The U.S. Postal Service is one of the most technologically advanced institutions in the world. This fact is somehow lost, overlooked or simply unknown to most businesses because, for the most part, the USPS and the mail they put in our mailboxes is taken for granted. The postage we pay is simply a given; a necessary evil for some and a valued necessity for others. Few of us realize or take advantage of the over 3,000 postage discounts the USPS makes available to this country's business mailers. In fact, that is one way the Postal Service actually generates revenue. It takes advantage of what businesses don't know. Yes, the folks at your local USPS Business Center will happily answer any questions you may have. However, the onus is on you to ask the right questions; take advantage of those discounts and save that money because no one at the Postal Service is going to tap you on the shoulder as you are leaving and say, "Let me tell you how you can pay us less money..."


There are significant savings in postage dollars available to a properly prepared and documented mailing. In the same token, there are penalties and fines associated with an improperly prepared mailing or claiming postage discounts but not meeting the requirements to pay those lower rates. And in almost every case, the penalties are significantly higher than the possible savings. Typical penalties run in tens of thousands of dollars; however, there are penalties assessed that run in the millions of dollars. Most insidious about all of this is that no one talks about any of it. It is the elephant in the room that no one will speak about. The penalized mailer does not issue a press release about the large check they had to make payable to "Postmaster," and the USPS doesn't take out a billboard announcing the fact that XYZ Company has just made a sizeable contribution to its revenue assessment fund.


Today, the Postal Service will quietly set you up with a convenient penalty payment plan since it does not want to be known as the bully who not only carries a big stick but uses it. And the uneducated mailer travels along the mailing superhighway oblivious to both the imperfections in the road and the precarious lane that was chosen. Are there potholes that you can easily see and maneuver around? Or is the bully standing on an overpass ready to drop a boulder on your company? Imagine placing the phone call to your bank and asking for an extension on your line of credit not to purchase a new piece of equipment but to pay a "revenue deficiency assessment" to the U.S. Postal Service.


Raising the Awareness Level

To date, these penalties are the stuff of legend, folklore and rumor to everyone except those in the industry who had to write that check. In my opinion, the day the USPS steps up to the plate and goes public with these penalties is the day business mailers immediately invest in doing whatever they need to do to make sure they are not hit. There are a few simple facts that remain: The USPS rules, regulations and requirements and their discounts are not new. Design discounts for mail have been in existence since 1991, yet everyone continues to see in 2006 mail designed with apparent disregard for an $80 per $1,000 postage discount that is there for the taking. Lack of compliance with Move Update processing for First-Class mailings that claim discounts continues to be a large revenue generator for USPS penalty assessors over the eight years after the regulation went into effect. Training on the mailing industry is a good investment but one you may not have thought you would need to make. It is never too late to acquire the training, and it is a safe bet that the cost of the training will be far less than the cost of a mailing mistake. Ignorance is no excuse. 


"Concept to Doorstep" Mailing Training

A superb facility with the single focus of the development and delivery of educational products, services and training for the mailing industry has been opened in Rochester, New York. Work continues on The Mailing Training Institute, and upon completion,  it will have state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, conference rooms and offices designed and equipped for attendees to learn and experience all aspects of the business of mail. The facility will feature the unique approach of hands-on training on the production floor and in the classroom. Also unique to the facility is the allocation of space, furnishings and equipment especially for the visiting students and instructors. Complete "remote offices" will enable training participants to access files, e-mail and data, exactly like they were at their own company offices. Additionally, great effort and expense is being invested in the development of an audio/video system that will capture the motion and sound of mailing training and have the ability to broadcast the end product down the hall, across the country, to a DVD or to a conference room on the other side of the world.


Instructors and course contributors are all industry experts who are recognized professionals with highly diversified backgrounds in mailing and distribution services. All have a long history as presenters and educators at all levels of the mailing industry, and many are currently owners or executives of a mailing business. The inaugural training class will be held in Rochester, New York in June 2006. Full course curriculums and training schedules will be announced at the National Postal Forum in Orlando, Florida, April 2-5, 2006.


The landscape of the mailing industry has changed significantly in the past couple of years. Printers are expanding into the mailing/fulfillment industry in an attempt to significantly increase their bottom lines, and many existing mailhouses are merging or partnering with other companies and intensifying their capabilities. It is an exciting time with advancements appearing at many levels in the myriad of technologies that serve our industry. However, as in any industry, change and successful growth can only be achieved when accompanied by the gathering and utilization of information and education. Lacking that information and education is a great weakness and can lead to financial exposure of real significance. Increase your knowledge of the USPS and the mailing industry and take that big stick out of their hands and put it into yours. Claim every discount that is worth claiming; avoid all possible penalties and utilize the USPS as the powerful tool that it is to communicate with your customers and invest monies in future growth and not in past mistakes.


Mary Ann Bennett is the President and CEO of The Bennett Group, Inc., a select team of mailing industry experts who provide savings opportunities through a full compliment of mail, print and fulfillment consulting and training services. For more information, you may call 877-743-337, or e-mail or go online to