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!)