Complaints of Missing Mail: Can your prove it mailed?

Where's my mail?
Hey! Where’s my mail?

We always hate to hear about letters not making it to their desired destination, after all, we are a communication company.  And yes, we do get to blame some missing letters on the USPS, but sometimes the blame works its way back to us.  And that’s fine, its a role that we play, but I’d like to share a response that we’ve been able to offer to our clients to help them out.

Before I jump right into the details, I think it important that you know that we have processed over 1 million mailing jobs for clients.  And if each job had 1,000 recipients, then we’ve processed over 1 billion pieces of mail.  I say this not to gloat, but to let you know that the information we provide is from the viewpoint of an expert of experts.

The question is often presented to us as; “My customer thinks we didn’t get the mailing out properly.  Can you prove that it really went out?”

Here is the response we like to use.

So sorry to be the barer of bad news, but technically, no proof of mailing exists after-the-fact for First-Class Mail. We offer various forms of mailing proofs for purchase before a mailing is sent out. These include: certificate of mailing, certificate of bulk mailing, certified mail and affidavit of mailing. Since these items were not purchased in advance, there really is no “proof” that the mail happened.

However, we can offer an Affidavit of Prior Mailing, which is a legal document where we attest that we did everything correctly. Unfortunately the fees for this service are $50; mainly because we tear the building apart and attempt to recreate exactly what happened on the day in question. We really find out exactly what happened to every piece of mail.

All that said, I think you are really wanting to know if the mailing went out on time, to all the recipients listed in the address file. The easy answer to this is; certainly. We track every completed piece of mail with a high speed camera.  The camera looks at the unique mail piece ID and compares it to the database of pieces that need to be mailed.  If these items don’t match up exactly we jump in and find out what went wrong.  Ultimately all jobs “reconcile”. Are we 100% positive that every single piece made it to the postal service? No, but we are 99.9999% positive that your mailing went out exactly as specified.

“But why are the board members saying the mailing didn’t go out?” We hear this concern fairly often, but each time we research it, we find that we’ve done everything correctly. And ultimately the board members all receive their mail. The concerns are often brought up by homeowners and often in response to an HOA Board member asking them as they communicate casually in the neighborhood. 

There are a few things that can be done when board members express concern about missing mail. First, ask if they received their letter, and if not, ask if they would check their mail carefully. Second, ask the Board member who reported someone else’s lost mail to check back in with the homeowner and see if they received it.

A slightly different way to approach this topic is to review the use of the LetterStream tools that we make available to help mail get noticed. As I reviewed the outer envelope of the mailing in question, I noticed that you could have taken advantage of our free Endorsement printing. We allow our customers to put big bold text on the outer envelope to draw attention to the envelope. We offer this to prevent concerns exactly like this. By offering and encouraging the free use of an Endorsement, the amount of lost mail complaints has gone down. You can add things like “Important Neighborhood News” or “Urgent Community Meeting” or similar wording.

Another thing we encourage communities to do is make sure and use the community name in the return address area of the envelope. While community management companies would like to think that every homeowner knows who they are, this simply isn’t true. And if someone can’t identify the personal relevancy of a piece of mail to them, they generally cannot recall getting it. If you add the community name to the return address and add the endorsement printing I think you’ll find far fewer concerns about lost mail.

Hopefully this has provided a little extra insight into how people both mentally and physically process their mail.  In addition, maybe its given you some tools to ponder the next time you create a mailing in order to achieve maximum impact.

For more information, you might want to review the following help article: https://help.letterstream.com/article/175-are-you-sure-my-mail-went-out

USPS Postage Rates 2018

USPS-Price-Increase2 2

Postage rates are going up again this year as the USPS raises their prices to keep up with rising costs.

This year the PRC didn’t squabble too much with the USPS over their proposed rates, so most will be the same as the October 2017 rate proposal.

These new rates will take effect on Jan 21st, 2018. LetterStream will be implementing our new prices to reflect the rate increases on Friday, January 19th at 5 pm. Any unscheduled job in our system that has been approved and paid for prior to 5pm will have old postage prices even if we mail it on Monday the 22nd. For that reason it pays to plan ahead and get your mailing out before the price increases are officially in effect.

As a reminder, LetterStream raises our prices by the amount of the retail postage increase.

Below is a list of postage rate increases for some of our primary products.

2018 Postage Rates:
– First Class Stamps up from $.49 to $.50
– First Class Postcard Rate up from $.34 to $.35
– Extra Ounces staying at $.21
– International Rates staying at $1.15
– Certified Mail up from $3.35 to $3.45
– Return Receipt staying at $2.75
– Electronic Return Receipt up from $1.45 to $1.50
– Registered Mail up from $11.70 to $11.90
– Flats (.0001 – .999 oz) postage up from $.98 to $1.00
– Flats extra ounces staying at $.21

For more information review the USPS press release:
http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_062.htm

For a complete list of rate changes, you can download data files from this USPS web page:
https://pe.usps.com/pricechange/index

PROPOSED 2018 USPS Rate Increases

USPS Price Increase2
On October 6th, 2017, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced a price increase to take affect January 21st 2018.

The new price schedule increases the retail price of first class postage for letters and postcards by 1 cent each.  Certified Mail with Electronic Return Receipt will see a 15-cent increase.

Keep in mind, the USPS “proposes” their new pricing, but the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) must approve the pricing before it can become official.

Historically the PRC has denied or adjusted price increases if the USPS attempts to raise prices too high compared with the current consumer price index (CPI).  In this case the USPS is only raising rates by 1.9% which is believed to be accepted by the PRC.

Below is the primary list of rates that may impact LetterStream customers.  Also keep in mind that LetterStream historically does not raise prices on any item beyond the actual USPS price changes.  If you are working on a First-Class Mail project for the new year, we’d encourage you to schedule it before the new rates are implemented.

2018 UNOFFICIAL Postage Rates:
– First Class Stamps up from $.49 to $.50
– First Class Postcard Rate up from $.34 to $.35
– Extra Ounces staying at $.21
– International Rates staying at $1.15
– Certified Mail up from $3.35 to $3.45
– Return Receipt staying at $2.75
– Electronic Return Receipt up from $1.45 to $1.50
– Registered Mail up from $11.70 to $11.90
– Flats (.0001 – .999 oz) postage up from $.98 to $1.00
– Flats extra ounces staying at $.21

For more information review the USPS press release:

http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_062.htm

For all the gory details, see the USPS NOTICE OF MARKET DOMINANT PRICE ADJUSTMENT that was filed by the USPS with the PRC:
https://www.prc.gov/docs/102/102038/Notice%20and%20Attach%20ACD.pdf

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2017 USPS Price Changes

2017-usps-price-changes

At the start of each new year the USPS typically announces new pricing, and this year is no exception.  Effective January 22nd, new USPS prices will take effect.

You might recall our post from last year regarding the 2016 USPS price changes.  We talked a lot about the price of a First-Class stamp being decreased by $.02 (from $.49 to $.47).  This year it’s going back up two pennies.  Initially, this seems like a bit of a bummer.  But look at the bright side.  The decrease that happened last year was the first time the cost of postage went down since 1919.  So hypothetically, had it gone up a couple cents last year and this year again, we would be closer to $.53.  Let’s choose to be optimistic and still consider ourselves winners with the 4 cent swing.

You could also try and stave off the postal increase a little longer by purchasing a few extra forever stamps at your local post office before the new rates go into effect.

Below are some of this year’s notable changes (keep in mind, we are quoting the new USPS postage costs, not LetterStream prices. LetterStream typically increases prices only to the extent that the USPS fees increase, but for exact pricing review your LetterStream job invoice when creating mailings on our website):

2017 Postage Rates

– First Class Stamps up from $.47 to $.49
– First Class Postcard Rate staying at $.34
– Extra Ounces staying at $.21
– International Rates staying at $1.15
– Certified Mail up from $3.30 to $3.35
– Return Receipt up from $2.70 to $2.75
– Electronic Return Receipt up from $1.35 to $1.45
– Registered Mail staying at $11.70
– Flats (.0001 – .999 oz) postage up from $.95 to $.98
– Flats extra ounces up from $.20 to $.21

Standard Mail Now Marketing Mail

Another notable change moving forward is that Standard Mail will now be known as Marketing Mail. Not to add to the confusion, but Standard Mail is/was the name of what many of us know as Bulk Mail.  Standard Mail should not be confused with First-Class Mail which is what most of our customers send regularly.

 

2D or Not 2D; That is the question.

2DBlog (1)

What’s that black square beside the Recipient address?

The little back square visible on some documents near the mailing address is called a 2D or two dimensional bar-code.  It is not yet on all of our mail pieces, but most of them (such as Express Letters, Certified Letters, Postcards, and many others).  It is currently being rolled out in phases to ultimately appear on all mail that goes through our building.

It’s not a traditional bar-code that is composed of various parallel lines, but instead is made up of tiny squares which allow a lot of information to be packed into a smaller space than other types of bar-codes.

But why is it on your mail?  This code is used by our high speed scanning equipment to make sure that we account for all the mail that our customers ask us to send out.  The 2D code shows through the window of an envelope (or appears next to addresses on postcards, fliers, flats, etc.) which allows us to see, at very high speeds, that each document went into its own envelope.  This system gives us detailed information so we can further prove that we are doing a great job for our clients.

2D or not 2D? Yes, it has been a philosophical debate for us to decide whether or not this is the right answer.  Because as it is, our mail is nearly perfect already.  Of all the jobs that we print and mail, over 99.99% are perfect.  (Yes, we can say this to you, because we know you will call us out if we are not telling the truth and because, well, we keep track.)  This 2D system is costly, but it is being implemented to give us greater insight into every piece of mail that travels through our facility.  Do we need this system?  Maybe not.  But do we think every one of our customers deserves perfect mail each and every time? Do we believe we can make more than 9,999 of 10,000 jobs perfect? Absolutely yes to both questions.

So if you are like us, wrestling with the appearance of a 2D bar-code on your mail piece, now you know why we thought it would be the best answer.

Faster Mail through FedEx

 

Fed2 (3)

How Easy!

You already know that we are fast at printing and folding your documents and getting them in the mail, but some of you wish the United States Postal Service (USPS) could deliver mail as fast as we can prepare it.  Well, for those of you who never can get things as fast as you’d like or need, we just may have the answer.

You can now upload a PDF file of your letter or document within your LetterStream account and choose the FedEx Overnight Letter job type.  We’ll print your document, (not fold it), and put it in a FedEx overnight letter envelope.  And depending how early in the day you create and pay for your mailing, we might just be able to get your letter delivered the next business day.  Need your document mailed to many different addresses? Simply upload your mailing list (click here to learn how) and our sophisticated, yet simple, address mapping tool will help you pick the right fields for your mailing addresses.

How Fast!

Image this, you are in New York trying to get a proposal (or some other document with a deadline) delivered to Boston tomorrow.  Unfortunately it is already 5 pm in New York and its too late to get it in the mail.  But, if you load your document to the LetterStream website (where some months it will still be 2pm), we can print and mail your important documents and have them delivered to your recipient in Boston via FedEx by 3pm the next (business) day.  Between you and me, I call that extremely fast!

Currently we have an introductory flat rate price for anywhere in the US.  That makes for easy math and a simplified decision making process so you can focus on getting your job loaded instead of pondering all the different mailing and pricing options.

If you like fast, FedEx and LetterStream may be just what you are looking for to get your next mailing delivered quickly.

LetterStream Learns – Internal Training Brand

LetterStream Learns BrandWe had a fun day today.  Well, we probably have fun most days, but today we launched our new internal training brand; LSLearns.  LetterStream always wants to develop, and cultivate an internal culture of learning to go along with our already “fast and perfect mail” mantra and our “mad customer love” vision for customer service.

It is our belief that as employees grow and learn they start to discover their unique talents that can unlock a tremendous amount of capability.  David, our President, is often heard saying that inside everyone is a hidden super power that can manifest itself in the workplace in amazing ways.  LSLearns is an attempt to formalize our belief that people, when awakened in the right way, can do amazing things.

Some skeptics may say, “Ah, this is just an attempt to squeeze more productivity out of people”.  We might respond; “Sure! Sort of.” After all, what’s wrong with more productivity? But “squeeze” probably doesn’t capture the essence of our training efforts, instead we might use the word “foster”. By creating training, learning and growing opportunities we allow our employees to decide how much effort to put into their own career development plan, and hopefully inspire them along the way to be excellent at whatever it is they are doing.

Leader of Leaders and Learner of Learners, Kay Coleman, helped us launch the day, and our new brand, by leading us through some activities to engage our minds in different ways.  Kay has been an active learner, teacher and facilitator for most of her life, was Program Director with iLeadAZ – a program developed to lead school principals to greater success, and now provides consulting services to companies (like ours!).  Thanks Kay, for coming along side us with our passion for learning!

USPS Certified Mail Signature Delay

 

Certified Mail Return Receipt Delays ERR

USPS Delays ERR…

We are noticing delays in the speed at which the USPS returns electronic signatures for Certified Mail that are requested on their website, www.USPS.com. In a recent test (shown above), it was 48 hours before a signature was provided via email by the Postal Service.

As a quick refresher, if you need to get the signature for a piece of Certified Mail that you sent through the USPS, you typically need to follow these steps: Find your USPS cash register receipt with the tracking number, go to the United States Postal Service website (www.USPS.com), enter the tracking number from your receipt, click the link called “Return Receipt Electronic”, and enter your email address. Keep in mind, just because you see the link called “Return Receipt Electronic”, doesn’t mean your letter was delivered. If you click the link before a signature is available you’ll receive a response from the USPS (in maybe 2 days), but it will just tell you that a signature is not available yet. …That’s a bummer.

When you are dealing with the urgency and legal concerns that necessitate the use of Certified Mail with Return Receipt, you don’t always have time to wait around a few days for a signature the be emailed back to you.  If your attorney calls and says they need the signature, you want to get it right then.

Faster with LetterStream…

Here’s quite possibly a better way, let LetterStream handle your Certified Mail.  If you send your certified letters through our service you can retrieve a signature in a fraction of a second, maybe a half second on a slow day.  That’s assuming that the USPS has delivered the letter and collected a signature, of course.  You don’t have to find your receipt and you don’t have to enter a 20-digit tracking number, you simply click on the button that says “view”, which activates after we receive the signature from the USPS.

Ah, you might say, “but LetterStream has to wait on the USPS too”.  Well, that is partly true, but our automated servers are always communicating with USPS servers and as soon as we find signatures to the letters we print and mail for our clients, we save them to your account on our website. It’s kinda like having someone in your office (that you don’t pay) go out and check everyday for every certified letter that you still need a signature for and then save them on your network in the same folder as the letter that you sent.  In this way, if we do have a signature for your letter, you can get to it immediately.

Getting your Certified Mail signatures at LetterStream…

After you load your Certified Mail letter to our website, we print it, fold it, insert it into our proprietary USPS approved Certified Mail envelope and put it in the mail for you, without you ever needing to leave your home or office.

You can search for the status of your letters very quickly on our website by clicking on the job name (whatever name you want to assign to your mailing to help you identify it later) and the recipient name, or you can simply search by any part of the recipient’s name or address. Unlike sending Certified Mail at the local Post Office, you don’t have to keep a receipt with the tracking number because all of this information is saved neatly into your LetterStream account.

So, if you are ever in a hurry, or simply hate to wait, use LetterStream to get instant access to the status of your Certified Mail signatures and tracking information.

 

(learn more on our help pages)  (learn more on our website)

USPS Stamp Prices Going Down in 2016!

USPS Postage Rates 2016

USPS Cuts Price of First-Class Stamp!

The biggest news in the mailing business, in maybe forever, or since the forever stamp.  The United States Postal Service (USPS) is LOWERING the price of a first-class stamp.  The price DECREASE goes into effect on April 10, 2016, when your cost for a first class stamp will be reduced to 47 cents each.

The last time the USPS decreased the price of a first-class stamp was in 1919, when the price dropped a single cent from 3 cents each to 2 cents each.  Now, the greatest price decrease in the price of a first class stamp since 1885; the USPS is cutting the price of a first-class stamp by a whopping 2 cents!  For more information check out the wikipedia page on the History of United States postage rates.

Why are Stamp Prices Going to 47 Cents?

The federal regulatory body that governs USPS pricing is the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC)(http://www.prc.gov).  This organization decides whether the Postal Service can raise prices and by how much.  A year ago the USPS was given a special waiver by the PRC to increase prices by more than the maximum amount allowed (according to their rules), so now the PRC is making the USPS roll prices back.

It really makes no sense though, as the USPS is still operating at a loss.  Follow this link to read the USPS press release on the topic of lowing prices (http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2016/pr16_009.htm).

What Other Postage Prices are Changing in April?

In addition to the decreasing price of a first-class stamp, other stamp prices are going down as well.  In fact, nearly every increase that took effect in 2015 is being reversed.  Seems a bit odd that the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS couldn’t work out a meet-in-the-middle solution, but their loss turns out to be mailers’ gain. Here’s a sampling of new postage rates:

  • First-Class Postcards will decrease from $.35 to $.34 each (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Additional ounces for First-Class mail will decrease from $.22 to $.21 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail base fees will decrease from $3.45 to $3.30 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail Return Receipt Green Card fees will decrease from $2.80 to $2.70 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail Electronic Return Receipts will decrease from $1.40 to $1.35 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • International First-Class Letters will go down from $1.20 to $1.15 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • One ounce First-Class flats will decrease from $.98 to $.95, and 2 ounce pieces will fall from $1.20 to $1.15 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Registered Mail letters will decrease from $12.20 to $11.70 (falling more than last year’s increase by another 25 cents)
  • The price of a First-Class Stamp will fall from $.49 to $.47 (there was no increase in the price of a first-class stamp last year)

We encourage everyone to take advantage of the cheaper postage prices in 2016 and send more mail.  If you need some help with that, give us a call, we are what you call experts.

 

Best Practice – Secret Ballot Envelope

 

Letterstream Secret Ballot Envelope

Ballot Mailing Best Practices

Improve voter turnout with our new and improved ballot envelope! We have researched and improved our Secret Ballot Envelope in such a way to create a Best Practice solution for secret ballots and your next election. We’ve had a secret ballot envelope for quite some time and have worked with our customers to create a new version that accomplishes nearly every requirement of a secret ballot mailing.

A Secret Ballot Envelope is important to protect the identity of the voter.  It is used in conjunction with a ballot and a #9 return envelope.  The completed ballot is placed in a Secret Ballot Envelope (which is large enough to hold a folded 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, but small enough to fit in a standard size return envelope) and sealed.  Then the Secret Ballot Envelope gets placed in the #9 return envelope and gets mailed back to the management company.  The management company can then open all the #9 envelopes and take the sealed ballot envelopes to the meeting for counting.

For those who need to keep track of which homeowners have returned their ballot or proxy, we have a simple option to add the homeowners mailing address and/or lot number to the return address area of the #9 envelope.  This allows the HOA management companies to see who has voted, while not being able to see how they voted for the election.

There might be a few individuals who say “Ah, nobody cares how other people vote.”.  Well, we might argue that anyone who says something like that has probably not served of a Homeowner Board or talked with their neighbors who don’t vote out of fear that their vote might be held against them. We might also argue that the number of homeowners voting could improve when a secure and trustworthy process is followed.

New Features of our Ballot Envelope:

Instructions for Homeowner – The envelope more clearly explains to the homeowner/recipient/voter what their role is and how to best use the envelope in order to keep their ballot secret.

Instructions for Management Company – The envelope contains instructions for the management company, board member or whoever handles the secret ballot so they can process it while protecting the intentions of a secret ballot.

Save a Page – With good instructions built right into the envelope, you no longer need to try and wordsmith some good directions in your own document.  This might just free up some space in your letter or possibly save an entire sheet of paper.

Professionally Designed – This new envelope looks far more professional in its design which may lead to better utilization and compliance.

Best Practices – We’ve attempted to incorporate the appropriate instructions and simplistic design in an effort to create a “Best Practices” solution to proxy and Secret Ballot mailings.

Same Security Tint – Our Secret Ballot Envelope continues to have security tint on the inside of the envelope to keep prying eyes from trying to see through the envelope.

Same Great Price – While we believe this envelope is far superior to our earlier version we’ve decided to leave the price the same as its always been.

We believe this is the best way to solicit proxies and votes from your members; its secure, its fast and its easy.  Give it a try for your next election or proxy mailing and let us know how it worked for you.