Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Postage Discount No Mailer Wants

For an update of this article, please see Everything You Need To Know About Full-Service Intelligent Mail.

With less than a week to go before a new postage discount debuts, knowledgeable mailers want nothing to do with the new program.

It’s officially called the full-service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb). But as the horror stories and unresolved problems rack up, Dead Tree Edition hereby dubs it the FUBAR (Failed Unbelievably Bureaucratic Addressing Regulations) code. Those of you with military experience know another meaning for FUBAR, and the IM program certainly fits that definition as well.

“Most, if not all, Standard Mailers are steering clear of Full Service ACS [address correction],” Lisa Bowes wrote recently at Intelisent’s Postal Affairs Blog. “Full Service ACS may be pretending to be ready for prime time, but the reviews so far are negative.”

Many Periodicals mailers are also spooked about the Intelligent Mail program after hearing how it cost Time Inc. more than $90,000 in duplicate address-change charges in a period of just two months. Newsweek, often a leader on postal issues in the magazine industry, spread the word among publishers a few months ago that it was not putting any more resources into Intelligent Mail.

Postal officials in charge of the much-delayed IM program gave their usual everything-is-on schedule presentation at last week’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting. (“This ship is unsinkable! Ooh, look at the pretty iceberg.”) And once again they baffled mailers with yet another broken promise. The Association for Postal Commerce (Postcom) summarized the situation this way:

“Despite the Postal Service’s repeated assurances that it would not establish error tolerances and consequences for IMb Full-Service mailings until both the USPS and industry have more experience with the complexities of Full-Service and data can be collected and analyzed, the USPS said its verification procedures and consequences will take effect on November 29, 2009 – the date the IMb Full-Service price differential takes effect.”

The discounts amount to 0.3 cents per piece for First Class mail and a whopping 0.1 cents per piece for Standard and Periodicals. But the penalty for putting unreadable IM bar codes on mail pieces can easily be several cents per piece. The Postal Service has not standardized the process for determining whether such bar codes are readable, so mail that gets the green light from postal equipment at a printing plant might get flagged as unacceptable when it gets to the Postal Service’s sorting machines.

Bowes noted Friday that the IM program’s list of “issues” (problems) has grown to 16 pages, more than 100 items, and offered a hilarious translation of a gobbledygook advisory that IM officials issued that day. Her take on one of the mealy-mouthed statements: “A bunch of stuff is broken, and the USPS knows about them, but it is still full steam ahead.”

One of the issues for which the Postal Service was not prepared is that procedures need to be changed for letter carriers, writes Monica Lundquist of Window Book, Inc. Letter carriers typically cross out the traditional barcode when they handle a mail piece with an old or bad address, preventing the piece from getting redirected to the same bad address after it goes through processing for address-correction notification.

“If the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) is obliterated by the mail carrier, it will not be able to be scanned . . ., which means that the USPS will not be able to process the address corrections in the Intelligent Mail environment.” The solution, she says, is to train letter carriers how to handle poorly addressed pieces that have an IMb, but “the likelihood of this training getting accomplished quickly and thoroughly is not very high.”

Previous articles about the Intelligent Mail train wreck:


Anonymous said...

I just read where the Russian postal operator cut management staffing by 50%. When the public wakes up, and administration and Congressional opinion leaders finally admit, (that) mis-management in the USPS is rampant.
Maybe then Potter can be'retired' (and)a more progressive (new services and customer friendly systems) can finally help the USPS evolve.

Anonymous said...

Typical USPS mis-management.They would spend a million dollars to cover up a ten dollar mistake rather than admit they were wrong

dryMAILman said...

I believe that smart-aleck comments are essential for mental health and well being in these trying postal times, for USPS employees and mailers alike. Thank you for the good work!

Anonymous said...

Intelligent Mail Barcode will be rolled out whether it works or not. One only needs to look at the failed Flat Sorter Sequencing (FSS) program.

The first FSS machine has been in live testing for over a year and has yet to reach minimum operation standards for productivity, mailpiece acceptance, sorting accuracy and mail damage levels.

Despite these failures the USPS plans to deploy FSS machines accross the country in 2010.

When you start with a rotten egg, chances are good the cake will be bad!

Anonymous said...

The Postal Service created a wonderful tool with Intelligent Mail, and then destroyed it with the bizarrely named "Full Service". It's 90% of the reason I got out of the Intelligent Mail business...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Tree for your articles on this subject. It is so helpful to us in pulling together and researching comments from multiple sources and justifying to management why we are not jumping in to IMB feet-first!