Postal regulation changes coming in May?

How hard would you work for $.47?
What can you do for $.47?

Since I posted my last blog on catalog redesign, my colleague Christine Erna forwarded me information on proposed changes from the Post Office that could mean that Top It Off Accessories may need to update their format again to maintain the postage savings from their recent catalog update. If you are a graphic designer or marketer who creates materials for the mail, you should know about these new regulations, too.

Some of the changes to booklet and catalog (defined as pieces with multiple pages) requirements being discussed for possible implementation in May 2009 include:

  • Maximum size: 6 inches high by 10-1/2 inches long by 0.25 inches thick (current size is 6.125 x 11.5 x 0.25)
  • Cover stock: 40 pound minimum basis weight for some designs: 60- or 70-
    pound minimum for pieces longer than 9 inches. (They claim lighter paper is more
    easily damaged in processing, so they strongly recommend the use of  a minimum 70-
    pound paper as cover stock on mailpiece designs that approach maximum
    letter-size dimensions.)
  • They are proposing the use of tabs (wafer seals) with no perforations. Unless your vendor uses paper tabs (that block out your cover design), that means recipients will be shredding the areas of the cover wherever non-tearable plastic tabs are placed.
  • They want new tab sizes dictated by the design of the mailpiece. Booklets will now need three 1-1/2 inch tabs and folded self-mailers need two 1-inch tabs. For larger and heavier booklets, they want 2-inch paper tabs!
  • In addition to changes to booklet size, they propose reducing self mailers to a maximum size of 6 x 10.5 x 0.25 (current size is 6.125 x 11.5 x 0.25)
36,000 pieces per hour makes this postal worker smile.
36,000 pieces an hour makes a happy postal worker

The reason for these changes is to keep the automated mail processing machines humming. They will process (that is, feed, read, barcode and sort) 10 pieces of mail per second. That means if something jams the machine and it takes five minutes to fix, that’s 3,000 pieces that got stopped moving through the system, including that birthday card from my Aunt Millie with the $5.00 that I’ve been expecting. Now I think $.47 is a pretty cheap way to send that birthday card from Aunt Millie’s condo in Florida all the way to my house in a couple of days, and I hate to wait. But to the post office, those 3,000 jammed letters at $.47 each just cost them $1,410.00 in productivity.

So what do you do? Start thinking about updating the designs of your catalogs if you want to keep getting maximum discounts on postage. The money you save will offset the cost of the redesign. Hey, it may be time for a complete overhaul so that you can get some savings on the printing as well. Talk to someone who knows enough about printing to help you make effective changes BEFORE you start building your templates.

You can down load the full recommendations from the Post Office here:

New postal regulations (download pdf)

Jamie Bradley

BONUS SECTION: Test your knowledge of designing for the post office. Click on the picture of the postal worker. Look carefully to find the Neiman Marcus catalog. Answer this question and win a prize from Sophwell, to be mailed anywhere in the continental US or Canada. (Don’t look too hard, because the prize isn’t worth much.)

Why is the Neiman Marcus Catalog set aside from the rest of the of the mail?

Enter your answer(s) below in the Comments sections. The judges reserve the right to allot additional prizes for both accuracy and creativity.

With over 30 years of working inside and outside printing, promotional and marketing companies, Jamie Bradley helps clients source and produce great marketing materials. He writes these occasional blogs to share ideas on how to create better and more effective products.

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