Postal Desperation: A Last Minute Call to Action to Protest the Pending Rate Hike
I’m going to interrupt my series on list selects for the issue that’s gotten under just about every cataloger’s skin lately: the pending postage increase. You have until April 12 to make your voice heard by protesting the USPS postal hike. As you may already know the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) is recommending ridiculously high postal increases that could severely damage many catalogers’ businesses.
I urge you before it is too late to make your voice heard! (See below if not clear how to go about doing this.)
The PRC has posted on its Web site a “Notice Of Request For Reconsideration And Order Establishing Procedures.” In this order, it “establishes procedures affording participants (and other interested parties) an opportunity to provide their views on each of the issues on which reconsideration is sought. Participants should address each issue separately since the substance of each issue differs. Initial comments are due April 12, 2007; reply comments may be filed not later than April 19, 2007.”
This is the time for those who stand to be adversely affected by the Standard Mail flats rate hikes to express their views to the Commission. Specifically, they should comment on the harm these rates are likely to do on the Postal Service’s ability to generate the revenue and volume it will need from flat-size Standard Mail to satisfy its statutory requirement to break even in the 2008 test year, and to comment on the specific remedies the Commission should consider to rectify this situation.
The following is a SAMPLE letter, that’s been offered up by several trade associations, including PostCom and the DMA. This is provided for illustrative purposes ONLY. Be sure to reconfigure this sample into your own voice and using specifics that pertain to YOUR company.
DO NOT use this sample as your letter. DO NOT make this look like a manufactured letter writing campaign. If you do, you’ll defeat any gains you might hope to make.
Your letters should be addressed to:
Postal Regulatory Commission
Regarding Order No. 8, Docket No. R2006-1
901 New York Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20268-0001
If you send a letter, send it by overnight express. FedEx, UPS, and DHL are suitable substitutes. Don’t send it by regular First Class Mail. You may also fax your letters to: (202) 789-6886. Or still, you can e-mail your letter using the web-based e-mail option on the PRC Web site at prc.gov/contact.asp
The following is the letter shell...
YOUR COMPANY’S NAME
Members of the Postal Regulatory Commission
Re: Standard Mail Flats
As a [catalog] mailer, I am writing to describe to the Commission the business disaster that my company faces unless the Commission reconsiders and adjusts the rates it has recommended to the Board of Governors applicable to Standard Mail [automation] flats. While we recognize that this unfortunate situation is not entirely of the Commission’s making, the Commission can and it must avert the catastrophe which will fall not only on our company, but upon the postal system as a whole if the current rates applicable to flats are left as the Commission originally proposed.
Our company is engaged in the business of _______________. Although the Postal Service is not the only marketing channel available to us, we rely heavily on the mail to inform consumers about the product(s) that we sell. In all, in 2006 [most recent fiscal year], we mailed approximately ___ flat-shaped pieces. Working closely with our printer and other service providers, we try, to the maximum extent possible, to take full advantage of the workshare discounts offered by the Postal Service. [Elaborate]
When the most recent Rate Case was filed, in May 2006, we anticipated an increase in our rates applicable to flats on the order of [12 percent]. We budgeted accordingly. Even at that level of increase, we projected that our volume of Standard Mail flats would basically remain unchanged [decline] in the period after the new rates took effect. Unfortunately, however, as a result of the Commission’s rates, we face rate increases of _______ times what we expected when the case was filed. Unless those rate increases are moderated significantly, we have no choice: we are going to reduce the volume of mail that we produce by as much as ___percent and we are going to reprogram our marketing budgets into other non-postal channels that, even if they are not as effective as the mail, are considerably less costly and will yield the kind of return on our marketing spend that we need to maintain our business. Once we pull out of the mail, we are very unlikely to come back in future marketing cycles.
We urgently ask the Commission, therefore, to reconsider the rates that it has proposed for catalogs and other flat-shaped mail, particularly automation compatible flat-shaped Standard Mail. We are not trying to affix blame for the consequences that the Commission plainly did not foresee when it issued its Recommended Decision. Apparently, the Commission was led to believe that companies like ________ would be able to convert much, if not all, of our volume into letters to take advantage of the favorable letter rates. That view is divorced from the realities of the marketplace in which we conduct business. In the first instance, there are technical and practical constraints on the conversion of flat-shaped pieces to letters. Some catalogs are simply too thick and, in many cases, a reduction in the paperweight used is not an option. Most importantly, our decision as to the type of mailpiece we use to reach our customers is driven by marketing considerations: it makes no business sense to convert a flat-shaped mail piece into a letter when the letter yields an inferior response rate, particularly when compared with non-postal channels that are even cheaper than letters. In short, at least in our case, unless the flats rates are significantly moderated, there will be an absolute and probably unrecoverable loss of mail volume to the Postal Service.
We therefore urgently request that the Postal Regulatory Commission re-examine the Standard Mail flats rates it has proposed and moderate those increases, not just for the benefit of our company, but also to ensure the viability of the Postal Service. [In common with other mailers, _________ also sends a substantial amount of Standard Letter Mail to customers and prospective customers. From a business perspective, we see no reason and no justification for moderating the flat rates at the expense of letter-shaped mail].
Thank you for allowing us to make our views known on this very important issue.
Please make your voice heard! Happy Easter and Happy Passover.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.