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Think Tank
Joe Schick, Director of Postal Affairs

Joe Schick
Director of Postal Affairs


Will the Exigent Rate Increase Be Permanent?  The USPS Delivers Disappointing News  Congress: No More Kicking the Can Down the Road  Showing Our Support for Postal Reform more >

Standard Mail Delivery

Requesting In-Home Dates Only Inflates Postage Costs

A Message From Joe Schick, Quad/Graphics, Director of Postal Affairs

There was an interesting discussion at a recent USPS Focus Group meeting. The topic was requested in-home dates and the discussion centered on what those dates relate to and how the mail should be processed by the Postal Service.

We all know the drill. Delivery is inconsistent and unreliable at certain times and in certain locations, so mailers will apply "in-home" dates to the mailpiece, the bundle and/or the container (pallet/sack/tray). The thought is that this will draw attention to MY MAIL and will get it delivered in a timely manner. It can be debated whether it really helps or whether it just creates a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that you’ve covered all the bases in trying to get your mail delivered on time. But that is a discussion for another day. It’s what has happened as a result of this delivery preservation process that really concerns me.

There is a general lack of understanding by many postal processing facilities and personnel as to what the requested dates really mean. Because of that, there are times when postal employees go out of their way to ensure that mail is being processed and delivered by the dates on the mail. How do they go out of their way to ensure this? It could be segregating the mail by the dates requested which results in additional handling or utilization of additional floor space. It could be processing the mail in a separate pass on sorting equipment or, in the worst-case scenario, manual processing it to avoid waiting for the normal machine time. Or it could be "warehousing" mail that has been delivered too early.

The good news is that postal employees are going out of their way to deliver your mail on time. The bad news is that postal employees are going out of their way to deliver your mail on time. Why is this bad news? The Postal Service should not have to do that if everyone is executing their mail plans correctly. If that is not happening and a postal facility reacts as mentioned, it equates to adding more cost to postal processing and delivery which results in higher postage rates for Standard Mail. (I recall hearing some discussion in the last few months, particularly from companies that mail Standard Mail flats, that postage rates were increasing too much and too quickly.) If we don’t want that discussion to continue, we need to better educate the Postal Service and MAILERS on what is to be expected.

Yes, there is also a problem with mailers and their service providers abusing this process. We all need to be knowledgeable enough to know that the dates requested for in-home delivery should actually parallel what was provided by the Postal Service to the mailing industry in a delivery matrix for Standard Mail. That matrix has been available for more than 10 years and should be the basis for delivery planning. It is based on the "normal" processing and delivery plan for Standard Mail. Anyone who is assuming that they can get expedited service by using in-home dates is abusing the system and causing postal costs to increase. Anyone who is assuming they can clear their own warehouse by handing off the mail early at a postal facility knowing that the USPS will hold it there is abusing the system and causing postal costs to increase. That has to stop unless we don’t care about inflated postage increases.

I know that there is going to be delivery standards for all classes of mail (including Standard Mail) as a result of Postal Reform legislation, but we won’t see the impact of that for at least another 12 to 18 months. The impact of additional costs, however, will show up much sooner.

Have questions or comments? Contact Joe Schick

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