Keeping Up to Date

Did the recent Mail.dat version change, PostalOne! software update, or Priority Mail price change catch you by surprise? On September 7, 2014, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) implemented a price adjustment for Priority Mail and also implemented new postage statements for Priority Mail and other classes of mail as well. This change required mailers to update their USPS MDR Client software from the Business Customer Gateway on August 24, 2014. Along with these changes, PostalOne! support for the old 13-1 Mail.dat version ended and the currently supported versions are the new 14-2 version and the prior version of 14-1. Window Book sends out numerous notifications of these changes in advance through these eTips, but there are other resources available as well to help insure these kinds of changes don’t catch you by surprise in the future.

Why the update?
The USPS periodically makes updates to the PostalOne! system to incorporate enhancements and bug fixes. Major updates are performed when there are significant changes to postal rates and/or regulations, such as when the USPS increases their prices in January each year. There are usually at least four PostalOne! software updates during the year: January, April, July, and October. There may also be interim updates to PostalOne! for immediate fixes or other system issues.

The August update was a major change to support new USPS products and services, postage statement changes, and other updates. The postage statement changes took effect on September 7, 2014.

At the same time, the Mail.dat® specification changed from 14-1 to 14-2. For purposes of submitting Mail.dat files to PostalOne!, the table below shows the various Mail.dat version numbers and the dates on which they are supported by PostalOne!

Keeping updated
The USPS sends out notifications of all PostalOne! outages and software updates using the DMM Advisory. You can subscribe to the DMM Advisory by sending an email to dmmadvisory@usps.com. In addition, detailed information regarding the changes in the PostalOne! software are available on the USPS RIBBS web site. The DMM Advisory also provides notifications on pricing and postage statement changes, as well as Mail.dat and Mail.xml version changes. This information is also available on the RIBBS web site Release Schedule.

Handling Change
When these types of changes are announced, it is important for mailers to pay attention to the PostalOne! outage periods so that you can make adjustments in your mailing operations to accommodate the downtime. It is also extremely important for mailers to download and install the USPS Mail.dat Client software (also sometimes referred to as MD Client or MDR Client) as soon as it is available. This software can be downloaded from the Business Customer Gateway web site. Mailers also need to make any associated updates or configuration changes to software that interfaces with PostalOne! once their Mail.dat Client software is updated.

Likewise, mailers need to pay attention to Mail.dat and Mail.xml version changes and USPS data file updates (Labeling Lists, Zone Charts, Drop Ship files, etc.) and coordinate with their presort and post-presort software so that the correct versions are used.

More Changes This Fall 2014: Understanding How They Affect You

The August 24, 2014 PostalOne!® update, which coincided with the new Mail.dat® 14-2 release, included many changes and updates to Postal services and postage statements among other things. In addition, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) will be issuing another PostalOne! software update on November 9, 2014. The November update does not have any postage statement or Mail.dat modifications, but there are changes that may have an impact on your operations. Make note of the recently enacted and upcoming changes.

Highlights from the recent August Update

Changes to Mailing Services

Postage Statement Changes
There are changes in postage statements for Periodicals, First-Class Mail®, and Standard Mail®. With the exception of the Priority Mail statements, which will be mandatory due to the price changes, mailers may continue to use the January 2014 postage statements. However, if you wish to use any of the new products and/or services, you must switch to the September 2014 statements.

New Mail.dat version 14.2
There is a new Mail.dat specification version associated with this update; the current version is 14-1; while the new Mail.dat version is 14-2. For purposes of submitting Mail.dat files to PostalOne!, the table below shows the various Mail.dat versions and the dates on which they are supported by PostalOne!

Between August 24 and September 7 mailers can submit new mailings using Mail.dat version 14-2 or 14-1. During this period, mailings can also be submitted using 13-1, but ONLY for mail with mailing dates processed before Sept. 7. Between Aug. 24 and Sept. 7, mailers can also submit 13-1 files to update previously submitted mailings.

Political and Election Mail
The new 14-2 Mail.dat version now has fields in the Content Characteristics Record (CCR files) to identify political and election mail. These identifiers should be used only if 100% of the mailing contains these types of mail. This will then allow the appropriate postage statement check box to be marked, and will also indicate to mailers and the USPS that special tags are to be applied to this mail. Use Tag 57 for Political Mail and Tag 191 for Election Mail.

Is 14-2 mandatory?
The use of Mail.dat 14-2 is not mandatory. Mailers can continue to submit 14-1 files to PostalOne! DAT-MAIL’s new August update supports submission of either file format. Mailers can import 14-1 and 14-2 files and submit 14-2 to PostalOne!, but can not import 14-2 and submit 14-1.

DFSS:
Effective August 1st a new PS-8125 form became available that supports Flat Sequencing System (FSS) entry points. In the new PS-8125 Form, under the Mailer Information section, DBMC has been removed and DNDC and DFSS have been added for “Entry Discounts Claimed” options. Note: the old 8125 form can still be used for 6 months until further notice.

Air Boxes:
Although not mandatory, mailers who use Air boxes are being strongly encouraged by the USPS to update to DAT-MAIL’s new August update so they can generate new PS-8125 forms. Air boxes are an alternate container from trays/sacks/pallets that Periodicals mailers use to get mail drop shipped in an expedited manner for time-sensitive materials.

Priority Mail:
Priority mailers using Mail.dat must update to DAT-MAIL’s new August update in order to be able to use new rates and generate Postage Statements, which are effective September 7, 2014.

New 8125
The August release of DAT-MAIL includes the new 8125 which should be used by mailers that do the following:

  • Drop ship to DFSS facilities
  • Use air boxes (Periodicals mail)
  • Use DAT-MAIL to mail Priority Mail eDoc

Full-Service eDoc Verification & Invoicing
PostalOne! reports for Intelligent Mail® Full-Service verification will have postage charges for non-compliance visible on the reports, but the USPS will NOT actually be assessing these charges. Not yet, anyway! But, mailers need to pay very close attention to these reports because it is only a matter of time before the USPS does implement these charges.

 

Changes to Shipping Services

Priority Mail® Price Changes
Great news for shippers who are eligible for Commercial Base and Commercial Plus rates. Effective September 7, 2014 those rates are decreasing! The new Postage Statements reflecting these price changes are available at pe.usps.gov.

  • Commercial Base: 0.9% average decrease
  • Commercial Plus: 2.3% average decrease
  • Retail prices: 1.7% average increase

IMpb Compliance Threshold Increases
The USPS is already charging a non-compliance fee for Intelligent Mail Package Barcode (IMpb) mailings. This fee is $.20 per piece, and can add up in a real hurry if you mail any sort of volume at all. The compliance threshold to avoid those fees is increasing as well.

Single piece parcel shipments
Good news! Mailers will now be able to use their volumes from multiple classes of mail to meet the volume minimums for parcel shipments mailed using Manifesting with a Permit Imprint payment method. The minimum volume is 50 pieces or 50 pounds, which used to apply to each class of mail separately. Now, volumes from various classes of mail can be combined to meet this minimum.

IMpb requirement changes:
Mailers will now need to use Intelligent Mail Package Barcodes (IMpb) on more categories of mail. This requirement includes Standard Mail parcels, Parcel Select Lightweight, and the remaining portions of Priority Mail previously exempted from IMpb.

 

Changes to USPS Data

 Labeling List Update Frequency Changes to Monthly
Previously, these files were updated on a quarterly basis, but this is changing to a MONTHLY cycle starting in August. The USPS announced changes to the Labeling List data, effective September 1, 2014, with a mandatory use date of September 30, 2014.

Mailers need to be much more vigilant about using these updated files since they will no longer be able to presort their mailing list files months in advance. There will only be two months of Labeling List data permitted at any given time, which means presorts cannot be performed more than 60 days in advance of the estimated date of mailing.

This means that the estimated and actual ship dates in the Mail.dat files become MUCH more critical. These are the dates that will be used to validate that the correct Labeling List files have been used, so it’s essential for mailers to accurately populate those data fields.

HUB list: There is a new Labeling List going into effect called the HUB list. This is a list of postal facilities that just cross-dock or transfer mail, and do not do any actual mail processing. These facilities are intended to be used by mailers to improve mail delivery by drop shipping to these hubs, which will then cross-dock the mail to outbound transportation bound for the final destination facility.

Upcoming Changes

PostalOne!® November 9 Update
The second PostalOne! update, originally scheduled for October 26, 2014, is now November 9. The November 9 update does not have any postage statement changes, but there are other changes associated with postage statement mail owner CRID display, Nonprofit authorization numbers, Postage assessment of Seamless Acceptance errors, Move Update, new functionality for the Business Customer Gateway (BCG) and Mailer ID. Visit November 2014 changes for more details.

Mail Entry Road Map
The USPS has published its “Mail Entry Road Map” showing mailers what is in store for them with changes to acceptance, verification and payment between now and mid-2015.

September 2014 – eInduction pilot of a scan process for non-SV sites starts. If successful, this will be rolled out in early 2015 and allow all entry points to participate in eInduction without having to link pallet barcodes to FAST appointments.

October 2014 – Full-Service Verification Error Postage Assessments will be visible to mailers; however, they will not actually be billed until January 2015 (based on December 2014 data). Pay attention to these assessments and correct what is causing them before December!

October 2014 – Mailers will need be processing and submitting 75% of their eligible mail as Full-Service if they want to retain their DMUs.

November 2014PostalOne! Release 39 – many changes here. This is the first release that will use actual induction date as the basis of verifying the validity of the labeling list used to do the presort. There are also expected to be a number of changes that will impact all mailers doing eDoc. Watch for Window Book webinars and subsequent communications about the changes coming in PostalOne! Release 39.

Stay Informed
Learn more about Postal Changes for Fall 2014 from Free Educational Resources:

Webinar Recording:
USPS Changes for Fall 2014: Do you know what they are?
http://www.windowbook.com/recordedwebinars

White Paper:
Changes are Coming in 2014: Do You Know What They Are?
https://www.windowbook.com/Lp/USPS-2014-Changes

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Amazon casts its vote with the Postal Service

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The dawn of digital détente?

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Postmaster General optimistic about mailing industry opportunities amid stronger economic conditions

In a state of the business address to postal customers, Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe gave an upbeat assessment of the opportunities facing the mailing industry. “With all of the changes occurring in the way people communicate, mail is proving to be an especially resilient marketing channel, and its value to America’s businesses is increasing due to better data and technology integration,” said Donahoe. “When you combine these important technology-driven changes with the strength we’re starting to see in the economy, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about mail’s role in America’s marketing mix.”

An unlikely survivor in the digital age: Direct mail

Its obituary has been written over and over, but the political direct mail industry isn’t just still alive; it’s thriving. In an era of highly targeted digital and TV advertising, political campaigns are still banking on an old-fashioned, mundane routine: Voters picking up their mail and leafing through it as they walk from their mailboxes to kitchen trash cans.

Direct mail has found its place as volumes decline

Direct mail, in terms of volume, is in decline. This would usually be cause for people to steer well clear, which brand wants to be associated with a dying channel? However, it might well be that the savvy brand that goes where everyone else is steering well clear of, might well find they yield the best returns.

Commemorating the Battle at Fort McHenry on Forever stamps

BALTIMORE — Tomorrow, Sept. 13, nearly 200 years to the day Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the U.S. Postal Service will dedicate a Limited Edition Forever Stamp commemorating the Battle of Fort McHenry. The event takes place inside the fortress where Old Glory continues to fly today. The 11 a.m. official first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony is free and open to the public.