USPS Gives Merlin Reminder at Mailcom

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ATLANTIC CITY, NJ -- The U.S. Postal Service will lift the moratorium that has been in effect for flats that have Merlin barcode readability errors for additional postage June 1, though it will offer a 60-day extension for sites where Merlin has been fully activated, a postal official reminded attendees at a session during the Mailcom 2002 Global Conference & Exhibition here May 21.

Merlin, or Mail Evaluation Readability and Lookup Instrument, verifies barcode readability and other mail requirements. As of Aug. 1, mailings that fall short of an 80 percent readability rate can be assessed extra postage. Eventually, this will be increased to 90 percent.

The postal service had planned to begin charging added fees for flats that did not comply with Merlin but delayed the additional charges after mailers complained of quality issues with the Merlin machines.

USPS marketing specialist Patricia Imes told attendees of Merlin's benefits, including that it "ensures consistency, consolidates verification processes and captures business mail data, which will help to do things like develop historical data on mail type."

Mailers can have mailings pre-tested, Imes said. The USPS set up a pre-testing center in February in Chicago, she said, "where mailers can send no more than 50 pieces of mail to be pre-tested before going through Merlin." The only cost to the mailer, she said, is postage to and from the facility.

But some mailers in the audience had worries. Steven J. Kulick, director of postal affairs at Haband, Scranton, PA, said he is concerned about having to tell his customers, many of whom are direct marketers, that they may have to change the makeup of mail pieces to meet Merlin specifications. Haband will have a Merlin machine deployed this fall.

Another attendee, who will implement a Merlin machine in his shop by 2003, wasn't too concerned about the prospect.

"The only people who have problems with Merlin," said Craig Schiller, vice president, Denison Mailing Service, Minneapolis, "are people who have bad mail."


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