Randy Weiler, SPC’s Director of Postal Affairs and Logistics, is here to help you navigate the labyrinth of the USPS. What does it take to efficiently move your projects through the USPS system? What efficiencies can you gain from SPC’s lettershop expertise? Who determines postal increases?
Every month, Randy fields your burning questions about mail and postal affairs in a Q&A format. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a question via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #AskRandyUSPS. We post the questions and his answers each month both here on the SPC blog and on social media. To see a full list of questions that Randy has answered, check the Ask Randy Index.
1) Conflicting reports regarding the current and future health of the USPS are rampant. What’s your take on this?
The USPS has been operating at a loss for a number of years. Last year alone, that loss amounted to nearly $9 billion. This being the case, financially the USPS is not very healthy. Some have speculated that without assistance from the government, the USPS may reach financial insolvency as soon as April 2021. It’s hard to know if this dire prediction is true. There’s no doubt maintaining the status quo is unsustainable.
The USPS has completed the requirements lined out in the Cares Act to secure a $10 billion loan. In addition, the US House of Representatives recently passed the Heroes Act, which includes $25 billion in payment to the USPS “for revenue forgone due to coronavirus.” The Heroes Act is currently in the Senate for review and action. It is unclear whether the Senate will pass the Heroes Act, as the Senate majority is not in favor of many of the provisions contained in the Act, including funding for the USPS.
Concerns regarding the USPS’ financial viability are not going to go away. Ultimately Congress is going to have to decide if it can reconcile its apparent desire that the USPS be run more like a business from a financial accountability standpoint with the widely held belief among the citizens that access to affordable six-day per week mail delivery is a basic American right.
2) In a recent statement, the newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy spoke of taking a “fresh look at operations” and being “in search of a new business model” to reduce cost and set up the USPS for the future. What are some examples of where he might focus?
Postmaster DeJoy’s fresh operational approach and new business model has yet to be fully unveiled. There has been a redesign of the USPS Organization chart, which Mr. DeJoy states will “capture operational efficiencies by providing clarity and economies of scale that will allow us to reduce our cost base and capture new revenue.” This reorganization is really not shocking as it is a common first step for Postmaster Generals upon assuming office.
Given Postmaster DeJoy’s transportation background, I feel, it is reasonable for him to focus on mail movement both in operations and transportation. This includes moving zip-code designations, personnel, equipment, and transportation routing.
3) Some of Postmaster DeJoy’s actions have caused politicians and pundits to cry foul. They fear his actions are politically motivated. What are your thoughts?
Postmaster DeJoy, appointed in May 2020, comes into his position with the initiative to “right” the financial status of the USPS by incorporating operational and leadership changes. Unfortunately, the timing of this coincides with an expected record number of mail-in ballots being cast in the 2020 local, state, and national elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there have been recent reports of mail sorting equipment and local USPS Drop Boxes being removed from operation, Postmaster Dejoy announced yesterday that these actions will be halted until after the election. This should allay the concerns of the politicians and pundits.
Regarding voting by mail, the best way to create a high likelihood that your ballot will be counted is to request your mail-in ballot as early as possible, complete your ballot, and mail it back as quickly as you can. In many jurisdictions, mail-in ballots can be returned in person, or deposited into drop boxes, thus eliminating any perceived issues with conventional return by mail.
4) In the short term, what changes has the USPS implemented to rein in costs and are there other reasons behind current mail delays?
One of the first cost-cutting measures implemented by Postmaster DeJoy was a “no-overtime” mandate. This change involves mail not ready for carrier delivery being held until the next day. In the past, carriers would wait for the additional mail to be made ready for delivery or they would come back for another run. In many instances, this would trigger payment of overtime to the carriers. This “no overtime” mandate has resulted in mail moving slower.
SPC is seeing a delivery delay on 7-10% of our client’s mail. The vast majority of this slower delivery occurred after the USPS’s mandate to limit overtime.
Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic is also having an impact on mail delivery. The USPS has stated that they have been able to adjust to staffing shortages due to COVID-19, but it is only logical to assume that a COVID-19 outbreak or flair-up at a USPS facility or within a group of carriers – of which there have been many – will result in delaying or halting mail processing activity.
5) What should SPC clients take away from the latest actions and outlook? Should there be any adjustments for future mailings?
SPC regularly conducts USPS Marketing Class mailings with the intent to limit USPS touches by entering mail at USPS NDC and SCF facilities. This can be accomplished on stand-alone mailings with sufficient volume or via commingle for smaller or multi-segmented mailings. Limiting USPS touches not only mitigates USPS delivery delays, but also saves money on postage.
Beyond this, some adjustments to make moving forward would be to move up the mail date, ask for your mail to be entered into USPS NDC & SCF facilities 1-2 days early, and extend the in-home window by 1-2 days.
For SPC’s customers concerned with the impact of 2020 election mail on their direct mail campaigns, it is reasonable to assume that election mail will delay the delivery of your mailing in particular from October 19th to November 2nd. For mailing campaigns intended to deliver in-home during this time frame, I recommend extending the requested in-home window by two days and extending any offers by one week from what was initially planned.
Slower mail delivery is an evolving situation. SPC is tracking in-home delivery on millions of pieces each week and recommending mailing strategies to our customers to lessen any impact from USPS delivery slowdowns as they become visible.
6) Snickers or Milky Way?
I like them both, but in a pinch, I prefer Snickers over Milky Way. I just like the change in texture provided by the peanuts.
Zoom with Randy on September 3, 2020 at 3:30 CT.
Randy will join us for a zoom session where he can answer any of your questions related to the USPS and current events affecting marketing mail. Seats are limited and spots are filling up quickly, so reach out to your SPC Sales Rep to hold your spot for the call today! We will send the Zoom link and passcode in your confirmation email.
Have Specific Questions About your Mail Programs?
Schedule a call with your sales rep and Randy. They are available to discuss any concerns or questions you may have while you plan for future direct mail campaigns.
Director Postal Affairs and Logistics