USPS Rejects Personalized Stamps

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Though the U.S. Postal Service has decided against a personalized stamp program, insiders said they have not given up hope for such a USPS offering.

The concept was among the recommendations by the President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service last year. The group suggested that "the postal service should develop and produce 'personalized' stamps and make them available through appropriate sources, beginning with the postal service Web site."

However, the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, a group of 12 to 15 members appointed by the postmaster general, rejected the idea, as did postmaster general John E. Potter. The committee reportedly rejected it based on freedom of speech, copyright, counterfeiting and other legal concerns.

But many business mailers were interested in the concept. Others thought this type of product would increase First-Class mail volume, which is rapidly decreasing.

"Why not increase First-Class mail volumes by giving fundraisers and other direct mailers a more personalized product to send to their donors, customers and constituents," said Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers in Washington.

Denton said that the USPS receives requests every year from private citizens, businesses and public officials for a stamp to honor some worthy person, place, event or date. Many requests come from nonprofit organizations seeking a special First-Class stamp.

The issue may not be dead, however, as deputy postmaster general John Nolan is reported to be interested in the concept and working with vendors who would offer software or a Web site that people could use to design their stamps, pay for the postage and print them out. The postal service could not confirm Nolan's interest as of deadline.

"There is significant private sector interest to enable desktop users to print personalized postage," said Ellenor Kirkconnell, assistant director at the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. "We could see something most definitely this year that indicates the concept of work-sharing at its most basic."

Other countries have found success with personalized stamps.

Canada Post Corp. started a program in April 2002 called Picture Postage. It requires small businesses to send to Canada Post the image they want to use on the stamps. In a few weeks Canada Post returns copies of the image on adhesive paper. Also on adhesive paper are the frames of Canada Post stamps. Companies must stick the adhesive logo in the frame before placing it on the envelope. The stamps cost less than $1 (Canadian) per stamp, not including postage, and Canada Post offers volume discounts.

Canada Post said Picture Postage continues to be an excellent product.

"We receive 62 orders a day for Picture Postage," said Canada Post spokeswoman Cindy Daoust, who added that the project has been especially popular with small businesses.

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