The U.S. Postal Service is preparing to hit magazine and newspaper publishers with sizable rate increases starting next year.
In addition to seeking an extra rate hike for all mail next year, the U.S.P.S. will ask Congress for legislation that would allow Periodicals rates to be increased much faster than the rate of inflation.
The long-range action plan postal officials released yesterday calls for changing "the fact that certain mail, such as nonprofit mail, Media Mail, Library Mail and Periodicals, does not presently cover costs." Postal officials want to "ensure that these products get to a point where they cover costs while contributing reasonably to overhead costs. An alternative would be appropriations funding to cover the gap."
Based on the latest data from the Postal Service's Alice-in-Wonderland accounting system, Periodicals rates would need to be increased more than 31% for the agency to break even on the delivery of magazines and newspapers.
The plan calls for a "moderate" exigent (emergency) rate increase next year for most classes of mail. That would be in addition to the usual inflation-based price increases for each of the "market-dominant" classes -- such as Periodicals, Standard, and First Class.
"The Consumer Price Index should apply to the entire group of products, rather than each individual mail class," the Postal Service's fact sheet on pricing flexibility says. Such a change in the law would mean that if the CPI increased only 3% one year, the Periodicals increase could be 10% as long as it were balanced out with, say, a Standard mail increase of only 1%.
"No business can survive selling products below costs," says the fact sheet. The problem is that the Postal Service really has no idea what its costs are for the Periodicals class.
In the past couple of years, Periodicals mailers have greatly increased the sort of activities that reduce the Postal Service's costs, such as co-mailing, dropshipping, and reducing the number of sacks. At the same time, the average weight of copies has decreased.
Despite all of that, the Postal Service's accounting methodology finds that the costs for handling Periodicals have increased dramatically. Postal officials have never explained this nonsensical result. The issue is explored further in the following articles: