Thursday, December 20, 2012
Step forward or step back?
A recent letter from Ian Volner on behalf of PostCom to Mary Anne Gibbons of the USPS questions why the they are interested in explicitly identifying the "mail owner" as we embark on the new Intelligent Mail barcode. I'm with him, as so many of us mail owners have expert mail service provider (MSP) representation to keep the postal minutiae at bay. After all, mail owners are in "their" business, not the "mailing business."
That's the rock. The hard place is where small business and nonprofit mail owners (SBNO's) get kicked out of automation rates. I say "kicked-out" because to keep automation discounts SBNO's must become their own MSP at best, or pay more to a MSP to create an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) at worst. The USPS developed an online small business presort tool called "IMsb," but this amounts to the mailer becoming their own MSP without paying for software. (Your welcome, mail software suppliers and MSP's.)
This IMb barcode does nothing more for SBNO's. Nothing more than the soon-to-be extinct PostNet barcode anyway, which was so conveniently included in every copy of Microsoft Word.
The USPS will say the IMb does great things for the mail owner. For SBNO's it does nothing. SBNO's for the most part do not want tracking, they just want reliable service. Service performance is the USPS' internal responsibility, not the SBNO's.
Destination barcoding used to be the technical benchmark for automation rates. No longer. All those SBNO's who leveraged up to automation rates with manual preparation just hit one of two walls, either computerized mail presorting or down-grading to "machinable" mail. Machinable mail is just naked automation mail without the barcode.
Imagine that! Small mailers who use to manually prepare their mail for automation now have two choices; become very much more, or very much less sophisticated.
I question how many SBNO's will go the more sophisticated route, or will they choose to pay slightly higher rates instead? Why is there no better solution for SBNO's to maintain automation rates, such as a fixed-coded IMb with simple destination coding (i.e. ZIP barcoding)?
The availablility of the IMsb tool is not the same thing as a solution for SBNO's. In time the numbers will tell the story of SBNO's who do not show up in IMb full-service scans. And who will care that an increasing portion of "machinable" volume will be slowed by an added OCR step within USPS processing plants? (Hint: I will).