USPS First-Class Mail Slowing Down… Or Is It Me?

Stopwatch Man Waiting for First-Class MailDoes it seem like your First-Class letters don’t travel as quickly as they used to? Well, it’s not just your imagination. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been intentionally and systematically slowing down First-Class letters in order to reduce costs and create efficiencies in their mail handling operations.

This slowing down process has been rolling out for several months now and will continue to be noticed as postal facilities consolidate and the new plans take shape. The most obvious change occurred in January of this year (2015) when the USPS eliminated next day delivery of First-Class mail. This change has effected almost everyone who receives First-Class mail.

Judging by the number of phone calls we’ve already received about this, it’s not necessarily what any of us expected. If there is an upside, the USPS still quotes a delivery service standard for First-Class mail of 3 days (from and to) anywhere in the first 48 U.S. States. (But don’t quote us on this; we are still a little skeptical).

Here’s a good overview published by the USPS in September of 2011; it’s pretty clear and easy to read, and spells out their elimination of next day First-Class mail: USPS Frequently Asked Questions – Service Standards

If you want to dive into all the glorious details in a far-less user friendly document, you can review the implementation plan in the USPS Final Federal Register 39 CFR Part 121. This document spells out the specifics of the USPS implementation process. Phase one began on July 1, 2012, and phase two began on February 1, 2014.

In January of this year, the USPS posted a revised interactive service level map on their website in order for mailers to graphically see the service standards for various types of mail originating at your nearest post office. Follow the link to do some experimenting of your own based on your location. For LetterStream customers, use 850 PHOENIX AZ as your Originating point.

Keep in mind that the USPS service standards are not service guarantees. You know… “results may vary“.

In summary, your next day delivery of First-Class letters is probably gone for good, and we are likely to see additional days of transit built in as the USPS consolidates facilities. Editor’s note: Just between you and me and Mr. Stopwatch here; I’d caution you to not expect faster service if your letters already take 4 to 5 days for delivery.

USPS First-Class Stamp Price – Unchanged For 2015

2015 USPS first-class stamp priceJanuary is the month that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been using to introduce prices increases in recent years. However, for 2015 the USPS has no intentions of raising the rate of a First-Class stamp.

On January 15, 2015 the USPS published a press release about pricing titled “Forever Stamp Prices Unchanged“. The title might be a bit misleading as they are actually talking about the price of *any* First-Class stamp that you purchase for First-Class 1 ounce letters, not just Forever Stamps. Late in the press release the USPS specifically says:

Maintains single-piece stamp prices at 49 cents.

Keep in mind the USPS is requesting authorization to raise the price of other letter fees, including the cost for additional ounces (from $.21 to $.22), the cost of international letters (from $1.15 to $1.20) and the cost of postcards (from $.34 to $.35). “Requesting authorization” means that these price changes need to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission before becoming official.

If approved, the changes will take affect on April 26, 2015.

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.

Last Minute Christmas Postcards

LetterStream Christmas postcardRunning a little behind this Holiday? Aren’t we all. But here’s a way to get your Christmas greetings out the door quickly.

Granted, we are known for our industrial grade automated mailing solutions, but one of our products makes sending fun, full-color postcards a breeze.

All you need is a picture and the addresses of those you want to send the postcard to. Wow, this sure is going to be a short blog post.

It’s funny because you could probably create your Christmas postcards in less time than it took me to write this short little post.

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Want more info? Our postcards are printed in full-color, full-bleed (printing all the way to the edge of the postcard/no white margins). The postcard is 5 1/2″ x 8 5/8″ printed on heavy card stock paper.

Nearly any size image will work as our cropping tool will help you fit the photo to our postcard. If the image is too small, we will give you a warning, but most pictures from today’s modern smartphones should work just fine.

There’s room for another image on the address side of the postcard as well, or you could leave a white space if you aren’t feeling creative or are pressed for time. On the other hand, you can type out some well wishes and save them as a .jpg file. You might even want to put a colorful, festive background behind your holiday greeting to add more color to your message.

I recommend making the address-side image roughly square as that is the area available to you. Again, our cropping tool will help you crop the image so that it fits the message area.

I guess I should talk briefly about addressing your postcards. You can enter the addresses one at a time into your private online address book (which will make sending next year’s greetings even faster), or you could upload a .csv file to get all your addresses loaded in a snap.

Once your job is complete, we take your postcards to the Post Office and mail them via USPS First-Class mail. There’s nothing else you need to do!

Ok, we’ve taken enough of your precious holiday time. Get started, find that great holiday photo and your mailing list, and get those postcards in the mail.

***For the month of December, all postcards created on our website before noon Arizona time (MST) will mail that same day.

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.

Making Express Letters at LetterStream

color_envelopes

If you need to get a mailing out the door quickly, our Express Letter option is about the quickest way to get it done.

Here’s all we need from you:

1. A mailing list saved as a CSV file

Most software allows you to export addresses in CSV format, and MS Excel allows you to save your spreadsheet as a CSV (comma separated values) format.

Check out our YouTube video for assistance:

2. Your document saved as a PDF

There are various ways to create a PDF from an MS Word document. Word 2010 has the option included. You can also use Adobe products or download a free PDF tool at primopdf.com.

See our help video for more information:

When you have these two items, log into (or sign up for) your LetterStream account and choose Express Letter as the job you want to create. You’ll be prompted for your address list and your document (or documents). If you have a logo with your return address built into it, you can even use it for the outside of the envelope.

There are other options as well:EXPRESS-MAILING

  • the ability to share a proof with others
  • notification when mailing is complete
  • the ability to add newsletters, fliers or other documents to the mailing
  • the ability to add additional promotional wording to the outside of the envelope

See our YouTube video for help with this:

What do we do next?

  • We print your document in black and white or color print
  • We print your document on white or color paper
  • We address a #10 white envelope with your return address and recipient name
  • We add USPS First-Class postage
  • We fold your document(s), put them in the envelope, seal and mail them

We guarantee you’ll be pleased with the speed, quality and service you receive from LetterStream, every step of the way.

Still not convinced? Click here for more information about sending Express Letters via LetterStream.

Send Mail Magically With The LetterStream API

LetterStream Mail API SolutionEver wish for an even faster way to send out USPS First-Class and Certified Mail?

Our website already saves countless hours of tedious work involved with sending mail, but you might be sending so much mail that you need an even faster way.

If so, the LetterStream API might be the solution you need. It allows you to automatically send thousands of pieces of mail instantly through a behind-the-scenes connection to LetterStream computer systems. Most APIs require programmers to implement them, and ours is no different in that regard, but some of our clients have implemented it in just a few days.

Our API is being used by many different types of companies, including software companies, collection agencies, billing companies, etc. and even individuals who need to send a lot of mail quickly. It has access to many of the mailing products available on our website including postcards, first-class letters, invoices, statements, newsletters, checks and certified mail.

You can advertise your partnership with LetterStream or keep it quiet and price the mailings to your customer however you see fit; because with the API your users and customers can send real mail without even knowing about LetterStream.

To learn more, click here to get detailed information about our API, or simply contact us to get started.

Should You Consider Outsourcing Mailing Projects?

outsourcing mailI was working on a proposal this morning for a potential client and found myself pondering the benefits of outsourcing mail room operations and letter shop activities.

For those of you who would like a better printing and mailing solution but are hesitant to enter the world of outsourcing, consider the idea that you are already outsourcing many of your mission critical activities.  Yes, that’s right.  You are already outsourcing a tremendous amount of your business operations.

You are outsourcing the activities of keeping your money safe to your local bank.  You are outsourcing all of your phone conversations to cell and telecom providers.  You are outsourcing your electricity to the power company.  Once you start thinking about it, the only things you don’t outsource are your core competencies… those things that provide uniqueness to your product and a competitive edge to your organization.

Still skeptical?  Check out what other experts say… here’s a good article in Inc Magazine that supports our logic and might shed some additional light.

The question then becomes: Is printing and mailing your competitive advantage?  Is folding and inserting what makes your company unique?

If you’d like to see what it might look like to outsource your printing and mailing activities to an organization as reliable as the local power company and probably more helpful than your banking institution please give us a call and let us show you how our unique and competitive solutions can help you focus more on yours.

USPS First-Class Postage Increasing on Jan. 27th, 2013

U.S. Postal Service Announces New Prices and Services for 2013It’s official. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is increasing postage rates on many of their services, including First-Class postage. The changes are set to take effect on January 27, 2013.

The following is a snippet from a USPS press release:

The price for First-Class Mail single-piece letters will increase by just a penny when prices change in Jan. The new 46 cent Forever stamps will allow customers to mail letters to any location in the United States. Forever stamps are always good for mailing a one-ounce letter anytime in the future regardless of price changes.

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 27, 2013 include:

  • Letters (1oz.) — 1-cent increase to 46 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — unchanged at 20 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1oz.) — $1.10
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 33 cents

*Source: USPS.com  http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2012/pr12_114.htm

Visit LetterStream.com today to create your First-Class mailing before the new postage rates go into effect. We are always available to help walk you through the process–it just takes a few minutes!

Sending Mail on Postal Holidays

Holiday CalendarCan you send mail on USPS postal holidays? Sure you can!

Let’s face it, we don’t all get the same paid holidays that the United States Postal Service (USPS) employees get. In 2012, the USPS is closed for 10 holidays.

However, if you are working and you need your mail to go out, LetterStream has the ability to mail your letters on many postal holidays.  While the post office front counters are closed and mail carriers are off, there are some holidays that the post office back office is still on duty.

So, “Yes”, the USPS accepts and processes our mail on President’s Day (Washington’s birthday), Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day and MLK Day.

If you are like us and are working those days, feel free to send your mail to us and we’ll get it mailed on the Holiday for you!