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Your Mail Piece has a “License Plate” Now! Be careful you don’t get a ticket…

Submitted by Dave Lewis, Vice President, ProList, Inc.

When the US Postal Service implemented the new Intelligent Mail barcode in 2006, they introduced enough digits to put a unique number on every piece of mail. This is a wonderful thing if you want to track when your mail gets delivered. The only downside is that now that you have a license plate on your mail, you may get a ticket – a penalty for mail that is not prepared properly.

Since 2006, Intelligent Mail has gotten much more complex and bureaucratic. USPS has been attempting implement a variation on Intelligent Mail known as Full-Service. Full-Service requires a great deal of additional preparation and uploading of detailed documentation to the USPS’ data platform PostalOne! (Their exclamation point, not mine.) USPS had attempted to make Full-Service mandatory in January of this year, but that did not go through, but it is almost certain to be required sometime in the coming months. As many organizations that use mail know, part of the information required is a Mailer ID (MID), or Customer Registration ID (CRID) for the mail owner – the organization the mailing benefits, not the mail house. The use of the MID in particular is the key to the “license plate” concept. If your mail gets caught speeding, the mail owner may get a ticket.

OK, we know that it is unlikely that your mail will “speed” at any point, but it may have a blurry barcode. Or be in the wrong tray. Or have an irregularity in its documentation. Or have nothing wrong at all, but still be counted as an error by a somewhat buggy PostalOne! (again, not my exclamation point) platform. This all happens after the mail is in the mail stream, by the way, so no officer witnessed the violation, to stretch the traffic ticket analogy a little thin. And you may have had an agency sub the job to a print buyer, who subbed the job to a mail house who sent it to a presort bureau. So there are a whole lot of possible MIDs for your mail piece, but in most cases the mail owner’s MID will be on the piece and get the “ticket”.

We never said this stuff was simple.

Currently, the Postal Service does not plan on levying any fines until early 2015, but they may be sending out sample invoices to let you know what to look for. There will also be error tolerance thresholds built in, so not every error is a fine. Still, now is the time to start planning. Make sure you understand what MID is going on your mail pieces, and that your mail service provider is well versed in Full-Service and all of Intelligent Mail’s idiosyncrasies. Don’t get caught in a USPS speed trap in 2015!