Mailers Face a May Postal Hike

The U.S. Postal Service, in its first increase under the new postal reform rules, will raise its rates on May 12 by low single-digit percentages.

“Based upon our preliminary review, the average rate increase for standard mail is slightly less than 2.9%, which is equal to the rate of inflation over the last 12 months,” said Jerry Cerasale, the Direct Marketing Association’s senior vice president for government affairs, in a statement.

Even more critically, catalogers apparently are being spared the worst.

For standard mail flats as a whole, the increase is about 1.67%. However, for the non-carrier route flats, the category that experienced the largest increase last year, the hike is only 0.86%, said USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer.

Cerasale lauded the USPS for keeping the increases in line at a time when catalog mail volume has fallen 13% below the level of this time last year.

Catalogers were hit hardest in last year’s postal rate case, with many facing increases from 20% to 40%.

On the direct mail side, the new rate for a five-digit automated letter weighing 3.3 ounces or less is $0.225. A similar letter weighing more than that will cost $0.733. A non-automated letter weighing 3.3 ounces or less will rise to $0.343.

Meanwhile, the price of a first class stamp will jump from 41 cents to 42 cents. For the full rate schedule, click here (www.usps.com/prices/).

But mailer advocates warned that some mailers may be hit worse than others.

“In each class they have the flexibility to raising certain subclasses of products higher and some less than the Consumer Price Index so that the average across the board is 2.9%,” said Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.

However, Conway said he preferred this new system created under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) to the previous one. In the rate hike in 2007, some nonprofit mailers experienced rate hikes as high as 200%, he said.

“The rate increase will go into effect without mailers having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to participate in a rate case,” agreed Bob McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council.

McLean noted that while the current rate of inflation may exceed 2.9%, the PAEA uses the inflation rate of the past quarter or two to determine the rate of inflation on which to base postal hikes.

“Any increase is significant to mailers, and nobody’s happy about this but it certainly is easier to plan for,” he said. “The Postmaster General told mailers several months ago to expect an increase in May or June and this is a far better system than the one we had prior to the passage of postal reform.”

Cerasale added that the DMA is “pleased that these postal rate changes do not portend the time-consuming and costly litigation of an old-style rate case.”

Are there any quibbles?

“Unfortunately they didn’t include the before and after charts which are typically very helpful for us to look up individual rates and see how much they went up and what they were before,” Conway said. He predicted that he and his staffers would have a busy night crunching numbers.

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