Postal increases affect small business

It is a ritual every Tuesday and Thursday here at the newspaper. Race to put the paper to bed, get it to the press and back as soon as possible in order to have it on the streets and to the post office. Getting the paper to the streets as early as possible has always been a challenge. The economics are simple’the more time the paper is on the stand, the more opportunities people have to buy said paper. End of story. The other part of the equation revolves around our ever present postal system, without whom we would be required to hire delivery personnel to attempt to cover all areas of the county, the state and beyond’a less than desireable scenario. Our postal system is by far the most effective way for us as a newspaper to distribute printed copy. Our newspaper online, www.HeartOTexasNews.com, has been gaining consistent attention since we first went live with it in December 2000. As of this week we average more than 1,700 hits each week with peak weeks spiking over 2,000. The way I see it, that is another entirely different set of subscribers who get to see the paper in full color on their computer screen. Back to actual print media, it seems as the game will forever exist; the deadline will never change and it is our goal to become proficient and efficient enought to “get the paper out” as we call it, earlier and earlier each time we try. Over the past few years, the process and method by which we mail these papers has become more and more detailed. What used to be a short and uncomplicated process is now bogged down with labels, bags and routing that must be followed in order for us to meet the specifications set by the post office. Each bundle of six or more papers now must go into a canvas bag with its own specific label. At last count, we use 60 of these bags each time we mail out an edition. The cost of mailing a periodical (this term has replaced “second class” in the USPS world) continues to be a game of nip and tuck. Supposedly, by qualifying for a periodical rate permit, you are given lower mailing rates. Well as with all other mail, over the past several years, the costs have continued to increase. (I often wonder how long it will be until the cost of mailing a simple letter will hit the $.50 mark.) Each week I write a rather sizeable check to the post office to cover the costs associated with mailing our newspaper. Actually determining the price we are charged for mailing is a game by which there literally are volumes of rules. I have two of those volumes in my possession and have yet to completely understand them. Everything from following the proper labeling method to conforming to what does and does not qualify as advertising and making sure you are within the proper guidelines is all part of the game. You see, as a periodical rate mailing permit holder, we have to follow a lot of rules. Break the rules and you risk the chance of losing your permit. That would be bad. If that were to happen, each paper we mail would be charged as a first class mail piece and billed $.34 each. Ouch! Another stipulation of being a periodical permit holder is the requirement that when people fail to call us with a change of address when they move, we must pay the post office $.60 for each issue mailed to the incorrect address. Doesn’t sound like much until you start figuring in the reaction time of the receiving office (the one that gets the paper and sends it with a postal carrier to the final destination) is often, well’less than prompt. I have on my desk right now a bill for $2.40 for one address of which we were not informed of the change. It seems as if the receiving post office failed to notify us after the first paper came back undeliverable and waited until they were sure the people no longer lived there. So, they tore off the labels from the four papers they collected over a two week period, slapped on a $.60 charge per label and mailed them back to us. According to the rules, we are required to pay those fees, no questions asked. So, the next time you move or know someone who is moving, remind them to change their mailing address on all of their subscriptions. It sure helps cut down on the rising costs associated with mailing a variety of different types of publications. I don’t profess to know how the postal system operates. Lord knows not many people do. I rely on my advertising manager and my billing manager to keep things up to date and working smoothly, and they do a bang up job. Let’s just hope things in the USPS buck the trend and actually get cheaper and more efficient in the days to come. It’s probably not likely with all of the new security checks and risks they have taken, but there is always hope.

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