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Kremlin on the Potomac: Postal Service Communications

Readers old enough to remember the Soviet Union also remember how skilled it was at saying nothing – about anything – no matter what.  If something happened, regardless of whether it was visible to the outside world, it simply wasn’t acknowledged.  A natural disaster?  Never happened.  The disappearance of an important figure?  He’s fine.  A bomber crash into a village?  No bomber, nothing happened.

If outsiders posed a question about any event, the basic answer, if there was one, was denial, deflection, or obfuscation.  The Soviets never admitted to anything going wrong, to any internal failures, or to any event or condition that might break the illusion they so ardently projected or that might provide an outsider a peek into what’s really going on.

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The Right Audiences Need to Get the Message

Over the past few months, and especially over the recent holiday season, there were many occasions on which a postal customer – a representative of a commercial mailer, a mailer’s client, or just a retail customer – delivered a message of dissatisfaction about service (to put it nicely) to a frontline postal employee.

Whether a retail window clerk, a city or rural carrier, an employee at the local BMEU or DMU, a customer service rep, or a call-taker at the Business Service Network, that person neither had anything to do with the reasons for the customer’s dissatisfaction and likely had little to go on to offer an explanation or information about the reported service problem.

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PMG’s Comments to MTAC Raise Concerns Over Price Increase

On January 26, speaking to the virtual meeting of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy gave a broad overview of his developing plans to get the Postal Service back on track after months of worsening service that culminated in a historically bad holiday season.  As transcribed from his recorded remarks:

“... Calendar Year 2020 has been a tough year for the nation and a tough year for the United States Postal Service.  The causal circumstances continue to plague us in early 2021.  As a result, the consequences to many Postal Service customers have been significant, and we acknowledge the impacts our service decline has had on your businesses and our responsibility to restore.

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Will Postage Rates Jump in 2021?

In the wake of the Postal Regulatory Commission’s issuance of a final rule amending the rate-setting process, rumors began to circulate that the Postal Service would seek higher rates by mid-2021 and that the increases would be over 7%.

These stories may have some relationship to facts but are not entirely factual or accurate. Just the same, given that rumors travel faster than facts, it’s important that commercial mail producers have the necessary information to convey to their clients – who may already have heard the rumors.

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When a Monopoly Is No Longer What It Was Meant to Be


Once upon a time, there was a company that was given an exclusive charter to build and operate a railroad between two cities that were quite far apart.  That charter required certain levels of service to the cities and to each town along the route and, in exchange, afforded the company the exclusive right to carry certain types of freight and passengers.  To be sure the fares the company charged weren’t excessive, an independent panel was established to review the company’s income and costs.

For decades, the railroad thrived, with more passengers and freight every year.  Even though it was the only railroad allowed to operate the route, the company’s customers still were satisfied with its fares and service.

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The Postal Third Rails

As many people know, the third rail in a subway system is the one that’s electrified to provide power to the train motors; touching it would be fatal.  In politics, a “third rail” is an issue that’s equally dangerous and that, if tackled by a politician, can be fatal to the person’s political career.  Changing the social security system is often cited as a “third rail.”

The USO

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Evaluating Rumors About Potential USPS Changes

The possibility of Postal Service price changes was usually an issue discussed only within the mailing industry, but the politicization of the agency over vote-by-mail and other matters has resulted in postal news appearing in the general media.  However, this phenomenon has resulted in articles being published that are based on incomplete information, rumors, or speculation, derived from “unnamed” or unofficial sources, and produced by writers inexperienced in dealing with the arcane world of the USPS.

Changes ahead

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If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride

The 400-year-old Scottish proverb used for the title simply translates into how easily things could be attained if nothing more than wishing for them were needed to make them real.

That adage was brought to mind when reading the documents discussed in the preceding articles of the July 20 issue of Mailers Hub News.  Assuming they’re legitimate, they first reveal a determination to act to reduce costs, the need for which cannot be disputed. However, at the same time, they also reflect not only an attitude that whatever is needed or desired will be made real by simply commanding it, but – of greater concern – a misunderstanding of the people to whom the order is being given.

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High Costs and High Overtime: USPS Reports Challenge Insight

In its May financial data (see the article on page 8), the Postal Service reported mail processing costs that were 8% over plan and workhours that exceeded plan by 8.5%.  The agency commonly attributes this situation to the workload associated with higher parcel volume.  However, while it’s reasonable that more work hours are needed to handle surging parcel volume, there’s been no indication whether the USPS is concurrently capturing workhour savings because of greatly decreased letter and flat mail volume.

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Customized Postage: USPS Loses in Court but Wins at the PRC

Just last month – on May 1 – the Postal Service filed a request with the Postal Regulatory Commission seeking to delete Customized Postage as a service.  Among the reasons it offered was that “the eligibility criteria have become the source of customer complaints and the subject of legal disputes.”  (Authorized Customized Postage vendors are required to apply criteria “to ensure that the types of content included in customized postage are appropriate in light of the purposes of the program and the potential audiences, in order to safeguard the Postal Service’s legal, financial, and brand interests.”)

In that filing, it didn’t mention that, as if to support its statement, it was in court at that time with a customer whose design had been rejected.

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Pandora's Postal Box

Persons bored by legal matters may dismiss the PRC’s inquiry into the regulations implementing the Private Express Statutes as just more pointless inside-the-Beltway bureaucratic paper shuffling. Such an opinion, however, would seriously misunderstand the nature of the discussion being started.

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Other Peoples' Money - Part II

The following is the second in a two-part commentary, excerpted from the Dec. 9 edition of Mailers Hub News

Changes step 3

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PRC Approves Proposed First-Class Rates – with Details to Follow

The following article is an excerpt from the Dec. 9 edition of Mailers Hub News

In an order issued on December 6, the Postal Regulatory Commission approved the First-Class Mail rates proposed on October 9 by the Postal Service, as those were later corrected on October 10 and amended on November 20.

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Price Changes. It's Not That Simple

People often ask about price changes – why they’re when and what they are, and why the USPS can’t simply reduce its costs. It’s really not that simple.

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USPS Files Proposed 2020 Rates

The Postal Service has filed new prices for market-dominant mail that, if approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, will take effect on January 26, 2020.  The average increase for the market-dominant classes of mail is 1.9%, in line with the CPI-based cap; First-Class Mail will increase, on average, by 1.919%, and Marketing Mail prices will rise by an average of 1.891%.  Barring problems during the PRC’s review of the filing, a decision should be expected by mid-November.

New prices for competitive products, set by the Governor of the Postal Service, also were announced.  They will be reviewed for statutory compliance by the PRC and, barring problems, also will be effective January 26.

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Still Time to Make The Mailers Conference on September 20, 2019

There is still time to make the 2019 Mailers Conference.

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The Article Waiting to be Written

Commentary, by Leo Raymond

Any publication on any topic occasionally finds itself in the situation of knowing newsworthy events lie ahead but about which an article cannot be yet written; they just have to wait. Such is the situation in which we – and colleagues with their own newsletters – find ourselves.

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Response to PRC Inquiry Reveals New Cost Coverage Proposal for Flats

As previously reported, the Postal Service submitted its Annual Compliance Review for fiscal 2018 to the Postal Regulatory Commission at the end of December. Given the span and scope of such a document, it’s normal for the PRC staff to pore over it carefully and ask about data or statements that they believe need further clarification. These questions, officially know as “Chairman’s Information Requests,” or CHIRs, generate a response by the USPS.

The occasional nugget

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Competitive Products - A Final Rule is Only Half the Story

Competitive Products: A Final Rule is Only Half the Story

Commentary excerpted from the Jan. 7, 2019 issue of Mailers Hub News


In an order issued January 3, the Postal Regulatory Commission published its final rule regarding the institutional cost requirement for Postal Service competitive products. The 197-page order concludes a rulemaking that had begun in November 2016.

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PRC Approves USPS Market Dominant and Competitive Product Price Changes

In separate orders issued November 13, the Postal Regulatory Commission approved without changes the Postal Service’s proposed prices for both market dominant and competitive products. Also approved as filed were the promotions the USPS proposed as part of its market dominant filing. As a result, both sets of rates will be implemented as planned at 12:01am ET on January 27, 2019.

Market dominant  products

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