Washington—Catalogers, facing steeper-than-expected postage increases in May, had little reason to celebrate. Nonetheless, a festive atmosphere, including live jazz from the New Washingtonians, pervaded the Convention Center ballroom here before Monday’s keynote address by Postmaster General John E. Potter that kicked off the first full day at the National Postal Forum.
Stressing teamwork and at times referring to his love of basketball, Potter noted that “we’re planning for the future with a completely different playbook. Our ultimate goal remains the same: quality service at an affordable rate. We’ve entered a new world. Dialogue is key. Today communication is more important than ever to shape our future. We have to depend on each other. As we go forward, we’re going to have to work together. No one group is going to have it their way. The time for dialogue and compromise is now.”
Those words provide small comfort to catalogers, who are staring down the barrel of a potential 40% price hike—twice as much as the USPS had recommended in its original rate case. In its subsequent recommendation, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) had upped the increases for Standard Mail flats, the classes that most affects catalogers. In its March 19 vote on the rate case, the Postal Service Board of Governors approved the increases but sent the section on Standard flats—which it approved “under protest”—back to the PRC for reconsideration. Although there is no official timetable for a response from the PRC, industry experts have said they don’t think the PRC will make any drastic changes.
Potter is well aware of the rate hike’s potential devastating effect on catalogers, especially the smaller ones. “We’re hoping the commission can act quickly,” he says. “We want to work with you so you can lower your costs so you can stay in the mail.” Potter mentioned that some catalogers are considering folding their titles and mailing them as letters, and others are looking at shrinking their catalogs to digest size.
Among other topics Potter touched on in his keynote address were the new “forever” stamp, featuring a picture of the Liberty Bell, which was officially unveiled. As for whether another rate case will filed under the current rules, before the postal reform legislation passed last year goes into effect next year: “Too early to tell,” he said.