Commingling is a term often used interchangeably with "drop shipping" and "zone skipping." However, in reality, effective commingling is about taking advantage of economy of scale. Some consolidators will add drop shipping into the mix for even greater efficiency and control, but the two aren't mutually exclusive. Commingling is when a company's mail mingles with other companies' mail, bound for the same destination, to receive discounts normally reserved for high-volume shippers. Sounds great, right? But how does a small-volume shipper get introduced to other businesses willing to commingle? Do they approach the other business and say, "Hi, want to merge mail to save money?"


Commingling Is a Smart, Money-Saving Option

Despite the move to e-everything, the mail industry in the US is still going strong. Fortunately, for those of us in mail centers and mail-related professions, there are still things that need to be physically mailed and cannot be zapped over the Internet. However, businesses large and small are looking for ways to do more with less. They want to save money and slash budgets, and this is the reason that commingling is of great appeal.


Mail consolidators (a.k.a. drop shippers) gather mail from a number of customers and commingle it to reach greater volumes, which entitle them to reduced rates that they might not have gotten alone. Then, the consolidator transports the sorted mail to a mail center close to its final destination (a practice referred to as zone-skipping) and inserts the mail into the United States Postal Service (USPS) mail stream. From there, the USPS takes over, and the mail is delivered to the customers' doorsteps by familiar local mail carriers. The entire process is transparent to the customers all they know is that they received their mail, and fairly quickly, too!


Why Consider Commingling For My Mail?

Whether you're mailing 500 pieces of mail a day or mail only seasonally your company could still reap the benefits of commingling. First and foremost, there are significant cost savings when you commingle mail. You could save your company up to 70% in postage fees not to mention reducing soft costs like supplies and time spent managing the mail center. Another benefit that often goes unrealized: The delivery time provided by some consolidators may be equal to First Class mail (if it is critical that your mail arrives within a day or two, commingling may not be for you). Finally, you may be able to improve overall delivery performance by partnering with a consolidator.


More reliable delivery means fewer costs associated with re-mailing and lower costs for restocking and losses. Plus, think of the impact more reliable delivery could have on your company's reputation. Not only will you have more satisfied customers, you could save time and money on customer service. If more people receive their mail without fail, fewer people will contact your call center. While commingling seems at first blush to be a "mail center concern" the ramifications across all areas of your business could be tremendous!


It's Easier Than You Think Seriously.

If one of the barriers to considering working with a consolidator is that you should think it's hard to prep the mail think again. It's very simple. All you need to do is to separate your mail by cost center and mail type. Your consolidator will take it from there. They will sort it again and group it by destination. For example, if you have to bill specific departments within your organization for mail projects, you'd simply separate the mail by department then, separate by mail type flats, bound printed matter, media mail and parcels.


Qualifying Mail Even Irregulars?

Even if you mail irregular parcels, you can still take advantage of the ease, cost savings and enhanced delivery performance of consolidation. It is only natural that flat mail qualifies (as long as it does not contain First Class contents). Annual reports, brochures, calendars, catalogs, directories, books, magazines, newsletters, literature, software, CDs and videos are some of the flat mail items that could be commingled. Additionally, most consolidators also handle parcels, bound printed matter, Media Mail and Parcel Select. All mailpieces must meet USPS requirements to qualify for consolidation. Work with your mail consolidator to ensure that your mail meets criteria. If you need more help refer to the US Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual, available at


David Marinkovich is the vice president of marketing and southeast sales at SmartMail and has over 15 years of mailing and shipping experience. For more information, visit