To Mail or Not to Mail to DC?

Though some business-to-government mailings to Washington are reaching intended recipients, there are no guarantees and the odds of success vary depending on the individual policies of the federal agency receiving the mail.

“Things are getting back to normal,” said Deborah Yackley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in the Washington area. However, she said, the Library of Congress and some other “agencies are still not accepting mail that has not been irradiated.”

But there are exceptions. The only mail being irradiated is First-Class stamped letter mail and flats, though Yackley said some non-irradiated mail from known mailers might still go through.

Another postal official said Washington's direct mail is being delivered on a timely basis.

“If you send a catalog or direct mail piece to a senator or representative, it will go right through,” said Tom Day, vice president of engineering at the USPS.

So, what is a direct marketer to do?

One consultant specializing in the business-to-government market recommended holding off on mailing to Washington.

“Technically, once mail hits a loading dock at any facility, it is considered delivered by the postal service,” said Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co., Ashton, MD. “What I have heard from a number of mail managers is that they're very iffy about touching anything right now.”

Amtower advised clients to eliminate the Washington, DC 200-205 ZIP code range, which was served by the closed Brentwood postal facility, but to keep mailing to other federal sites.

“There are 37,000 occupied federal sites in the continental U.S.,” he said. “Most of these are not in DC, and most have not been impacted by the non- or slow delivery of mail.”

Catalogs and other Standard-A mail in the affected ZIP code area were never being irradiated, Yackley said, except for what was in the Brentwood facility at the time anthrax was discovered. Much of that mail was discarded or taken to Ohio for irradiation.

“My guess is that the [Standard-A] mail that was sent that was irradiated is now in a landfill,” Amtower said. “That does not mean that future [Standard-A] mail will suffer the same fate, but don't count on any returns from anything mailed in the last four months.”

The next two months are critical for business-to-government mailers to be in the mail.

“I would say that this is an extremely opportune moment for mailing for a variety of reasons,” Amtower said. “We're past the December-January government slowdown when money is not really spent, and we're just beginning to cusp up to the end of the federal fiscal year. That's when all the money is spent.”

Since the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, Amtower said that the March-April time frame is a big buying time for government. Until he hears that all agencies in Washington are accepting and distributing mail, Amtower does not recommend sending much mail there.

“To DC it is still literally a crapshoot,” he said.

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