Up In the Air with the New Postal Rates

USPSeagleNearly three weeks after the U.S. Postal Service proposed hiking most postal rates, mailing experts and regulators can’t figure out what the proposal means, notes D. Eadward Tree, who illuminates seven mysteries of the new postal rates.

Largely incomplete, the USPS’s proposal has more questions than answers, and the discussion period has been extended to the end of April, Tree notes.

As mailers try to figure out exactly what the impacts will be, terms like “may increase” and “up to x%” abound. Some mailers are likely to get hit harder than others, although the way the filing reads now it’s nearly impossible to tell.

“Many mailers won’t really know what the new rates will mean until their printer or other service provider can run an elaborate presort analysis, which can’t happen until the new rules and rates are clarified,” Tree notes.

Adding to the confusion is the new de-emphasis on weight for Standard letters, which is set to disrupt pricing in the paper industry where mills can charge a premium for lighter stock in the US market, because it’s cheaper to mail. That may be going away.

Additional concerns have been raised about the new mail prep standards for flats mailers, along with rampant confusion about the FSS rules in general.

“It’s still not clear what mailers will actually be required to do on April 26 and what will be optional but important – for example, valuable enough to overhaul how mail is prepared and shipped,” Tree complains.

Printers and mailing service providers are pretty adept at dealing with changes in USPS rates, regulations and whims. But it will be an Augean task to do so the way the regulations are now written. It’s impossible to comply when no one really knows what the rules are or will be.

And, as Tree asks, “there’s the question of whether the Postal Service will be ready for the resulting changes in how mail is prepared and delivered.”

They need to get this right. The value of business mail to the Postal Service and the entire U.S. economy is too important to be left to this kind of chance. Meanwhile, stay in touch with your service provider. Ignorance in this case is absolutely not going to be bliss.