In 2011, consumers and shippers looking for a simpler way to ship will have many options to choose from at the U.S. Postal Service, which is set to usher in a flurry of new flat-rate product innovations in the new year. These innovations are being introduced in conjunction with price changes for Priority Mail, Express Mail and other Shipping Services that took effect on January 2, 2011.

As Senior Vice President of Customer Relations at the Postal Service, I can tell you that all of these changes were designed with the customer in mind, and for the sole purpose of offering the best combination of value and shipping solutions in the market. In a dynamic and ever-changing marketplace, we think these new products will provide simple solutions to our customers.

Priority Mail Flat Rate innovations include a legal-size envelope and a padded envelope. The Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope and Priority Mail Padded Flat Rate Envelope are both priced at $4.95. In fact, all six Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes will be priced at $4.95, including the Regular Priority Mail Envelope, Gift Card Flat Rate Envelope, Window Flat Rate Envelope and Small Flat Rate Envelope.

The first Priority Mail Flat Rate Box was introduced on November 20, 2004, when I was the Vice President of Pricing, and I must say that, on a personal note, I have been very gratified to see the flat rate options blossom since then.
The price for the Express Mail Flat Rate Envelope will remain unchanged at $18.30. A new Express Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope will also make its debut and will also be priced at $18.30.

In addition to an overall price change of 3.5% for Priority Mail, new prices for Express Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International, Priority Mail International, Parcel Select and Parcel Return Service became effective January 2. The overall price change for all Shipping Services products is 3.6 percent. Price adjustments to the Postal Service's competitive shipping products are made each January, which is a shipping industry standard practice.
Currently available for Express Mail, the popular Hold For Pickup service option will be extended to Priority Mail and First-Class Mail commercial parcels in the new year.

Moreover, available at no extra charge for customers using shipping labels from Click-N-Ship or other USPS-approved vendor, packages with the Hold For Pickup endorsement will be shipped directly to a Post Office, instead of being left at a recipient's address. Packages will then be held at the Post Office for up to15 days until picked up anytime during office hours, at a time convenient for the recipient.

Prices for 50,000 Post Office Boxes classified as competitive products in 49 retail Post Offices will change to reflect a new pricing schedule based on their presence in areas where significant competition exists. As an incentive, starting January 2, new customers who pay in advance for a 12-month PO Box rental period at these 49 locations will receive an additional month of rental for free.

For Commercial Base and Commercial Plus Priority Mail shippers mailing small and dense parcels, an economical new Priority Mail Regional Rate Box featuring USPS-produced packaging will be available in two types with a letter identifier for either type - A and B.

Another innovative product offering that will be available to Priority Mail Commercial Plus customers in January is Critical Mail. Offering fast, consistent, time-in-transit service for sensitive documents, Critical Mail also features free Delivery Confirmation. Additional extra services, such as insurance and signature confirmation, will also be available.
Other news for Priority Mail customers includes new and reduced account volume thresholds to meet eligibility for Commercial Plus prices.

The total account volume threshold for Priority Mail letters, flats and/or parcels mailed in the previous calendar year has been reduced from 100,000 to 75,000. In addition, a new Priority Mail Commercial Plus account volume threshold had been added for customers who ship at least 5,000 letter-size and/or flat-size pieces (excluding the Padded Flat Rate Envelope) in the previous calendar year.

Customers who choose online shipping solutions from the Postal Service will continue to save compared to retail prices. A complete listing of 2011 prices is available online on Postal Explorer at

At the Postal Service, customer service is not only our top priority, but also the guiding influence on every action we take. To that end, I think these new product innovations will provide more value to our customers, and make doing business with us much easier and convenient.