USPS BOG Approves Parcel Return Service, Repositionable Notes

Customers and merchants looking for an easy and economical way to return merchandise through the mail can now rely on Parcel Return Service to handle their needs on a permanent basis.

By approving a recommendation from the Postal Rate Commission, the U.S. Postal Service Governors on this week made PRS a permanent mailing option.

The Board of Governors voted to make the change effective on April 2. The vote occurred at the Board’s closed meeting on Wednesday.

Launched as a two-year experiment in October 2003, the service offers a cost-effective way for merchants to obtain items their customers choose to return.

The service lets mailers provide customers with a prepaid return label that can be included in shipments, mailed to them or made available for download via the Internet. The merchant's customer fills out the mailing form and deposits the item with the USPS, either by handing it to a delivery carrier, placing it in a collection box or submitting it to a window clerk at a post office.

Merchants, or their parcel consolidators that have been approved as participants by the USPS, can pick up returned merchandise at a post office delivery unit or bulk mail center.

Currently the two approved companies are Newgistics, Austin, TX, and APX Logistics, Santa Fe Springs, CA. APX Logistics, however, filed for bankruptcy protection on March 16.

The two permanent rate categories for Parcel Return Service are:

· Parcel Select Return Delivery Unit: Returned parcels are picked up at a local post office. Because no transportation and little processing are required by the USPS, it charges a flat rate for regular-sized parcels of $2.11 and a flat rate of $7.92 for oversized parcels.

· Parcel Select Return Bulk Mail Center: Returned parcels are picked up at the local BMC at a discounted rate based on weight and zone. A surcharge of $1.42 would be applied for nonmachinable parcels. Special rates would be charged for oversized parcels.

For both RDU and RBMC, postage is deducted from the merchant's or the logistics provider's prepaid account.

In other action, the Board approved another recommendation from the Postal Rate Commission, extending the expiration date for the Repositionable Notes provisional service by one year.

RPNs are sticky notes that can be placed on envelopes, catalogs, magazines, or newspapers to highlight important information or a special offer. Since the notes can be easily removed from the envelope, the recipient can place them somewhere handy as a reminder of the offer.

The USPS said the extension is to make sure there is no disruption in service to customers planning spring mailings using RPNs, also known as “yellow stickies.” The filing requests an extension through April 3, 2007.

The test, which was set to end April 3, opened up the use of RPNs to new categories of mail while instituting a fee for the program. Direct mailers opposed the added fee, arguing that mail with RPNs doesn’t cost more to process and that the USPS is justifying the increased rate solely on the grounds that RPNs raise response rates. The postal service supported charging for RPNs with a rationale that it calls value pricing, which bases charges for a mail characteristic on the USPS’ perception of its value to the mailer, without reference to cost.

RPNs are allowed on all letter- and flat-sized mail sent at discount First-Class, Standard and Periodicals rates. The added rate for RPN-bearing mail is 0.5 cents for First-Class pieces and 1.5 cents for Standard and Periodicals pieces.

In other news, Postmaster General Jack Potter announced on March 22 that Robert Pedersen has been named acting chief financial officer and executive vice president, succeeding Richard Strasser, who is retiring April 3, Pedersen will head the agency’s Finance, Treasury, Information Technology, and Supply Management activities. He will serve as a member of the Executive Committee and Chairman of its corporate Capital Investment Committee. The PMG said that over the next several weeks, Pedersen and Strasser will be working together to implement a smooth succession.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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