The concept of Seamless Acceptance, as explained at the National Postal Forum, is that there will no longer be any acceptance units or trained acceptance personnel. Mail service providers (MSPs) will bring their mail to the back dock of their local Post Office, SCF, or NDC and unload. There will be some sort of kiosk where the driver can scan/type in an identification code that links the mail on the dock to the mail.dat file preloaded by the MSP. This check-in will start the postal delivery clock.

The concept is for most mail to never be verified by a human being. Using Six Sigma averaging techniques, an MSP's mail will be periodically spot checked by postal employees somewhere within the system. All other quality standards will be verified by equipment and computers with the averaging of failures (non-compliance) over 30 days. If there are consistent quality failures, remedial actions will be taken by postal computers and necessary postage adjustments made automatically. These monetary adjustments to the associated MSP permit account will be processed weeks after a mailing has been delivered, leaving the MSP no recourse but to pay the increased cost.

During the Seamless Acceptance session at NPF I asked who and where postal employees would be making decisions about our mail. Decisions like whether the content in a mailpiece allowed it to be mailed at non-profit rates, Standard Mail rates or make a determination that First Class rates were required. Who would determine if the weight claimed was the correct weight with the appropriate amount of postage paid? Who would determine if the mail piece met DMM marking regulations, met the physical dimensions for the rate claimed, passed the droop test, had the correct number of tabs, had the final fold in the correct position, had the address correctly placed on the mailpiece, met the aspect ratio, had corners rounded at the correct circumference, used the approved cut and tie ratio for perforations, anchored internal components appropriately, met the consistent thickness standard, and verify that a thousand other complex, infuriating postal rules were faithfully adhered to by all customers, MSPs, PSPs, large mail owners, and never-mailed-before postal customers? I received no answer to my questions.

Can Seamless be implemented in such a way that it protects postal revenue? Keep my competitors from intentionally cheating on mailpiece design and content requirements, giving them a competitive advantage? Prevent novices from entering underpaid mail through their own ignorance? Allow me to take my mail home to be reworked if it does not qualify at the rates I have presented it?

Yes, but the Postal Service cannot eliminate all of the acceptance units across the country. They can significantly reduce the staff in those units and eliminate all in-plant DMUs. What the industry needs from the Postal Service is a modified Seamless Acceptance. We need some verification when we present our mail to selected postal facilities. We need the assurance that if there is something wrong with the physical makeup of the mailpiece we can take it home to fix it. We need to know if there are any content issues prior to entry, so the mail owner can approve (pay for) any postage adjustments.

As an MSP, I do not want to hear a month after a mailing (and the customer is long gone) that a mailpiece's content did not meet the non-profit rate eligibility and I must pay the difference. I cannot afford to make a First Class mailing to New Orleans in the middle of July, have it sit on a postal truck in a postal parking lot for a week (while a hurricane rages) and have it weigh slightly more than two ounces instead of slightly less than two ounces due to the humidity. As an MSP I cannot have a mailpiece that conforms to DMM regulations jam a DBCS machine and 30 days later be billed non-machinable rates because a defective gate solenoid was not swapped out during routine postal maintenance to save money.

So what is the solution?
Every mailer should have the option to have the content and physical aspects of their mailpiece verified prior to acceptance at a postal facility. We as an industry must demand the availability of verifications limited to content and the physical make-up of the piece. This would allow for MSPs to rework a mailing or have the mail owner approve upcharges due to content issues prior to entry. The physical aspects of a mailpiece that need verified would be piece weight, dimensions, design compliance, droop/rigidity, paper weight, tab size and placement, accurate postage evidencing (correct permit) and address placement. Content verification
would determine if it must be mailed at First Class rates or whether it was disqualified from non-profit rates.

What would not be checked? Anything that can be checked by the machines! Barcode accuracy, barcode quality, sort accuracy, container tags, total pieces, correct depth of sort for postage rates claimed, total pieces entered, and anything else whose accuracy can be determined without human intervention. Here is the simple fact for MSPs. If we produce an unreadable barcode, it will cost more to apply a label and re-inkjet the piece than the postage upcharge would cost. Therefore we would not fix it; we would pay the upcharge.

If large customers want full blown seamless with periodic samplings to determine accuracy of mail piece design and content then allow them that option. For the rest of us, retain a few acceptance personnel in strategic locations that would continue to verify content and the physical aspects of our mail pieces. There would be no in-plant postal personnel (DMUs), no paperwork review, no weigh count verifications, no Merlins. There would be piece weight verification, content verification for postage claimed, and a determination that the mail piece submitted meets DMM specifications. Essentially I want to see a significant increase in the MDA ranks and have them verify compliance before entering my mail.

I do not want some nameless janitor picking ejected mailpieces up off the postal processing floor making the assumption that my mail did not meet postal specifications and therefore should be charged more postage.