Complaints of Missing Mail: Can you 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

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.

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.

This Letter Is Fine. Why Did It Come Back To Me?

Letter Man with Question MarkThis question is similar to ones that we’ve answered in our blog posts over the years, but with a slight twist. Sometimes a perfectly addressed letter gets returned to us without a yellow sticker, without handwriting on the outside saying something like “no longer at this address“, and seemingly without any clue as to why the mail piece came back.

Well, there are always clues. For starters, re-read the recipient’s address, one line at a time. Is the address really accurate as written on the envelope?

If every indication is that the information is correct, simply ask the USPS mail carrier for some insight as to why the piece was delivered to you instead of the person it was addressed to. Chances are they can tell you; but if not, simply hand the letter to them and ask if they could re-mail the piece for you. Quite often they will politely take the letter and get it back into the mail stream for you.

There are times when the USPS barcode (printed on the lower portion of the face of your envelope) is incorrectly coded to send the letter to your own address. If there is a barcode at the bottom, see if there is a zip code spelled out beside the barcode. If the zip code printed there is your own zip code, the mail piece may get rerouted to your own address again due to the automated equipment the Postal Service uses to sort mail. In this case, use a sharpie or black pen or marker to block out the barcode on the bottom. This will force the postal sorting machines to look at the destination address one more time to figure out where the piece is going. Chances are, this will allow the piece to arrive at the right destination, assuming your address is valid (click here to read about address correction).

Still not sure what is happening to your mail piece? Take a picture of the envelope and email it to us. Make sure you capture the entire face (front side) of the envelope. We will be checking the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses, postal barcode, permit/postage area, and anything else on the face of the envelope that can give us clues. Please make sure your image is in focus. It can be rather difficult searching for clues in an out-of-focus image.

We will do our best to unravel the returned mail mystery and let you know what we find.

 

What Size Envelope Should I Use For My Mailing?

Commercial Envelope Sizes
*Source: www.macenvelopes.com

Once you start looking into creating a mailing, you’ll discover there are countless different envelope types, sizes, colors, textures, etc. to choose from. So many so, it could get a little confusing.

However, you can simplify things just a bit by choosing a white #10 envelope. This is by far the most common size and color for business mailings and is sometimes called a “business”, “business-sized” or sometimes even “commercial-size” envelope. We recommend you call it a “number ten” (#10) envelope, as this provides a more exact description. A #10 envelope is 4-1/8” tall and 9-1/2” wide. This envelope can easily hold 1 – 10 pieces of 8.5” x 11” paper.

Once you choose your envelope size, there are a few more items to consider. Do you need security tint? This is the special shading or print inside an envelope which reduces the amount of snooping that can occur by someone trying to look through the envelope. We recommend security tint for financial transactions as well as bills, statements, invoices and medical information. (Actually, nearly every #10 window envelope we use has security tint.)

Another question is what sort of flap do you need? If you are going to seal them by hand, get creative and find something you like (and get a glue stick for quick sealing), or choose the peal off, moisture-free seal style. The latter costs a little more, but some people like this cleaner process. If, on the other hand, you are hoping to have someone else (like LetterStream) seal them on a machine, you’ll want to skip the peal-off style, and pass on fancy edges on the envelope flaps. When sealing envelopes on machines, you’ll want to find machinable envelopes. These envelopes have a rounded, v-shaped flap with no points, no square corners and no fuzzy edges that will hang on the machine.

And of course we can’t forget to ask whether you need windows in your envelopes. Most bills/statements/invoices are mailed in window envelopes.  This is far more efficient if you have additional information in the document that pertains to the person you are sending the mail to. It helps to have the person’s name on the actual bill, so it goes to the right person.

We recommend window envelopes for most mailings because we know people will think it’s a bill and open it. However, if you want a little more intrigue or simplicity, go with windowless envelopes.

If you really want to get creative, there are countless other options to choose from. You can even create your own custom size and shape envelope by contacting an envelope converter. Just remember that uniqueness adds to the cost.

Here at LetterStream, we primarily use one of the following types of envelopes: #10 window with security tint, #10 windowless plain white, 10 x 13 windowed white flat, or our proprietary USPS-approved Certified Mail envelope. And you can be sure that ALL our envelopes have machinable flaps so we can insert and seal tens of thousands per hour (yes, you read that right).

We have other envelopes too, including #9, #8, 5×8, 6×9, and 6 3/4, to name a few. But most of these are used as return or remittance envelopes that are included in a mailing.

I hope this little envelope training has been helpful, if not inspiring. 😉

If you still have questions, contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction!

Here’s a handy Envelope Size Chart from Mac Papers Envelope Converters:

Envelope Size Chart

Envelopes Made with Wind Power?

Envelope with WindPower and SFI certification

We are always looking for ways to be a little more environmentally responsible in our printing and mailing practices, and we’ve found another good idea to implement. It is fun to talk about as well! You see, the bulk of our envelopes are now generated using wind power.

Quite often our customers don’t actually see the mail we send on their behalf, but if they did, they’d see a WindPower icon beside our SFI certification mark on the back of the envelopes we use. Cool!