Standard Mail renewal notices still valid despite changing rate structure & prices
June 9, 2014
By Max Heath
Newspapers can save 37%-47% postage
Despite changes in mail processing and pricing over the past decade, the use of Standard Mail for renewal letters is still as valid as when the National Newspaper Association last wrote about this a few years ago. Recent questions from NNA members make this topic worth revisiting.
Such renewals travel in the same mailstream with First-Class letters and get generally equal delivery.
But first, a little history
The U.S. Postal Service revised Customer Support Ruling PS-238, in December 2004, strengthening the use of Standard Mail letter rates for properly prepared renewal notices.
Based on new rules concerning the amount of “personal information” that can be included in Standard Mail matter, the ruling concerns a mythical renewal notice for The Boston Post, used in prior such rulings during the past 20 years. The notice prominently displays the words “Renewal Notice” and encourages the subscriber to renew before his/her expiration date.
It concludes that a renewal notice with an expiration date of the current subscription, even though “personal information,” is still considered advertising material that contains personal information. “The expiration date is used to relate the addressee directly to an advertised product or service being offered for sale or lease (uninterrupted service of his/her subscription). No other personal information was included in the mail piece. Therefore, the mailing was determined to be eligible for the Standard Mail rates of postage.”
The name and address of the customer (the addressee) and account number are not considered to be “personal information” for mail classification purposes. Also, computer-prepared material is not considered to “have the character of actual or personal correspondence” that would require First-Class postage.
You can read the revised ruling at http://pe.usps.gov, the Postal Explorer website. Click on “Customer Support Rulings” then scroll to PS-238 under “Standard Mail.”
Despite the absence of language regarding the use of the words “bill” or “statement,” those prohibitions continue. It is still best if all renewal terms (3, 6, 12 months, etc.) are listed and no indication is made that a debt is owed, which would classify the piece as First-Class Mail.
NNA has long trained its members on the value of Standard Mail renewal notices. Many newspapers already possess permit imprint accounts at the post office for mailed shoppers. A permit imprint can be used for multiple purposes, even mail for clients, as long as the mailings are identical in weight and meet a 200-piece or 50 pound minimum per mailing.
If you don’t already have a permit imprint account, the initial cost will be a one-time permit imprint application fee of $220 plus the annual Presorted Standard Mailing fee of $220. That is renewable every 12 months from the initial payment date.
STANDARD MAIL LETTER RATES
Each Standard Mail letter-size mailing must consist of 200 identical weight pieces. Small-circulation newspapers may be able to mail two or three months worth of notices at a time, and mix first and second notices, to reach the 200-piece minimum. Postage Statement 3602-R is used.
DDU-entry carrier-route letter prices are no longer available for Standard Mail. USPS mandates that all letter mail be sent “upstream” to processing plants with letter-sorting machines. Letter trays must be used, plus USPS-provided “sleeves,” and letters rubber banded in 4-6 inch bundles, regardless of ZIP, if trays are less than 85 percent full.
Non-automation letters, with no barcode but Machinable, can earn 30.9 cents per piece on 3602-R Part B, line B2, Mixed AADC (Automated Area Distribution Center). No presort software is required, And it provides an 18.1-cent, 37 percent savings off the 49-cent First-Class stamp price.
If you have 150 pieces or more to the same AADC service area in Labeling List 801, it is possible to claim a 29.1-cent price on Line B1, for another 1.8 cent savings to 19.9 cents, a 41 percent savings.
Automation letters are a bit trickier. Your software vendor can advise on their capability. A nearby mail house may also help. The address must contain an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) below the address. That requires presort software with Standard Mail letter programming to sort 150 pieces to the 5-digit ZIP code/5-digit scheme, 150 pieces to the same 3-digit ZIP code/3-digit scheme, 150 pieces to the same AADC, or no minimum to Mixed AADC. An Optional Endorsement Line is required atop the address block (same format as appears on Periodicals).
Prices paid would by 26.1 cents for 5-digit at 3602-R, line A1; 27.9 cents for 3-digit, line A2, 27.9 cents for AADC, line A3; and 30.9 cents for Mixed AADC at A4. Prices are for weight below 3.3 ounces.
So, a newspaper could expect to pay the 26.1-cent 5-digit price for renewals to its main town where it could mail 150 pieces, perhaps by sending first and second notices, or two months together, etc. That’s a larger savings of 22.9 cents per piece, or 47 percent difference from a First-Class stamp. Most would likely have another 150 pieces with the same 3-digit ZIP/scheme, earning a still-attractive 27.9 cents.
ADDRESS QUALITY REQUIREMENTS
USPS Move Update standards require that addresses on all pieces mailed at the Presorted Standard Mail prices must be updated within 95 days before mailing through a USPS-approved address update method (e.g., ACS, NCOALink, or the appropriate ancillary service endorsement—“Address Service Requested” is suggested—under DMM 507.1.5.3, right below the return address. The newspaper is forwarded to new addresses and notice sent to the publisher.
Periodical newspapers are required to get address corrections with every issue mailed. These address correction notices can be used to meet the Move Update standard for your renewal notices because you will be using the same Periodical mailing address on your Presorted Standard Mail renewal notices. © Max Heath 2014
Max Heath, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media, publisher of Athlon Sports magazine, American Profile, Relish, and Spry newspaper supplements, and Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.