A Quick Reminder to Address Parcels Neatly

I came across a great Wall Street Journal article recently about penmanship and the United States Postal Service.  In today’s world, many of us don’t get to practice the art of penmanship anymore.  Every day I see envelopes and parcels with addresses I have to strain to read.  The scanning devices that the Post Office uses to read your addresses often can’t read bad or sloppy handwriting, and that leads to long delays when sorting the mail.

Per this article, these illegible envelopes end up at “the Salt Lake City ‘Remote Encoding Center’ of the U.S. Postal Service—a room where hundreds of clerks sit in silence, day and night, staring at America’s worst-addressed envelopes.”  In 2010, a whopping 714,085,866 letters were delayed due to illegible addresses, and nearly 200 million more had to be passed along to “pick-and-poke” clerks (who actually open the mail to try to determine the correct address) or simply sent to the Dead Mail team for shredding.

Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service has put together a list of tips on how to properly address envelopes to avoid confusion.  Many of these tips will also apply to parcels sent via FedEx, UPS, or DHL, so they’re certainly worth your time.  I’ve pasted a few tips that will help correct the most common errors below:

  • All capital letters
  • No punctuation
  • No reverse type (white printing on a black background).
  • If your address appears inside a window, make sure there is at least 1/8-inch clearance around the address. Sometimes parts of the address slip out of view behind the window and mail processing machines can’t read the address.
  • Always put the attention line on top — never below the city and state or in the bottom corner of your mailpiece
  • If you can’t fit the suite or apartment number on the same line as the delivery address, put it on the line ABOVE the delivery address, NOT on the line below
  • Words like “east” and “west” are called directionals and they are VERY important. A missing or a bad directional can prevent your mail from being delivered correctly
  • Fancy type fonts such as those used on wedding invitations do not read well on mail processing equipment. Fancy fonts look great on your envelopes, but also may slow down your mail
  • Some types of paper interfere with the machines that read addresses. The paper on the address side should be white or light in color. No patterns or prominent flecks, please! Also, the envelope shouldn’t be too glossy — avoid shiny, coated paper stock.

This message is brought to you by Goin’ Postal Tallahassee, your one-stop shop for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL mailing services.  Give us a call at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

Are You (Accidentally) Holding Stolen Property from the Post Office?

Do you by chance have a white plastic bin that you procured from a Post Office? They look like this:


(image via presort.com)

It turns out that the theft and unlawful use of mail equipment costs the Post Office more than $50 million annually (per the Sacramento Bee).  Every plastic tub costs the Post Office $4, and the wooden pallet skids cost a whopping $16 each (per The Consumerist)!  As those of us who have worked in offices know, those items tend to stick around and get re-used.

Just be aware that using an official USPS bin for storage or convenience is ILLEGAL — if you or your office receives equipment like this, you’re supposed to give it back to your carrier the next day.

This message is brought to you by Goin’ Postal Tallahassee, your one-stop shop for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL mailing services.  Give us a call at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

Post Office Introduces Forever Boxes

The United States Postal Service announced yesterday (9 May 2011) the creation of new Forever Boxes, which (in their infinite marketing wisdom) they’ve dubbed “Prepaid Forever Priority Mail Flat Rate Packaging.”

These Forever Boxes will be similar to the Forever Stamps that have been quite popular in the U.S. — basically, by paying for a Priority Mail flat rate box or envelope now, it will never be subject to increases in postage rates.  You can read the press release here, but I’ve pasted the same article below:

Building on the simplicity of flat-rate shipping and the value of Forever postage, USPS has announced a shipping option that lets customers lock in future postage increases at current prices when using select Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging.

“Prepaid Forever Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging” is a ground-breaking approach to shipping, designed to make it easier to do business with the Postal Service and address the core strategy of increasing the USPS share of the package market. Available for online ordering, Prepaid Forever Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging is the only prepaid packaging option currently available in the domestic shipping market.

“With Forever postage on Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging, customers now have the convenience of a prepayment option that establishes an even simpler way to ship,” said Gary Reblin, vice president, Domestic Products. “It takes the overall value of flat-rate shipping to a new level.”

USPS is offering Prepaid Forever Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging at retail prices for several Priority Mail Flat Rate products in packs of 3, 5, 10 or 25 (see table). Delivery Confirmation service is included at no cost and extra services such as Signature Confirmation and insurance are available when packages are shipped at retail locations.

Reblin said Prepaid Forever Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging includes an address label with Forever postage, so there are no labels to print. “And with Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping, there’s no extra cost for packages weighing up to 70 pounds, no hidden fees or surcharges and the packaging is environmentally friendly,” he said.

Are the Forever Boxes worth your time?  For the average consumer, probably not.  First, unless you’re shipping cross-country or shipping something very heavy, the flat rate is generally a poor value to begin with.  For most zip codes (and especially when shipping to another business), we can generally at least match the Post Office Priority rate with FedEx Ground service.  FedEx is more reliable than the Post Office, and it comes with $100 insurance and free Delivery Tracking.  Second, the boxes are smaller than most people think.  The heavy marketing campaign (If it fits, it ships!) glosses over the fact that the largest of the flat rate boxes is only 13 5/8″ x 11 7/8″ x 3 3/8″ (in other words, smaller than a bread box).  Finally, it never makes sense to tie up a large amount of money in forever postage as an investment.  Future postage increases will remain less than the price of inflation, so you’ll always be better off finding a way to grow your money now, then pay the higher postage price in the future.

That isn’t to say that the Flat Rate boxes are entirely without their charms.  Again, if you’re shipping something across the country (or to Alaska or Hawaii), that flat rate is probably better than what you could expect to receive from any competitor.  Empty Flat Rate boxes can be sent to your house for free, which is very convenient.  And it’s easier to budget when using the Flat Rate boxes because you already know exactly what you’re going to pay (regardless of the weight or destination of the parcel).

When my customers ask about the “If it fits, it ships” offer, there are a few rules of thumb:

  1. In general, the Flat Rate boxes are pretty small.  If your parcel is too large to fit in the largest Flat Rate box, it will probably be less expensive to ship it via FedEx or UPS Ground.
  2. If you’re shipping something light, it will be much cheaper to ship the item in your own box (even if you use the same Priority Mail service).
  3. If your parcel is going to a destination within driving distance, you can probably downgrade to Parcel Post and receive similar service (it might arrive a day or two later) at a lower cost.
  4. If you take a Flat Rate box to the Post Office, insurance and Delivery Confirmation cost extra.  Make sure to factor in those expenses before you decide on the Post Office over FedEx or UPS Ground.
Of course, you can always give us a call if you have any questions.  Or if you want a quick quote, feel free to use the Contact form on our website (http://www.gpoftallahassee.com/Contact-Us.html).

This message is brought to you by Goin’ Postal Tallahassee, your one-stop shop for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL mailing services.  Give us a call at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

What can a 44-Cent Stamp do?

Sure, it’s easy to put a first class, 44-cent stamp on your mail. You probably have a few lying around your house; it’s cheap and it’s easy. But before you put that 44-cent stamp on your next letter, MAKE SURE you understand the limitations on sending that letter first class through the USPS.

A first-class stamp has size & weight limitations. The maximum size allowed with a 44-cent stamp is 11″ X 6″ X 1/4″ thick. The maximum weight is 1 ounce, or about 4 pieces of paper inside a normal-sized envelope. If your envelope is too large or too thick or contains too much weight, it will be returned to you from the Post Office because of  “Insufficient Postage.”

Using more than one 44-cent stamp on an oversized letter or package can be VERY inefficient. For instance,  let’s say you are mailing a letter that is just over 1 ounce in weight. The quickest thing to do is just put 2 stamps on it, right? However, a 2 -ounce letter only need $ 0.61 in postage–so you are putting $0.27 cents TOO MUCH postage on your letter.  The estimate is about $2.7 MILLION DOLLARS worth of postage is wasted every year in this manner.

Putting more than one 44-cent stamp on a letter does NOT make your letter travel any faster, or more carefully. This may sound silly, but I have people ask me this occasionally. Just keep in mind that once a letter is deemed first-class mail, it is sorted through machines from the time it is picked up until it is put on a truck for delivery. So putting an extra stamp doesn’t do a thing.

A first class stamp is not insured, nor is it traceable. Therefore, if the letter is Damaged, LOST, or for whatever reason never makes it to its destination, the Post Office cannot tell you where it is, nor will they compensate you for any damages or monetary loss associated with the failure of service.

In other words, if it is fairly important for your letter to arrive in its intended destination; or if what you are sending has value that you would be upset to lose, be sure to ask for alternative methods of sending it.  Once you have heard the differences in pricing, you can make an educated decision on how to send your letter–a decision you can be comfortable with.

This message is brought to you by Goin’ Postal Tallahassee, your one-stop shop for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL mailing services.  Give us a call at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

United States Post Office loses $8.5 Billion in 2010

(AP) The Postal Service announced on Friday, November 12, 2010 that it had lost $8.5 billion last year despite deep cuts of more than 100,000 jobs and other reductions in recent years.

The post office had estimated it would lose $6 billion to $7 billion, but a sharp decline in mail took a toll. Increased use of the Internet and the recession, which cut advertising and other business mail, meant less money for the agency.

For the year ending Sept. 30, the post office had income of $67.1 billion, down $1 billion from the previous fiscal year. Expenses totaled $70 billion, a decline of about $400 million. The post office also was required to make a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits.

“Over the last two years, the Postal Service realized more than $9 billion in cost savings, primarily by eliminating about 105,000 full-time equivalent positions — more than any other organization, anywhere,” chief financial officer Joe Corbett said in a statement. “We will continue our relentless efforts to innovate and improve efficiency. However, the need for changes to legislation, regulations and labor contracts has never been more obvious.”

The post office is currently in contract negotiations with two of its unions, with two more scheduled to be negotiated next year.

The loss of $8.5 billion in 2010 was $4.7 billion more than the previous year.

Mail volume totaled 170.6 billion pieces, compared with 176.7 billion in 2009, a decline of 3.5 percent. At the same time, volume was declining the post office was required to begin service to thousands of new addresses to accommodate population growth and new businesses.

The post office has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five-days-a-week and to eliminate annual payments for future retiree health benefits. A request from the agency for a 2-cent increase in postage rates to take effect next year was recently turned down by the independent Postal Rate Commission. The post office has appealed that decision in federal court.

While the post office does not receive tax money for its operations it still must answer to Congress, which has been reluctant to agree to closing of local post offices and centers.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., blamed the loss on the recession and “operating restraints placed on postal management.” The result, he said, may represent the most serious threat to the post office in its 200-year history.

“If corrective action is not taken quickly, the Postal Service will likely run out of cash and borrowing authority by this time next year, placing its ability to continue operations in serious jeopardy,” said Carper, who urged quick congressional action.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is expected to head the House committee overseeing postal operations, said the loss “only underscores the urgent need for the Postal Service to trim its operating costs to match revenues.”

Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the loss “comes as no surprise.”

“For the Postal Service to improve its financial situation, the government must let the USPS manage its financial affairs in the most effective manner possible, like any other business,” he said. “Essential to that process would be for Congress to fix an onerous congressional mandate from 2006, which obligates the Postal Service to make annual payments of $5.5 billion to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. No other institution in America, public or private, has to do this.”

Some have suggested privatizing the service, but the requirement to provide service everywhere in the country at the same price is not likely to be attractive to private companies.

Of particular concern has been the decline in the lucrative first-class mail, largely consisting of personal letters and cards, bills and payments and similar items. First-class mail volume fell 6.6 percent in 2010, 8.6 percent in 2009, and 4.8 percent in 2008. Traditionally, this mail has produced more than half of total revenue.

Volume for standard mail — advertising and similar business items — improved somewhat, indicating some signs of economic recovery, but generates less income.

This informative post was brought to you by Goin’ Postal Tallahassee.  Give us a call at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

Quick Tips for Safe and Timely Holiday Shipping

The holiday season is rapidly approaching! On average, the USPS, UPS, and FedEx will do 25-30% of their yearly volume–in four weeks! What does this mean for you? It means you need to take extra care to insure that your packages arrive in their destination ON TIME and SAFELY. BE sure to follow these simple steps:

> Wrap fragile items in bubble wrap and foam peanuts, and consider double-boxing those items that are extremely fragile. DO NOT wrap fragile items in things such as newspaper or clothes, as these items do not provide adequate protection against drops or shaking.

> Include the destination and return address on a piece of note paper INSIDE your package, not just written on the outside of the package. This way, if the exterior of the box is damaged in transit, a copy of the addresses is available to the carrier.

> DO NOT wrap your packages in decorative paper, brown paper, or newspaper. These substances can get caught in the conveyor machines and cause damage to your package.

> Consider insuring all items, but especially those over $25 in value.  Keep in mind that items with “sentimental” value are not insurable. Also not insurable are gift cards and cash–send a money order or check instead–this way, you have recourse in the event your shipment gets lost.

> Even though there is usually an extra cost associated with it, strongly think about adding tracking to all your holiday shipments.  Do not confuse tracking through FedEx or UPS  with delivery confirmation from the USPS–tracking is the only way you can find your shipment, no matter where it is in transit. For valuable items, even consider the benefits of Signature Confirmation, so the package is not just left at a front door.  FedEx and UPS even offer e-mail service, so you can know the instant your package arrive in its destination.

> Make sure the item you are shipping is not identifiable from the outside of the box.  In other words, do not send items like gaming consoles, computers, or phones in their original packaging. Doing so makes them more tempting to steal. Instead, place those items in an additional (blank) box.

Goin’ Postal Tallahassee at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, can not only handle all those tough shipping needs, but we have the lowest rates around!  Make sure to call us at (850) 692-3130, or visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!

If you have a Loved Ones Stationed Overseas in the Military, You MUST READ !!!

As the holidays approach, the need for safe and timely shipping increases as we send gifts and cards to loved ones in the Armed Services. Due to the increase of shipping during these times, remember to follow the below tips to ensure that your packages arrive at your desired destinations in a safe and timely manner:

  1. MAKE SURE to send packages to your loved ones in the Services by these dates to ensure that they arrive before Christmas (December 25, 2010):Packages: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2010                                      

    Cards / Letters: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2010

  2. Include the name and address of the recipient (and your contact information) INSIDE the package.
  3. A fragile item needs at least 2 inches of protective material around it—such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Do NOT use clothing, blankets, pillows, plush toys, shredded paper, or newsprint to protect your fragile items!
  4. Don’t cover your package in any sort of paper over-wrap.
  5. Seal your package properly. Use ONLY approved packing tape such as clear or brown packing tape. Avoid improper tapes like masking tape, scotch tape, duct tape, or electrical tape.
  6. Some items shouldn’t be shipped, or can only be sent in small quantities for safety and legal reasons. Restricted materials include: aerosol cans, alcohol, ammunition, cigarettes, cigars, firearms, fireworks, lottery tickets, nail polish, dry ice, or perfume.
  7. GOIN’ POSTAL TALLAHASSEE has USPS PRIORITY MAIL FLAT-RATE APO BOXES !!! Stop in, and let us handle your holiday shipping needs !!!

Make sure to call Goin’ Postal Tallahassee at (850) 692-3130, visit us on the web at http://gpoftallahassee.com, or drive to our store at 5810 North Monroe Street, Suite 210A, Tallahassee, Florida, and we can help you package your items safely and cheaply!!!

You can also connect with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/gptally) or like our Facebook fan page!