NEW YORK CITY — The U.S. Postal Service will honor the work of Mexican artist Martín (pronounced Mar-teen) Ramírez tomorrow by placing five of his more than 450 dynamic drawings and collages on Limited Edition Forever stamps. The First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony will take place Thurs., March 26, at 6 p.m. at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York City. The event is free and open to the public.
CLEVELAND, OH — Spectacular photographs celebrate the beauty and elegance of water lilies with four new Forever stamps available nationwide today. The Water Lilies Forever stamps were dedicated at the Garfield-Perry March Party Stamp Show in Cleveland.
Alright, alright, alright. So you’ve ramped up all your processes and systems for participation in Intelligent Mail Full-Service®, or at least for participation in eDoc. You’ve successfully submitted Mail.dat® files to PostalOne!® and have worked through the various validation errors or file rejections that you received when you first started this process. So, you’re golden, right??? Well, not so fast….even if your files are successfully transmitted to PostalOne!, that does not necessarily mean there are not still errors in your files. That’s right…errors can still exist, even if you don’t receive any error messages from PostalOne! How the heck are you supposed to find out what these errors are? That is where the Mailer Scorecard comes in.
Just like a report card back from your school days, the Mailer Scorecard tells you how you are doing as a mailer. The Mailer Scorecard, available on the USPS® Business Customer Gateway, provides a wealth of information and reports on your electronically submitted mailings. The Mailer Scorecard includes a Mailer Information tab, which includes all the data regarding your mail volumes, breaking it down by class of mail, processing category and so forth. In addition, there are tabs for Full-Service validation, eInduction validation, and Seamless Acceptance validation.
On each of those tabs is detailed information on the items that PostalOne! is validating, including the validation results on your mailings. The information on the Mailer Scorecard is tallied on a calendar month basis. The data is even color coded to help you hone in on any problem areas. For example, anything in green text means that your validation results have improved by 5% or more over the previous calendar month. Text in red indicates that your validation results have declined by 5% or more over the previous calendar month. And any items highlighted in yellow are areas where your mailings have exceeded the allowed error threshold.
For now, all of this data is informational only, intended to help mailers pinpoint areas where their mailings have quality issues so that mailers can take corrective action. However, some time later this year, likely in July, the USPS plans to start implementing postage assessments for mail that exceeds the allowed error thresholds. Bottom line, mailers need to be paying attention to their Mailer Scorecard results NOW so that any necessary process improvements may be made BEFORE those assessments kick in.
Common Mailer Scorecard Errors
One of the most common Mailer Scorecard errors for Full-Service validation is with the By/For information, which is the identification of the various entities involved in the mailing. The “For” part of this equation is the Mail Owner, or the entity responsible for the content of the mailpiece and who ultimately benefits from the mailing. The “By” part of the equation is the Mail Preparer (the entity physically preparing the mailing) and the eDoc Submitter (the entity submitting the Mail.dat files to PostalOne!).
All of these entities must be correctly identified in the Mail.dat files submitted to PostalOne! Typically, this identification is done using the Customer Registration ID (CRID) or Mailer Identification (MID). There is a variety of fields in the Mail.dat file where this data may be populated, so it is very critical that mailers understand where these fields are located, how to get them correctly populated, and to make sure there are no conflicts with this data. This, of course, assumes that you even have the correct CRID and MID data to begin with. Luckily, the USPS offers search capability on the Business Customer Gateway, so that mailers may validate the CRID/MID information. This search capability is provided for both individual searches and bulk searches, where files containing CRID or MID information for multiple clients may be submitted at one time for validation.
Correcting Mailer Scorecard Errors
Once you have analyzed the data available on your Mailer Scorecard, it is important to use this data to review your mailing process to determine where in your process these errors are occurring and make any necessary changes. The Mailer Scorecard includes a “drill down” function that allows users to drill down to the specific mailing jobs with errors and then to the specific errors. The Mailer Scorecard will provide error codes and a recommended solution. The error codes can also be looked up in the PostalOne! technical guides.
Some of the error messages, however, might be a little cryptic, so you may need to submit a ticket to the PostalOne! Help desk to ask for help in deciphering the error message and, more importantly, how to correct the error. Your presort and post-presort software vendors can also be helpful in this area.
The PostalOne! Help Desk is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the Mailer Scorecard data and the various error messages. They can also help you trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail.dat files. There is a guide available for making a request for more detailed Mailer Scorecard error data.
Window Book has many utilities available to assist mailers with improving their Mailer Scorecard results. Our DAT-MAIL™ software provides easy access to make edits and corrections in Mail.dat files, particularly with regard to the often troublesome By/For data. DAT-MAIL also includes a BCG Export and Import utility, both of which may be used to easily take advantage of the bulk search capability on the BCG for your clients MID, CRID, permit and Nonprofit Authorization data. We also offer educational webinars on the Mailer Scorecard, and even offer FREE Mail Optimization Analyses to help you get your mailing operation optimized to submit mailings electronically. We even provide on-site or remote consulting services to help you review your Mailer Scorecard results and help you pinpoint areas in your process where the corrections may be made.
Don’t miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.
Window Book’s newest smart postal solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements! (Coming soon: automatically download your confirmation pages!)
We all know that “stuff happens” during the mailing process, and when it does, you may need to pull some pieces from your mailings. There are lots of words to describe these pieces…pulls, deletes, mutes, rejects, spoils, shorts…sound familiar? Whatever you call them, these are pieces that get pulled from your mailings for a variety of reasons. Perhaps some of the mailpieces get damaged during processing, or you may run out of some of the mailpiece components before the job is finished. So the question becomes, “How do I make the adjustments to report these types of spoilages or shortages in my eDoc?” And that’s a very good question because in the eDoc world, you not only need to submit accurate postage statements, but the Mail.dat® files that represent the mailing job also need to be adjusted.
PostalOne!® accepted reporting methods
Within the Mail.dat file set, there are three (3) different files that may be used to report Spoilage/Shortage: the Piece Detail Record (PDR), the Piece Barcode Record (PBC) or the Postage Adjustment Record (PAR). A Guide to Intelligent Mail for Letters and Flats from the USPS provides information on four (4) methods for reporting spoilages or shortages using PostalOne! The acceptable methods vary depending on the type of mailings you are processing – and only Method 4 (below) is allowed for postage-affixed mail. Here are the four current acceptable methods:
- Available for situations where the postage for wasted and shorted pieces is paid as part of the total postage detailed on the postage statement. This method is used if the mailer wishes to re-use the unique Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMB®) from the spoiled or shorted pieces and the postage has already been paid. In this case, the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces, however, the only way to obtain a refund for the spoiled pieces is to submit a hard copy PS-3533 (yes, hard copy!) along with documentation of the spoiled pieces. Important note: refunds are not granted for shorted pieces.
- Available for First-Class Mail® and Standard Mail® only: The postage is adjusted on the postage statement so postage is paid for only the pieces that actually get mailed. As in Method 1, the unique IMB from the spoiled or shorted pieces may be re-used, and the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces. In this case, because postage has not yet been paid, the Mail.dat files may be edited and submitted to PostalOne! as an updated release, so the postage is not paid for the spoiled or shorted pieces.
- Available for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail only: The postage adjustment is reported as a dollar amount and piece count for the entire mailing. For this method, the PAR file is used. In this method, the unique IMB’s may not be re-used, and the spoilage is reported as a percentage or number of pieces rather than reporting each individual spoiled or shorted mailpiece. Since this method does not tie back to the individual mailpiece ID, it CANNOT be used for manifest mailings.
- The electronic documentation in either Mail.dat or Mail.XML™ states only the pieces mailed. This method is used when there is either no spoilage or shortage to report, these pieces have already been identified and removed from the Mail.dat files before they are submitted to PostalOne!, or the mailer plans to request a postage refund using PS-3533 and does not need to make any count adjustments in PostalOne! This method may be used for any class of mail. Currently this is the ONLY spoilage method available for postage affixed mailings, such as metered mail, stamped or precancelled stamp mailings.
Note: For Periodicals mailings, spoilage/shortage may be reported, but is ignored by PostalOne!
If you are submitting your mailings electronically (eDoc), you can no longer just edit the postage statements for spoilage/shortage, rather you need to adjust the Mail.dat files themselves. The reason for this is that PostalOne!, not your mailing software, generates the electronic postage statements and qualification reports. PostalOne! generates these documents based on the information submitted within your Mail.dat files. The only way PostalOne! can generate accurate documents is for the Mail.dat files themselves to be accurate, which is why being able to edit these files is so critical.
So, how do you go about making these types of Mail.dat file edits? The easiest way to perform these edits is by using post-presort software, such as Window Book’s DAT-MAIL™ software. Using post-presort software, mailers are able to enter a percentage or number of spoiled pieces to update their files and documentation for Method 3 above. Mailers also have the opportunity to enter individual mailpiece ID numbers, or to import a file containing these ID numbers for the shorted/spoiled pieces so that the Mail.dat files can be accurately flagged with the appropriate spoiled/wasted indicators for the other methods. DAT-MAIL even allows users to scan the IMB’s from the spoiled pieces and import the scanned barcode file into the software to automate the process of making the necessary adjustments. Once these adjustments are made, the edited files can be submitted to PostalOne! and users may use DAT-MAIL to generate numerous reports to document the spoilage/shortage claimed.
Unless you rarely have any edits to make to your Mail.dat files, it is a good idea to submit your files first as an Original Release to PostalOne! This allows you to make any necessary edits or changes to the file prior to paying for postage. In the case of reporting spoilage/shortage, it is necessary to make the Mail.dat file edits and submit the edited files BEFORE the file has been submitted as Ready to Pay or been finalized by the USPS. Once the files have been submitted as Ready to Pay, the only way to alter them is to cancel the job on PostalOne! and start over. Once the USPS has finalized the statements the only way to make any changes is to request that PostalOne! cancel the job or reverse the postage payment and re-submit.
As always, we STRONGLY recommend that you practice submitting jobs with spoilage/shortage, including cancellation of jobs, using the TEM environment of PostalOne! prior to going into production. This practice allows you to become familiar with how this process works and iron out any bumps in your internal processes.
Postage Refund Requests
Mailers who are not able to make spoilage or shortage adjustments electronically must use hard copy form PS-3533 to request a postage refund from the USPS. These forms were revised a number of years ago to be uniquely barcoded, which is why these forms are no longer available online or through mailing software. Mailers may request these forms from their local post office and follow the instructions on the form for completion. Keep in mind that mailers may be required to provide specific documentation of the spoiled pieces in order to receive a postage refund. This documentation is outlined in the form instructions, or may also be included in any agreements mailers may have in place with the USPS, such as Optional Procedure agreements.
The PostalOne! Help Desk is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the various methods of reporting spoilage/shortage or to help them trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail.dat files.
Window Book has various spoilage/shortage methods available in our DAT-MAIL software. We also offer educational webinars on the spoilage reporting process, and even offer FREE Mail Optimization Analyses to help you get your mailing operation optimized to submit mailings, including those with spoilage or shortage, electronically.
Don’t miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.
P.S. Window Book’s newest smart postal solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements! (Coming soon: automatically download your confirmation pages!)
The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced changes to the Labeling List data, effective April 1, 2015, with an expiration date of May 31, 2015. The Labeling Lists affected are L001, L002, L003, L004, L005, L006, L007, L012, L201, L606, L607, and L801.
The Labeling Lists are located on the Postal Explorer web site under the Additional Links tab. This will direct you to the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking System (FAST) web site, from there you can choose Resources, then Label Lists File Download, then Label List Files.
Use of Labeling List Data
The Labeling List data is used to define the specific destination information to be printed on sack labels, tray labels, and pallet labels. This destination information is used to route the mail inside the sacks, trays and pallets to the correct postal facility for processing. The destination information is based primarily on 3-digit ZIP Code prefix, and varies based on the class of mail, processing category, and other criteria. Virtually all container labels are generated using computer software, which accesses this Labeling List data in a file format, operating much like a look-up table.
Why the changes?
There are many reasons why the USPS makes changes to the Labeling List data. Recently, many of the changes are being made as a result of their efforts to consolidate processing facilities to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Changes also take place when the USPS makes alterations to the service areas for certain processing facilities, which can be the result of shifts in population, mail volumes, staffing and many other reasons. Keep in mind that approximately 12% of the US population moves each year and there are about 1,800 new delivery addresses added each day. So, there are lots of ZIP Code changes happening all the time!
Time for change
The USPS modified the frequency of these updates last fall from quarterly to monthly. What this means for mailers is that Labeling Lists are now effective for a period of only two months. While these updates have always been important to insure proper direction of the mail, keeping up to date is now more critical than ever. Gone are the days when mailers could perform their postal presort process months in advance. Due to this change, the maximum advance time for the presort process is 60 days, and in reality probably less than that to accommodate production schedule fluctuations.
The scheduled and actual induction dates (mailing dates) also become much more critical as a result of this change. These dates are what is used by the USPS to determine if valid Labeling Lists have been used to process the mailing.
When these types of changes are announced, it is important for mailers to work with their software vendors and mail service providers to make sure that the changes are implemented on a timely basis. This is critical so that the correct destination information is populated into the Mail.dat® files, or any other files or printed documents that are used to process or submit postage statements (and other postal documentation) and to create sack, tray, and pallet labels. Keep in mind that the Labeling List changes involve not just the facility names, but the ZIP codes associated with those facilities. This affects the destination line on the tags and the mailpieces that are placed into the sacks, trays, and pallets. As such, these changes MUST be incorporated into the presort software first; if the data is incorrect during this process (and thus incorrect in the Mail.dat files), it cannot be corrected in Post-Presort software, such as DAT-MAIL™.
Automatic Postal Data Updates System
Window Book makes these updates easy for our clients by providing an automated method to update the Labeling List information into your Post-presort software. Once you have this FREE add-on tool installed with your DAT-MAIL software, you no longer have to remember to check for Labeling List updates, nor do you have to perform manual downloads because it will automatically be taken care of for you! You can just set it and forget it!
And if you think that’s cool – ask us about how we can automate the process of downloading and installing new MDR Client software from PostalOne!®
WASHINGTON — Sun., March 8, marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. By war’s end on April 30, 1975, nearly 3 million service men and women fought in the conflict that would take the lives of more than 58,000 Americans.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service previewed the Dr. Maya Angelou Forever Stamp image today and announced that the First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., Tue., April 7, at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC. The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The stamps may be pre-ordered now at this link for delivery shortly after April 7.
Did the PostalOne!® outage on Friday, Feb 13 catch you off-guard? (trust us, the black cat that crossed your path that morning had nothing to do with it!) Were you wondering how you were going to process your mailings and not lose Full-Service discounts? Did you struggle trying to figure out how to properly process your mailings with hard copies? If so, you are not alone. This type of situation can occur not just when there is a PostalOne! outage, but when your own systems may not be operating as expected. Whether it is a server crash, a software hiccup, loss of internet service, or even bad weather or natural disasters, the fact is that “stuff happens” – and when it does, you need to be prepared. The key to managing situations like this is to have a good contingency plan documented, communicated and practiced so that any time something prohibits you from uploading files to PostalOne!, you will know exactly how to process your mailings and, more importantly, not lose any discounts.
The PostalOne! Contingency Plan
Believe it or not, the Postal Service™ actually has a published contingency plan guide for mailers to use in situations such as February 13, 2015, when there is an extended PostalOne! outage. The guide clearly details the steps that mailers should take to submit their mailings using hard-copy forms, following up with the electronic submissions once PostalOne! is back up and running. Mailers should download, read and become very familiar with this guide.
YOUR Contingency Plan
As important as it is to know the PostalOne! contingency plan, it is just as crucial for mailers to create their own contingency plans, based on the PostalOne! contingency plan, and to put steps into place to handle internal situations that prevent mailers from submitting files to PostalOne! If your computer systems go down, your internet service is disrupted, your mailing software has a glitch, your power goes out, whatever your situation may be, the USPS understands that things happen beyond your control and will work with you to insure mailings are submitted properly without losing Full-Service discounts.
The key here is to use the PostalOne! contingency plan as a guide for your own internal plan, as the steps for submitting your mailings will be similar. You’ll need to take into account the various situations that could possibly occur and how you would work around them. Equally important is the communication with the USPS when these types of situations occur. It is vital that you notify your local post office as soon as possible that you have a situation preventing you from processing electronic documentation as usual, and that you need to implement your contingency plan. It is also key to document your plan carefully, and include your local post office when developing your plan. And just like fire drills in school, it is also important that you go through some rehearsals of your contingency plan so that both your internal staff and your local post office become familiar with the plan and the steps to process your mailings during this down time.
It is important for mailers to put these contingency plans in place sooner rather than later. If you don’t already have such a plan in place, or if your plan needs tweaking, better to put those changes into place BEFORE you or PostalOne! has a system outage. It is also critical that you review this plan periodically to incorporate any necessary changes in your mailing processes or with PostalOne! Also, it is critical to include your local post office in these reviews, and also to perform periodic “dry runs” of your contingency process.
Automating PostalOne! activities
When your systems and PostalOne! are clicking on all cylinders, Window Book makes automated communication with PostalOne! extremely simple, both for uploading files to PostalOne! (eDocs Manager Plus™ or EDM10X™), and now even for downloading finalized statements from PostalOne! Window Book’s newest Smart Postal Solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy and automated downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements!
If you use PostalOne!® to submit mailings to the United States Postal Service® (USPS®), or log on to the Business Customer Gateway (BCG) to access other services, you need to pay close attention to this e-Tip!
The USPS modified the password requirements for the BCG, effective November 13, 2014. New registrants on the BCG since the November 13, 2014 date have been required to use these new password requirements. However, any registrants who signed up to use the BCG prior to that date will need to change their passwords!
New Password Requirements
The new password requirements include a minimum password length of 10 characters, which must include both upper and lower case, at least one number and may optionally include a special character. These new requirements were implemented for increased security reasons.
Mailers are encouraged to log on to the BCG to change their passwords as soon as possible. However, the new password requirements become mandatory April 30, 2015, at which time the old passwords will no longer work to access the BCG. Starting in March 2015, users will be prompted to change their passwords when they log in to the BCG.
It is important for mailers to make these password changes as soon as possible, and certainly before the old format passwords stop working on April 30, 2015. Once these passwords stop working, you will no longer be able to log into the BCG to make the change; at that point you will need to contact the PostalOne! Help Desk to make this change. In the meantime, you will not be able to process any jobs on PostalOne!
It is also important for mailers to note that once these password changes are made, any software that interfaces with PostalOne! or the BCG in an automated fashion will also need to be updated to reflect the new passwords.
For example, if you already made the great business decision to license Window Book’s eDocs Manager Plus or EDM10X to automatically communicate with and/or upload files to PostalOne!, you will need to modify the configuration settings to work with your new passwords.
Automating PostalOne! activities
Window Book makes automated communication with PostalOne! extremely simple, both for uploading files to PostalOne! (eDocs Manager Plus or EDM10X), and now even for downloading finalized statements from PostalOne!
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service will honor Maya Angelou — the beloved author, poet, actress and champion of equality — with a Forever Stamp.