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.

 

USPS Postage Rate Increase on January 26th

USPS 2014 stamp 49 centsAs a reminder, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will be increasing the price of a first-class stamp from $.46 each to $.49 each on January 26th, 2014. If you are planning on getting a mailing out the door this month, you can save money by sending it a few days early.

LetterStream will be raising its prices on all first-class mail products by 3 cents to cover the cost of the USPS price increase. Our new prices will take effect at 5:00 pm on January 24th, as jobs received over the weekend will be mailed on Mon. Jan. 27th at the new postage rate.

As is our tradition, LetterStream has no plans to increase prices beyond the USPS increase. Keep in mind that the USPS has raised prices on postcards, flats, certified mail and other products as well. These increases will be reflected where appropriate in LetterStream prices. We look out for our customers as best we can!

Churches And Year-End Giving Statements

Girls helping mail year-end statementsWow, January is a tough month on volunteers in churches and other non-profit organizations that need to send out year-end charitable giving statements (or annual contribution statements).

This is the time of year you see church secretaries and bookkeepers hauling boxes of paper and envelopes to their cars so they can get their family involved in folding, stuffing, addressing, sealing and mailing the giving statements. This process can take its toll on church staff as they are hesitant to get other church members and “givers” involved due to the sensitivity of this information.

If your organization is looking for an easier and faster method, consider using LetterStream.com to accomplish this mailing. Some local churches actually bring their pre-printed documents directly to us for folding, inserting and mailing. However, most of our non-profit clients simply upload their contribution statements to our secure website for us to print and mail for them.

One thing to remember is that charities are not allowed to use their non-profit permit, standard or bulk postage for these statements. Instead, the United States Postal Service (USPS) requires that statements be sent via First-Class Mail.

Keep in mind that First-Class postage rates are going up by 3 cents on January 26th, 2014. So however you choose to get your charitable giving statements out, act quickly.

If you’d like to give LetterStream a try, choose the “Pre-Addressed PDF (1stclass)” job type from our website and upload some sample statements, or simply give us a call and mention this blog post for personalized assistance. We think you’ll discover a welcome relief to your year-end giving statement mailing.

2014 Postage Rate Increase – Official Rates Confirmed

2014 USPS Postage Rate IncreasesIt’s often hard to read between the lines and figure out if postage rates have been officially approved or simply proposed by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

For instance, the September 2013 USPS rate increase announcement was actually just a proposal to increase postage prices. In order for new postage rates to be known for certain, they needed to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).

The Commission is an independent agency that has exercised regulatory oversight over the Postal Service since its creation by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. The Commission is composed of five Commissioners, each of whom is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of six years.” – http://www.prc.gov/

The PRC made the official announcement 3 days ago on December 24, 2013 that the USPS proposed postage rates are approved and will go into effect on January 26, 2014. Click to read the press release.

The price of a first-class stamp is increasing from $.46 to $.49 cents; an increase of $.03 per postage stamp.

Common postage prices to be aware of include:

  • Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — 1-cent increase to 21 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.)$1.15
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents

These prices were all outlined in the USPS price change announcement (proposal) on September 25, 2013. You can read the entire announcement on the United States Postal Services website.

Certified Mail service by the postal service is also seeing price increases. Certified Mail base fees will be $3.30. Certified Mail Green Card fees (PS Form 3811) will increase to $2.70 while Electronic Return Receipt (ERR) fees will increase to $1.35. For simpler math, a certified letter weighing less than an ounce with green card receipt will cost $6.49 each at the Post Office ($.49 first-class postage + $3.30 certified mail fee + $2.70 certified mail return card).

Innovations In Printing And Mailing

Popular Science 100 Best InnovationsI was flying out of town the other day and picked up a Popular Science magazine to read on the flight. I was happy to see the title was “100 Best Innovations of the Year” and wondered if any of our mailing innovations had made the list. There are a few different mailing innovations that we rolled out this year and I thought I might find one or two discussed in the magazine.

For instance, we have our innovative Return Mail Processing service where we can process our clients’ return mail. This is a good way to keep undeliverable mail from being returned to our customers. Instead, we get it. Then we flag all the addresses in our customer’s account that have been returned, showing the return date and the return reason from the USPS yellow sticker. In addition, reports can be run by user, date range, mail type and many other filters for the letters that were returned.

Another innovation is our USPS Registered Mail solution, which allows users to create and send Registered Mail on our website. If you send Registered Mail, you know that it is one of the most time-consuming and confusing types of mail that you could possibly send. True to LetterStream’s form, we make the process so easy you can create the registered letter–or hundreds of them–in around 2 minutes on our website. We keep track of the USPS tracking information and the signature cards in an orderly fashion on our website.

Some may say that our online Certified Mail process is the most innovative Certified Mail solution they’ve ever seen. We’d like to agree… but we’ve been processing Certified Mail this way for nearly 10 years, so it might not be an innovation of this year.

We’ll, I’ve skimmed the 100 Best Innovations article, and unfortunately I could not find the name LetterStream. But that’s ok, our customers repeatedly give us the honor of being great innovators in the mailing business, and they are the ones we want to please.

If you want to learn more about our mail innovations, check out our website, explore our blog or pick up the phone and call us.

Schedule Your Mailings And Enjoy The Holidays

Woman Celebrating LetterStream Mailing
I Love LetterStream!!!!

One of the many little-known features of the LetterStream website is the ability to schedule a mailing to go out on a specific date. It’s a handy feature to be familiar with when you have a mailing that needs to be sent on a date that coincides with a vacation you’re planning, or an upcoming holiday.

Imagine creating a mailing, scheduling it for a future date and taking off for vacation. While you are sitting on the beach one evening an email arrives from LetterStream letting you know that your mailing went out according to plan. Ah, now that’s what I call a vacation!

Scheduling is fairly simple; after your job is created, click the “Edit” button under the options column on the job listing page. Then choose the option called “Change Scheduled Date” and enter the date you want your mailing to be delivered to the Post Office. We’ll take care of it from there.

Keep in mind, the schedule tool is for delaying a mailing for a specific date. If you need your mailing to go out the door faster, choose the expedite or rush option for faster processing.

Happy Veterans Day!

On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

-Veterans Day Proclamation by Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

Veterans Day Stamp

 

Happy Veterans Day from LetterStream!

 

Even though the Post Office is closed today, we are open and able to process and mail your critical correspondence.

Help! I Need To Send A Mailing Out Fast!

LetterStream Flying LettersHave a mailing that needs to go out FAST!?

Is TODAY fast enough? If so, we can probably help. If you need your letters mailed yesterday, we can almost do that too! 😉

Our process for creating and sending mail is blazing fast. The LetterStream website allows you to create a mass mailing of thousands of pieces in as little as two minutes. Trust us, we’ve timed it!

And once you get the mailing loaded and approved, we launch our team of experts to properly print, process and mail your critical documents.

We take the extra step of delivering your mail to a USPS distribution center to reduce the number of local post offices that your mail needs to travel to, further reducing the time in transit of your letters.

Ready to do it? You simply need a PDF version of your document and a mailing list or collection of addresses (saved as a CSV file).

Your job will move quickly through our production process. If you must have your mailing out the door today, choose to expedite your mailing so we process it first (extra fees apply).

As for the true speed of the LetterStream process, I think it is fair to say we can get most mailing projects out in a day. And if by chance it needed to go out yesterday, well, we will certainly try!

Here are some helpful videos from our YouTube channel to make the process even faster:

Many other job types and options are available, if you have little more time to log in and get creative.

Postage Rates On The Rise Again, Says USPS

USPS letters with stampsThe United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced a price increase effective January 26, 2014. The new pricing structure was announced a few days ago, September 25, 2013, on the USPS website:

News Release No. 13-007: U.S. Postal Service Announces New Prices for 2014

The Postal Service calls this a “proposed price increase” but generally their proposed price increases are pretty close to what they know they can get approved. The price increase is expected to generate an additional $2 billion in annual revenues for the USPS, which would still leave them a far distance from being profitable, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 26, 2014 include:

  • Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents
  • Letters additional ounces —  1-cent increase to 21 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.) — $1.15
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents

In addition to the USPS news release, we found a USA Today article that contains additional information on the rate change: Postal Service proposes 3-cent rate hike for stamps

LetterStream typically passes the actual published USPS postage rates along to customers, but we’re evaluating whether this will be our strategy given the roughly 7% increase on the First-Class postage rate. LetterStream also offers eDocument delivery for many of our mailing products to drastically offset the cost of postage.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) – Notice of Coverage Options

Obamacare ahead signWith an October 1, 2013 deadline, time is running out to notify employees of the Health Insurance Marketplace and health insurance coverage options.

While the U.S. Federal government has extended the deadline on many items in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the deadline to notify employees of healthcare options has not changed.

We’ve attempted to outline the requirements as we understand them, mostly by quoting reputable sources.  Keep in mind, we are not legal experts, we simply make mail (but try to be knowledgeable about many topics in order to be a good resource to our customers).

The Requirement:

“Section 18B of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as added by section 1512 of the Affordable Care Act, generally provides that, in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Labor, an applicable employer must provide each employee at the time of hiring (or with respect to current employees, not later than March 1, 2013), a written notice:…”

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html

The Deadline:

“With respect to employees who are current employees before October 1, 2013, employers are required to provide the notice not later than October 1, 2013. The notice is required to be provided automatically, free of charge.”

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html

Who Must Comply:

“For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies.  The FLSA also specifically covers the following entities: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state and local government agencies.”

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html

The Content:

The notice to inform employees of coverage options must include information regarding the existence of a new Marketplace as well as contact information and description of the services provided by a Marketplace.“.

*See http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html for complete requirements.

Sample Notice of Coverage Letters:

If you need some help on creating your own employee notification, the U.S. Federal government has provided some options that you can use. We have linked to them below (will open a fillable pdf for you to modify):

Does it need to be mailed via Certified Mail?

While many of the requirements about notification are crystal clear, like the deadline, some details are open to interpretation.  The Department of Labor FAQ  does not specifically mention the need for certified mail, but it does imply that you’ll need to know that employees received the written notice.

According to Bajaria Law:

“Although there is no requirement to prove that employees received notice, it may be a good idea to have the employees sign and acknowledgement form or send them the notice via certified mail.”

According to G. R. Reid Associates, LLP:

“The Department of Labor is recommending employers provide the forms either electronically or by certified mail to ensure receipt.”

Failure to Notify:

While we couldn’t readily find the fines and penalties that will be imposed for failure to comply with the notification requirement on the Department of Labor website, we know that the government often uses fines and penalties to achieve compliance.  We did find other experts who believe fines could be assessed.

According to the blog of Keyt Law of Arizona:

“An employer who fails to give the required notice to all employees will be subject to a $100-per-day fine.”

According to an article by Raphael Moore from MyTrustedLawyer.com:

“…the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does have a $100 per day general “non-compliance” penalty that applies to everything from violating non-discrimination rules, to notice violations like the ones discussed here.”

There are other potential costs of non-compliance, according to a blog post by Bracewell & Giuliani LLP:

“Further, employers who fail to send the required notice could potentially open themselves up to claims by employees who suffer damages as a result of such failure.”

How do I mail my notifications quickly?

With time running out, you can fill out the PDF form above or create your own letter and load it into the LetterStream website along with your mailing list, and we will certainly work to get them out the door within 24 hours. If you need a guarantee on that, choose the expedite or rush option and we will move your mailing to the top of the stack.