USPS to simplify international shipping options

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The U.S. Postal Service proposed simplifying its international shipping options to try to make it easier for customers to use the products.

The proposed changes, published Dec. 20 in the Federal Register, would better align USPS international products with the agency's well-known domestic products: Express Mail, Priority Mail and First Class Mail. The postal service would merge eight current options into four alternatives by combining products with overlapping service standards and prices.

"We wanted to demystify the international shipping experience," said Jim Cochrane, USPS manager of package services. "We had a lot of choices in the international arena as well as some overlaps and redundancies in our products, so we decided that if we follow our domestic strategies ... our international products would be better for our customers and an easier-to-understand experience."
The Federal Register notice gives mailers 30 days to comment on the proposed changes.

The notice also said the USPS would rename the international products to mirror comparable domestic product names. For example, the USPS has an international product called Global Express Guaranteed for documents and Global Express Guaranteed for non-documents. These products would be combined into one product, Global Express Guaranteed. An international product called Global Express Mail would be changed to Express Mail International. And Global Priority Mail, Airmail Parcel Post and Economy Parcel Post would be renamed Priority Mail International.

Enhancements to the postal service's international products would include increasing customer convenience through the use of domestic packaging supplies, offering the popular flat-rate envelope option in Express Mail International and adding the flat-rate box option to Priority Mail International. The USPS also would offer more specific delivery time and tracking information to major destinations.

The USPS also proposes to raise international product prices an average of 13 percent, necessitated by cost increases that occurred during a price freeze from January 2001 through January 2006. This freeze was followed by a 5.9 percent increase on Jan. 7.

"Our costs have been increasing, and alternative carriers have been making yearly increases to their prices [since 2001]," the notice said. "This has resulted in international prices lagging behind both the Consumer Price Index and the prices offered by alternative carriers on comparable products. Even with the proposed changes, our comparable services will still be priced lower than those of other international carriers."

The international price changes would become effective when the USPS changes its domestic prices, likely in May 2007.

The filing also mentioned that customers who buy postage using Click-N-Ship at www.usps.com or through an authorized online provider would receive discounts of 10 percent on Global Express Guaranteed shipments, 8 percent on Express Mail International shipments and 5 percent on Priority Mail International shipments. While the USPS offers online discounts on some international products now, it is being expanded in this proposal.

"In general, highlights of the filing included simplifying the products, offering international shippers more convenience and the online discounts," Mr. Cochrane said.

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