Stamps.com, WWF Team on PhotoStamps

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Online stamp vendor Stamps.com offers a series of endangered species PhotoStamps starting today through a partnership with World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC, with a percentage of sales benefiting WWF's conservation work worldwide.


The U.S. Postal Service authorized Stamps.com, Los Angeles, to market test PhotoStamps, a PC Postage product that lets customers create postage with their own designs, images and photographs.


The service, which debuted July 28, can be used as regular postage to send letters, postcards or Priority Mail packages. During the three-month test, PhotoStamps is being offered in seven values for postcards as well as envelopes of different sizes, ranging from 23 cents to $3.85. A sheet of 20 self-adhesive, 37-cent PhotoStamps costs $16.99. There is also a $2.99-per-order shipping and handling charge.


After the test, the USPS will evaluate whether to continue the program.


For the endangered animals series, WWF will make available images of a giant panda, a one-horned rhino, a Bengal tiger, a lowland gorilla and an African elephant. These PhotoStamps will be available at http://www.photostamps.com. Customers can select an image, customize the border and postage amount and place their order online.


Stamps.com will donate half of the sale price for each sheet of WWF PhotoStamps sold through Sept. 30 to the organization.


WWF, Washington, is not using the stamps on direct mail pieces, however.


"We are using the stamps as a fundraising tool to get our members and other supporters to help us raise funds," said Laura Flores, director of corporate marketing at WWF. "But as an organization, we are not going to use the stamps for direct mailing purposes because, quite frankly, they are too expensive."


"We are looking to forge additional relationships with charities in categories that are consistent with the product mandate, including children, animals and pets," said James Bortnak, vice president, sales, marketing and business development at Stamps.com.


Stamps.com is about to sign a deal with Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Quantico, VA. According to Stamps.com and Toys for Tots, in October -- when people start ordering their PhotoStamps for holiday cards -- Stamps.com will give consumers the option of including a Toys for Tots border around the image.


Stamps.com will "make a significant donation to Toys for Tots," Bortnak said.


"We looked at it as a novel way of fundraising," said Bill Grein, vice president at Toys for Tots.


Stamps.com also said Sept. 13 that it scaled back the PhotoStamps program to deter controversial images from being affixed to mail. The company said it will continue to offer the PhotoStamps service but focus on its two best-selling categories, babies/children and pets/animals.


Stamps.com banned submissions bearing the likeness of adults or teen-agers but said it will continue to accept images such as landscapes, nature, wildlife, business logos and charity logos.


Executives said the company was forced to narrow options for the service based on the abusive actions of individuals who went to great lengths to use the product in inappropriate ways.


Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, said, "I know a lot of nonprofits are going to be anxious to see how successful it is, and I wish the postal service would consider taking on a personalized stamp program of their own, too."


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