USPS to File for New Direct Mail Classification

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The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors yesterday approved a filing with the Postal Rate Commission for a new mail classification designed to expand options when using direct mail.

The filing, planned for mid-March, is for a Customized MarketMail classification that would let direct marketers mail non-rectangular direct mail pieces less than a quarter-inch thick.

"Under current rules, if a mail piece is less than a quarter-of-an-inch thick, it has to be rectangular," said Joe Moeller, manager, specialty pricing, USPS.

The filing will specify that Customized MarketMail must be drop-shipped to destination post offices, thus avoiding mail-processing operations.

"There is a reason why the rectangular rule is there, and that is because the mail pieces must be compatible with our mail-processing equipment," Moeller said. "By drop-shipping the pieces, mailers would bypass the machines and therefore be able to mail pieces that are not rectangular."

Price would be based on Regular and Nonprofit Standard Mail basic tier rates, plus an existing surcharge for residual shapes that are not letters or flats.

More details will be available once the case is filed. If approved by the PRC, the Board of Governors then makes the final decision.

Charles Howard, vice president, postal affairs and special projects at Harte-Hanks, said the classification likely would be most cost-effective for companies that enter a lot of mail into a specific delivery unit for hand processing.

"I would recommend this to my customers on a limited-use option," Howard said. "If you are a local retailer and you want to saturate your own ZIP code, for example, it is kind of a no-brainer. I can see a local soccer league sending out a soccer ball or round-shaped mail piece."

But for a national or regional retailer reaching out to a huge area, he said, "the surcharge would add up, along with the cost of DDU entry."

He also questioned the surcharge.

"I'm not convinced that the surcharge is valid," he said. "Everything taken to a DDU is going to be hand processed, so if you are bypassing the equipment by drop-shipping the mail pieces, then a surcharge shouldn't even be applied."

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