USPS Working to Improve Confirm for Flats

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with a project that will let its successful Confirm program work more efficiently with flats, or catalog mail.

With Confirm, big mailers can track letter-size and flat mail through the system using barcodes, called Planet Codes.

Though 98 percent of letter-size mail is successfully scanned, the scan rate for flats is only 50 percent to 60 percent. This is because half of the flats bypass the flat-sorting machines where the barcodes are scanned. The USPS said earlier this year that it was working to correct this by putting Confirm barcodes on bundles so the flats can be tracked even if the individual pieces don't go through a machine.

The USPS and the Confirm/Planet Code MTAC work group began a Confirm container and bundle tracking pilot with five mailers, Paul Bakshi, who heads up the Confirm program, said yesterday at the quarterly Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting.

Bakshi said the pilot will test Confirm barcodes on bundles with this schedule: By Nov. 18, the USPS will have the system and the software requirements for the pilot in place. Then, the pilot mailers and the USPS will begin testing the system in March and will end the pilot period in August. By next September, the postal service will file a rate case with the Postal Rate Commission about the program.

Bakshi also said the USPS is currently engaged in a bulk business First-Class mail pilot with Confirm and testing it with the USPS' Friend-to-Friend Mail Service. Friend-to-Friend lets direct marketers provide customers with postage-paid advertiser cards that can be sent to any third party, making it easier for advertisers to reach more consumers about their services.

Under the program, an advertiser deposits money in a First-Class mail permit account to cover return postage for a percentage of the Friend-to-Friend card. Each Friend-to-Friend card is mailed at the First-Class mail single-piece rate. The recipient mails the cards to friends or any other third party without having to pay postage. The cards include Planet Code barcodes that track the movement of the mail piece for the advertiser.

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