DMA: ‘slim’ chance of postal reform soon

Direct Marketing Association president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen is less than sanguine about the future of the U.S. Postal Service. “Frankly I think our chances of doing anything to have a material effect soon are slim,” he told CATALOG AGE in a one-on-one interview. But he insisted that the lack of progress isn’t from a lack of trying on the DMA’s part.

When asked what, exactly, the DMA has been doing to help stop what he called the Postal Service’s “death spiral,” Wientzen immediately noted that he had attended “over 150 meetings—easily—with all the constituencies that make up the mailing community.” Among the purposes of the meetings: to influence the transformation plan that the USPS recently introduced to Congress; to broker the recent USPS agreement in which the next rate hike was moved up to go into effect on June 30 rather than in the fall, in exchange for a promise that there would not be another increase until 2004; and to help draft the latest postal reform bill from Rep. John McHugh (R-NY).

“I met with senators, the Postal Rate Commission, the postmaster general—I meet with him about every two weeks,” Wientzen said.

Wientzen said that he has also been encouraging the USPS to explore more worksharing possibilities and to team with direct marketers to encourage the approximately 50% of consumers who do not shop by mail to do so. For instance, the DMA has been pushing the Postal Service charge a lower rate for catalogs that are mailed to nonbuyers.

In addition, the DMA has been discussing the ill effects of continuing USPS rate hikes with printing associations and leaders in the paper industry. It’s part of an effort “to get them to take up the cause,” Wientzen said, “so that they’re part of the voice calling for reform.”

Along the same lines, Wientzen has met with the editorial boards of numerous newspapers “to encourage a national dialogue on what’s going on with postal issues.” And in the April 29 issue of “Roll Call,” the house organ of Congress, the DMA placed an ad calling on Congress to make postal reform a priority.

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