mail.

In summary, the biggest concern from our perspective is magazines. There are so many of them out there that are mailed in the first week of each month.  I imagine that April 1st is going to be April Fools Day to so many of the Post Office’s largest customers. But this time you won’t be laughing.

First-Class Postage Rates Increase Hides the Real Story

We just completed the update on our postage rates short sheet that we share with our clients and prospects alike. It’s a quick glance sheet of the most common rates achieved with all of our mailing services clients. You can find the new postage rates on our homepage.

During my last 20 years in direct mail I have studied the interesting dynamics of the varying rate adjustments made by the US Postal Service each year.  You can tell a lot about the troubles or changes needed at the Post Office by finding the nuances in the rate adjustments.

For years the US Postal Service had been spreading the rates out to create benefits for automation processing.  It was a huge trend for about a decade.  I am noticing that this is no longer the big push over the last few rate cases.

Looking at the First-Class Mail postage rates this year I see that the First-Class stamp went up 5% to 44 cents.  The First-Class non-automation rate went up as well – from .394 to .414, which is also a 5% increase. Compared to the automation rates for First-Class Mail which only went up 3% it would look like the same automation rate spread was continuing.

In standard postage rates (formerly 3rd class), on the other hand, we see a different trend. Standard non-automation rates practically stayed the same while the automation postage rates went up 4-5%.

This area of the postage rates system is the US Postal Service’s bread and butter. Standard postage is the most common rate paid on every piece of direct mail sent. We have spent years creating innovative ways to help clients elminate First-Class postage costs by moving them to standard postage rates with creative add-ons like NCOA and Track Direct Mail services.

To me, this says a lot about the US Postal Service trying to make money at the risk of scaring off automation investment. The biggest value of a mailing services provider is that they can get you automation rates. Many of us have invested millions of dollars in equipment to do so.  The Post Office continues to put more of the burden of equipment and requirements on the direct mailers. They appear to be seeking ways to prosper under the huge burdens in labor and government intervention they contend with.

In nonprofit postage rates we see this same trend continue. In this case though, non-automation postage rates go down while automation goes up. That is complete irony to me.  I can see though that they may be trying to keep the business of the local churches and nonprofit groups that handle their own mailings.

Recent new requirements by the US Postal Service has made it tougher on the little nonprofits and small realtor groups.  It is completely backwards in my opinion to punish those that follow the program and provide automated mail and then reduce the rates for those that don’t get with the program. Nonprofit postage rates went up 4-6% in the automation category as opposed to down 1-3% for non-automation. This sure has reversed the trend I have watched over the last few decades.

The biggest increases of all (18%) was in the surcharges the US Postal Service charges for non-machineable pieces. Keep this in mind and make sure you are working with a mailing services company like ourselves that is US Postal Service trained and certified.

We should talk about this more – feel free to comment.

NCOALink Initiatives are Working

We are really starting to see the difference the NCOALink initiative was intended for. Each year we have seen 17-20% of the population move. Over 40% change their address annually. In the past we have dealt with returned mail and undeliverable piece percentages as high as 8-12+%. Because of this CSG Direct became a direct NCOALink limited service licensee years ago. This helped, but not as much as the USPS requiring NCOA services as of November of 2008.  Now people are taking it more seriously.

These high return rates are dropping dramatically with the new NCOA initiatives.

The US Postal Service says that Almost five out of every 100 mailpieces are UAA. When you look at UAA mail by reason, approximately 75 percent is caused by people moving. In addition, when you look at UAA mail by class, Standard Mail accounts for almost 63 percent of all UAA mail volume.”

So according to them you should be seeing an average of 5% undeliverable mailpieces.

This is the main reason why the USPS has pressed the NCOA initiatives and why we became the only NCOALink licensee in the state of Nevada.

The USPS delivered 202.7 BILLION pieces of mail in 2008. So just 5% of that is 10 billion pieces of undeliverable mail bouncing around in the system. They needed a way to eliminate that waste and the NCOA process is doing just that.  We are now seeing closer to 1% (or less) of all mailings being undeliverable with the NCOA process fully in place.  However, it is only required currently every 90 days and as we approach the 90 day cycle the mailings do tend to have higher returns.  Monthly or every-job requirements are bound to follow. An example of this requirement is the CASS process that was the predecessor of NCOALink.

In short, it will only get better, but it is only as good as the people that fill out the change of address forms.

Cup-more-than-half-full: At least with direct mail you know EXACTLY how many people did not get your message. With every other medium you will never know.  If I run a TV campaign I HOPE everyone sees it, I KNOW they don’t all see it, but I will never KNOW how many did.  Same with radio, print, billboards, E-mail, newspapers, etc.

Direct mail is responsible and accountable marketing. :)

Get More Information on NCOALink here at CSG Direct, Inc

Excel is NOT a Database Marketing Program

As a mathematical mind I would normally praise Microsoft’s signature product and how it has revolutionized so many industries. I myself use it on a daily basis and I have written several programs around it.  I feel right at home using it. But it’s not how I use it that has me concerned.

Excel has ruined more mailings than anything else in our industry!!!

Besides the fact that Microsoft registers this program as the default for almost every available type of file you have, Excel also figures it knows your database better than you.

Excel is NOT a database program! However, it has found its way into the database world and destroys projects daily across our country, and probably the world.
Exell sort option

First of all Excel does not hold record integrity. You are able to sort single columns and immediately scramble your database. It is common for a customer to sort the [Last name] field prior to giving us the data. They do this to see if they are in the database.  But then I end up getting a piece of mail saying Michael Smith instead of Michael Hemphill.

Secondly, it interprets your zip-codes as math. 95841-2205 = 93636 right?  wrong!
Excel is meant for Math, it is after all a spreadsheet program.

Don’t get burned by Excel by managing mailing lists with it. Consider yourself warned.

So much Direct Mail Information to Cover

I really should have started this a year ago. So much has been happening that is HUGE.
I will cover as much of it as I can without sounding like I am talking about the past all of the time.  Here is a small list of stuff we’ve been powering through:

Postage Rates are Increasing on May 11, 2009

A First-Class stamp will be 44 cents starting May 11, 2009. The US Postal Service has officially announced the postage rate increases for the 2009-2010 mailing season. First-Class Mail is going up 3.77% compared to 3.78% for standard mail (old 3rd-class). The Post Office has recently switched from doing large postage increases every 4 years to a smaller increase each year to keep up with costs and industry fluctuations.

For those mailers not using Intelligent Mail options, the price differential for First-Class Mail will be 0.3 cents. This means that those of us that have been using intelligent mail barcodes, as CSG Direct has, will be able to get lower postage rates for direct mail.  This may be the first squeeze of many to get mail shops in or out of the game, so to speak.

It is public knowledge now that CSG Direct has been using intelligent mail barcodes and that we invented America’s first public US Mail Tracking system. It is not the only thing needed to create the systems but it is a testament to how prepared we are for these new changes.

We will be publishing a shortlist of the new rates this week.  For reference here are the 2008-2009 postage rates, current until May.

Added 02-20-09 here are the 2009-2010 postage rates.