Sunday, June 6, 2010

Postal Service Chooses "Un-Intelligent" Mail

Why do Postal Service officials sing the praises of the Intelligent Mail barcode and then not use it on their own mailings?

An alert reader sent me this scan from her recently received copy of USA Philatelic, a quarterly catalog that the U.S. Postal Service sends to stamp collectors. She says it's the second time she's noticed that the catalog used an old-fashioned Postnet barcode rather than an Intelligent Mail barcode for her address.

She also noted that the catalog was sorted as "auto 5-digit" even though almost all of the Standard-class flat mail that comes to her is carrier-route sorted, which is less expensive for the Postal Service to deliver. That indicates the catalog was not co-mailed, or at least that it wasn't in a decent-sized co-mail pool. (Cenveo is the printer.)

An Intelligent Mail barcode (also known as a FUBAR code) has four types of bars that enable it to contain more information than "unintelligent" barcodes that have only two types of bars. In theory, an IMb can uniquely identify each piece of mail. Next year, mailers will be forced to use IMbs to obtain automation discounts.

The new barcodes have proven difficult to reproduce with the kind of high-speed inkjetting equipment typically used to address catalogs and magazines. And USPS equipment doesn't always read the codes correctly. The program has also been plagued by inadequate training, procedures, and systems.

Perhaps the folks at the Postal Service who are in charge of the catalog decided that using Postnet codes was the base way to get the copies delivered correctly.

For more information about problems with the Intelligent Mail program, please see:


Anonymous said...

I used to run the Philatelic catalog at a plant in the Northeast that is now closed down. (There's a Cenveo connection there). I'm sure it's a case of "do it the way we've always done it". They don't know enough about their own services to take advantage of them. At the time I ran the piece, it was on very expensive paper, and heavy stock cover at high prices.

Even the PCC mail I get uses the Intelligent Mail barcode, and the mail services are usually donated by a local lettershop. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

There could be a variety of reasons why the IMb was not used on this catalog.
Here is what I find even more disturbing: I routinely receive magazines and catalogs at my home address which DO have an IMb printed on them, but they also have a secondary IMb sticker affixed to them, which is applied by the USPS.
These stickers are supposed to be used by the USPS when the barcodes are not legible, which is understandable. However, I have been monitoring this, and ALL the flat size mailpieces I receive ALL have these stickers on them.
That tells me that the USPS is running their flat sorting equipment in "Label All" mode, which means they are not even attempting to try to read the IMb's printed on the mailpieces.
To add insult to injury, I am seeing these stickers on pieces that have a Carrier Route endorsement line on the address block. This means that the USPS is running carrier route sorted pieces, which should not be processed on flat sorters at all, on the flat sorting equipment.
With all the talk of reducing delivery days and an exigency rate case, it is disheartening to say the least to see this type of mail processing going on. It obviously has costs associated with it, and does nothing to encourage mailers to embrace Intelligent Mail.