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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

New Years Ruminations & Some Good News for Mailers

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 24, 2017 10:05:23 AM

First of all, Happy New Year to all those who follow and read my blog. I wish everyone the best for success and happiness in 2017.  Despite the fact that I write this in a cold weather climate (Boston) and the days are short, there’s always a certain positive energy associated with a new year at least to me. It’s a clean slate; time to refresh the screen and figure out what’s possible.  Of course the figuring-out part is a lot easier than the executing part.  I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck in the mud. Oh well, it’s always worth a try! 

I always wonder how far into January you go before you stop wishing people happy new year. I write this on January 22nd. This will definitely be the last week where I’m extending those wishes.  Don’t ask me why. It just seems about the right time to end it.

Of course before we know it, everyone will be saying, “I can’t believe it’s March/April/May already”.  So the moral is, make the most of 2017 because it will be over before you realize what happened.

One last thing on New Year’s and good intentions; one of the hardy perennial new year’s resolutions is to be more organized. With the amount of raw data most of us are bombarded with each day, I think it’s more important than ever to be able to sort through the never-ending amount of digital messages we receive and still have time to be productive.  My friend Lorena Prime has a very successful company called “Clearly Organized”.  Her website has lots of useful information and Lorena does seminars and consulting for business and individuals.  Lorena’s great and I encourage anyone who has that problem or runs a business where it’s a problem with staff to contact her.

So, as we know everything in life involves trade-offs. The information overload and fatigue it can cause is one side of the coin. The other side is how much great information is out there literally at our fingertips which can help us and save us time and money. 

I happened to come across a great article by Adam Lewenberg of Postal Advocate in Wayland, MA.  Adam writes for Mailing Systems Technology magazine and has analyzed and broken down the new postal rates that have taken effect on January 22nd, 2017. 

Overall, the rate increases are minor and they contain some good news for direct mailers and direct marketers as well as those that supply direct mail printing and printed envelopes for direct mail. 

Perhaps the biggest and best news is that automated (pre-sorted) mail will have a single, flat rate from 1 ounce up to 3.5 ounces.  This will enable marketers to put a lot more in the envelope for the same price.

Adam’s article has a whole bunch of useful information about the new rates along with some tips on how to save money on your next campaign.  Kudos to him for laying this out in such a clear and concise fashion.

So again,  Happy New Year (for the last time in 2017) and may all your direct mail campaigns be smooth and effective!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, direct mail printing, printed envelopes

Envelope Manufacturing at the Smithsonian

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2016 3:22:07 PM

On September 13th, the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum launched a new virtual exhibition, "America's Mailing Industry", telling the story of the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry, which together have helped American citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business for more than 200 years.

old_post_truck_picture.jpg

The website is very well done and contains a great deal of historical information about mail, direct mail, the Post Office and the various businesses that support mail communication and delivery.  With regard to envelope manufacturing there are many interesting tid-bits about how envelopes used to be made (by hand mostly) and the advent of the first machines which could get up to 150 envelopes per hour (!).

Aside from envelope companies, printers are well represented and there’s a neat little summary of the history of printing in the United States marked by the various technological improvements along the way.  There are additional sections on letter shops, paper companies, graphic designers, non-profit fundraisers, newspaper publishers, catalog and mail order companies and many more. Each section has a succinct description of the business, its history and how it relates and the contribution it makes to the flow of mail.

I’ll admit to having some mixed feelings when reading through the site.  Usually when you say something “belongs in the Smithsonian” it means it’s a historical artifact of a bygone era. For instance I’ve driven some cars that looked like they “belonged in the Smithsonian”. (and had a lot of fun driving them I might add).  Those of us in the print, mail and envelope industries spend a lot of time talking about how the industries are still relevant in the digital age – and they are.  Print, paper and mail are still the medium of choice by millions for selling and communicating. But there is that nagging thought that the industries are not what they were 50 or even 20 years ago and that maybe the next step is to start writing the history as if they are in the past tense. 

So seeing our industry featured in a Smithsonian exhibit (in a web site no less!) can stir some of those thoughts.  But the Smithsonian also features exhibits on the aerospace industry and other thriving businesses.  Its purpose is to provide history and context and demonstrate what initiative and ingenuity can do through individual and cooperative effort.

modern_postal_facility.jpg

I urge you to check it out at the link above.  Now it’s time for us in the business to get back to making more history!

Topics: direct mail, post office, envelope manufacturing

New Year’s Envelope, Print & Mail Wishes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 5, 2016 10:18:34 AM

 Happy_New_Year.jpg

 

Random comments on where we sit in 2015 and some hopes for 2016:

2015 was a pretty good year for envelopes and print. Each company has its unique story and set of circumstances but it seems that the print market contraction, greatly exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008/2009, has leveled off with fewer players which was an unfortunate necessity.

The demand for direct mail components is a big part of where the business is coming from these days.  In the past, the ease and negligible cost of e mail led many marketers to believe that they could solicit new clients on the cheap. In most cases, the results confirmed the adage that “you get what you pay for”.  Despite the higher cost, the ROI for direct mail is greater than e mail which has led to an “all of the above” approach with direct mail firmly in the mix.

Social media has become a big part of business marketing – some say an indispensable part.  While I think that’s true for some companies, I don’t think it’s as true in the envelope, printing and direct mail world at least in my experience.  I’m open to being persuaded that Elite Envelope & Graphics should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But I have yet to hear a good argument that takes into account how we (and thousands of companies like us) actually do business on a daily basis. I still believe that my time is better spent speaking to a customer on the phone or meeting or even e mailing with them than Tweeting something out.  Social media stresses a personal connection to the audience. While establishing those close connections where possible and where appropriate have always been a part of building customer loyalty, it isn’t essential in our business.  There’s also the lack-of-time factor: both the time I’d need to spend posting interesting content and the time required by my customers to be checking Facebook or Twitter during work hours in the course of their mostly very busy days.

A noticeable trend in our industries is the movement toward smaller quantities.  The information age allows everyone to be their own corporation with their office in their pocket.  At the same time the revolution in digital printing has “lowered the entry bar” just as the advances in personal and mobile computing have done for start-ups in general. We all need to adjust our business models to be able to produce smaller quantity jobs profitably.

Another boon to the envelope industry in particular related to the many small “Etsy –type” businesses out there is the need for shipping materials.  The demand for heavy duty envelopes like Tyvek and Herculink along with bubble envelopes and board mailers has increased dramatically in the past five years or so.

What end of year blog column would be complete without a New Year’s wish?  Mine is for the Post Office to be reformed in a meaningful way which would allow it be more streamlined and cost effective for the demands of the new century.  As readers of this blog are aware, I favor a complete break-up of the first class mail government monopoly. I think it’s an outdated model and its bloat and inflexibility is a real danger to the direct mail industry which relies on it to move things efficiently at a reasonably competitive cost. While even partial privatization seems like a pipedream, perhaps the younger generation moving into Congress will look at this in a new way and can come up with a compromise that would help ensure the health of direct mail and the envelope and printing businesses that rely on it.

In any event, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. Happy New Year!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes, post office, tyvek envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Best Envelope for Mailing a CD

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 4, 2014 11:34:00 AM

letter in mailbox

 

We all love the Post Office right?  Well maybe not “all” – I don’t think you can get all people to agree on just about anything.  But the United States Postal Service is a grand institution with a long and storied tradition in American history.  These days the Post Office has hit a rough patch in that the amount of first class mail has diminished substantially requiring it to down-size a bit which is never an easy thing for any large organization to do; especially one as bureaucratic and union-driven as our beloved PO.

In previous posts I’ve written in more detail about the efforts by Postmaster Patrick Donahoe to convince his congressional masters of the need for economizing.  I don’t envy his position but I believe he knows what needs to be done to ensure the viability of the Service into the future.

For decades the Postal Service has been incorporating technology to improve the mail and parcel delivery. On the parcel side, they have faced stiff competition from UPS and FedEx among others. That’s all to the good and has helped them whether they want to admit or not.  On the first class mail side, the postal monopoly inhibits the type of innovation which might help to accomplish some of what I’ve alluded to previously. We may see a time when Congress decides to open up the first class mail delivery to bid from private companies. It seems inconceivable but then so did the fall of the Berlin Wall!

But in the meantime, the PO has tried to accommodate mailers and has adjusted its rates to account for the higher costs of certain mail pieces. One of the significant changes over the past several years is the different rates for regular letter sizes versus “flats” which are larger than the typical envelope.  Also as part of this change, the thickness of the piece is now taken into account when calculating rates.

Letter size envelopes are the least expensive way to mail. The maximum dimensions of what’s considered “Letter Size” is 6-1/8 x 11 ½.  The minimum size is 3 ½ x 5 inches. The maximum allowable thickness of the letter size piece is ¼”.  You can obtain a hard plastic template from your local post office which is very convenient for getting exact measurements if you’re unsure.  It looks like this. I have one and I use it all the time.

Which leads me (finally!) to the point of this exercise; the mailing of CDs.  I’m a musician/songwriter in my other professional life and I recently released a new album for which I had 300 CDs made. (Love Radio is the name of the album btw – makes a great Christmas gift!). I’ve been sending individual discs out to radio stations and at first I was using CD size padded envelopes which are great but are A.) Expensive and B.) Not considered letter size which makes the postage rate much higher.  I thought of mailing in a regular envelope but was concerned about the durability of the paper.  I had recently made some #12 envelopes in a 65# cover weight for mailing a small brochure that had a spiral binding and they worked quite well. 

The typical size of a CD is 5 x 5 ½ inches. An A-7 envelope measure 5 ¼ x 7 ¼ inches and has a nice, deep flap which helps secure the item enclosed especially if it’s thick. The thickness of my particular disc package is 3/16” so when enclosed in an A-7 envelope with 65# cover stock it measures exactly ¼”. All of that is within the allowable dimensions for letter size postage.  I saved well over $1.00 per envelope in postage alone not to mention the cost of the padded envelope versus a paper item. 

Now I am a part-owner of an envelope company and can make my own envelopes which admittedly gives me a bit of an advantage over the average consumer.  But a job of the size and scope that I described (I had 500 made) would be around $400. If you look at the savings per envelope versus a padded mailer with the attendant higher postage cost, it’s actually a better deal. Plus they are smaller, easier to store and handle and look nicer.

I’ve been randomly asking people I mailed CDs to on the West Coast how the package looked when it arrived and everyone said it looked fine. I’ve even sent some to Europe with no problems.   You could most likely get by with something lighter than the cover weight stock – like 100# text weight for instance – which might be more available or a little less expensive.

Knowing the rules of the road from the Post Office can help save you some money. Also, it’s good to have a contact with an envelope converter and envelope expert.  We’re here if you need us

Topics: post office, envelope printing, envelope converting, mailing a CD, CD envelopes

Checking the Mail – The Next Generation

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 11, 2014 12:22:00 PM

 

Elite Envelope & Graphics blog photoRemember that AOL feature that excitedly said, “You’ve got mail” whenever e mails showed up in your in-box?  Yes, recently I was reminiscing about the dark ages of the mid 1990’s when I first started regularly using electronic mail on my Gateway pc (the one with the cow markings on the box!).  Hearing that instantly recognizable voice used to impart a bit of a thrill. You didn’t know what was in your in-box but you were about to find out.

Going way back to the Stone Age; i.e. my early youth, I remember getting a similar thrill when the postman would slip the mail through the slot in our front door and I’d hear it dropping on the foyer floor.  Even though I rarely got anything with my name on it in those days, it was still fun to collect the daily mail and look at the envelopes (mostly envelopes with content in those days, not many cards or “mail pieces” as I recall) before I put them on the kitchen counter for my parents and grandparents to sort out. 

When I got a bit older and would spend a couple of summer weeks at Camp Ocawasin in northern New Jersey, getting letters from home was a very big deal and looked forward to with great anticipation and excitement.  The mail was distributed after dinner by one of the camp leaders. He would call everyone individually to come claim his letter. It was understood that if you received more than three letters in one day, you’d be carried outside and thrown into the lake with your clothes on.  I remember writing home imploring my family to spread out the mail so that I never had to suffer this indignity. 

I still have those letters I received at summer camp as well as the ones I wrote home which my mother saved along with everything else and which I retrieved after she died. I also have letters I wrote home and received while away at college in the late 1970’s and later when I got married and started raising my kids.   Occasionally I will read them and be instantly transported to times long ago the specifics of which I would probably only vaguely recall 

And that brings me to the point (yes it’s coming, I swear!) which is simply this:  what will future generations review to garner a glimpse of their past?   Right now they’re immersed in their smart phones; texting, Instagramming, Snapchatting, etc. at every moment, albeit the virtual moment for the most part.  How much of all this incessant back and forth will be available to them twenty years from now?  Probably none of it. I find it interesting that this current generation which spends more time chronicling their every thought and action in excruciating detail will most likely have no record of it whatsoever for their later stages in life.

In order to keep the envelope converting, envelope printing, direct mail, paper and web printing industries viable for the long term, we need to establish some connection between the young folks of today and the written word; i.e. the ink and paper variety.  In order to do that, they need a good reason.  

Here’s my suggestion – free of charge! – to the PR department at the US Postal Service: start a campaign aimed at grammar school aged kids encouraging them to write letters to each other. The content of the letters would just be a recap of what they’re up to and how they feel about it all.  It could be part of a contest where the best written letters win prizes judged by individual teachers.  In order for the letters to qualify for the contest, they would have to be put in an envelope with a first class stamp and mailed to a friend or family member.  A copy of the letter must also be kept by the writer in a file at home.

You might say, writing a letter: how old-school!  Well yes, but also a novelty to today’s youth, no?  The program could be conducted over a five year period with multiple letters written during each school year. Then, after the fifth year, the kids would write a paper reviewing how their lives have changed during that time based on a review of their letters.  How hard can it be to have kids write about themselves?  And after five years I’m sure some will have that “a-ha” moment where they realize that it’s kind of cool to be able to go back and see what you were doing and thinking at various points in your life. 

You might just see your kids excited about what’s coming through the mail slot again: not a bad thing for them or those of us who make a living making that happen.

 

Your thoughts and feedback are, as always, much appreciated.

 

Topics: write a letter, post office, envelope printing, envelope converting, direct mail printing

Tyvek Envelopes Can Help Offset Postal Increases – (part 2)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 14, 2014 11:35:00 AM

In my In my previous post, I recapped the current travails of our Postal Service.   It’s fashionable I suppose to regard the Post Office as some relic of a benighted past before all the wonderful digital machines were invented. Yes, there’s no doubt that the USPS suffers from the same type of bureaucratic/political sclerosis that infects most government-run entities.  There’s a built-in bias against change; especially as it relates to staffing levels.  This makes it less nimble and able to adapt to an ever-changing economy which in a nutshell is why they find themselves grossly in debt and struggling to make the necessary adjustments.

While all the political machinations can be interesting (or tedious), those of us in businesses that in some way rely on a functioning post office are, unlike government, forced to deal with the reality of pleasing customers and making a buck.  So how do we cope with increasing postal rates and still “get the mail out”?

One way is to incorporate Tyvek envelopes into the mix.  Now I hear you screaming, “But Tyvek is soooo expensive!”  Well, calm down my friend.  Yes, Tyvek is a lot more expensive than regular paper envelopes but it has one property that makes it well worth considering for mailings; it’s lighter than paper. It’s not only lighter, but a lot lighter; so much so that it can make up for all of the increased cost and then some in reduced mailing costs as the chart below shows.      

 describe the image

 Dupont’s Tyvek has been around for many years and has a reputation for durability and functionality in the mailing world. It’s virtually impossible to tear which makes it ideal for mailing anything that has rough or sharp edges; like a spiral bound booklet for instance.  It’s also water resistant which ensures it will hold up and look better when delivered especially if it’s raining!

Tyvek also has a smooth finish and has a more upscale look and feel than regular paper. It carries a message for the recipient that the sender believes strongly enough in what he’s sending to have spent a little extra which can never hurt.

And, perhaps surprisingly, Tyvek is 100% recyclable. A nationwide recycling program collects used envelopes and recycles them into other useful materials. Tyvek itself is contains an average of 10% post-industrial waste content.

So while there may be nothing we can do to help the Post Office except perhaps contact our elected representatives and urge them to do something, you can take matters in your hands to improve the bottom line on your next large envelope mailing.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, tyvek envelopes, post office problems, direct mail solutions, tyvek mailing advantages

Fixing the Post Office and Saving Direct Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 4, 2013 9:06:00 AM

old fashioned post office photo

In my last post, I listed some of the factors contributing to the huge drop in overall mail volume and the sorry fiscal state of the US Postal Service.  Certainly the two are related; any business that sees a precipitous decline in its customer base due to factors somewhat out of its control is going to suffer.

However, this is not the first time a business has declined due to new technologies or its own inefficiency. IBM was once the center of the mainframe computing universe; until personal computing and the incredible advances in microchip technology revolutionized the market. Big Blue’s leadership was supplanted by Apple, Microsoft, Intel and a host of other companies but over time it remained viable by reinventing itself and today remains a major player in the high tech world

Can the Post Office pull off the same transformation as IBM?  Certain factors weigh heavily against that outcome. First and foremost is that there is no free, competitive market for first class mail delivery. The USPS holds a monopoly on this service and in the present statist era it seems unlikely that the federal government would loosen the reins and allow other companies to compete and provide this service as it did successfully with parcel delivery. 

A major factor in IBM’s decline was the 13 year-long antitrust suit initiated by the Justice Department. The after-effects of this litigation paved the way for other companies to compete on equal footing which helped give rise to the proliferation of desk top computing. Antitrust law is based on the premise that monopoly power in any business is not good for the consumer. Of course the government reserves the right to a double-standard but its own monopolies are just as bad.  

What would be the result of eliminating the monopoly on letter delivery? We are told that companies would simply cherry-pick the most profitable routes - mostly those in densely populated urban areas – and would leave the rest of the population to pay higher delivery rates. We usually hear this from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The problem is the status quo is unsustainable. 

One thing we know about markets is that when people are free to come up with solutions, customer demands are generally met. None of us can predict with any certainty what would happen in the aftermath of a post office breakup. But we can look to the coexistence of UPS, FedEx and the Post Office in parcel delivery as a possible model for a better future.  Maybe we will need a drastically scaled-down version of the Post Office to continue to service rural areas on a subsidized basis.  Maybe the companies that bid for the prime routes will have to accept some of the burden to serve those areas in the same way that cities require developers of prime property to include parks and other public accommodations. Regulated utilities are required to allow smaller, private companies to supply power to households and businesses at a reduced rate. Maybe we can use the existing mail delivery infrastructure to facilitate something like that.

One thing is certain; without some type of radical reform, the taxpayers will be paying billions to bail out a once proud and once necessary institution. Additionally, the companies and individuals in the printing, mailing and envelope industries who rely in large measure on the post office will suffer due to increased costs and declining service.

As always, your comments are very much appreciated and welcome.

Topics: direct mail, post office, printing and envelopes, postal monopoly, post office problems, envelope industry

The Post Office and the Envelope Industry – Part One

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 6, 2013 12:43:00 PM

As anyone who keeps up with current events is aware, the United States Postal Service is in a very bad way.

The price of a first class stamp has just gone up again to 46 cents. If only that solved the problem, then we’d just accept it and move on. However, the Post Office posted a $15.9 billion dollar loss for the fiscal year that just ended in September 30th of 2012. And if that’s not enough bad news for you, they are declaring that they will be out of cash sometime around October of 2013 unless something is done.

As the chart below demonstrates, (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal) the volume of first class mail has seen a precipitous decline in the past ten years. The number of pieces mailed is now about half of what it was in 2002.

Mail Service decline graph

Now obviously the digital world has made a serious dent in the number of pieces mailed. Companies are saving money by pushing their customers to pay their bills and receive statements on-line.  Financial service companies which used to mail huge numbers of proxy statements and prospectuses are now going digital. Back in the 1980's, I was a bank purchasing officer and we bought huge amounts of paper and printing much of which is no longer necessary because of the personal computing revolution. You can’t stop companies from reducing their costs through greater efficiency; especially when it’s what most of their customers find more convenient.

Another significant factor in the decrease in mail is the lousy economy of the past four years. The so-called recovery we have been experiencing is tepid at best with growth that doesn’t even keep up with the increase in new people entering the job market. While the movement away from certain kinds of mail would have happened regardless, robust economic growth would mitigate some of the pain for envelope and printing companies.

In its attempt to cut costs, the Post Office has slowed down first class mail delivery and is considering cutting Saturday delivery service. This is probably the worst possible way to deal with the problem. We are in the age of instant gratification courtesy of those same computers that are driving down the mail business. A recent article in the Boston Globe references a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project concerning people under the age of 35 and the dangers of their hyper connected lives with this warning:  “Negative effects include a need for instant gratification and loss of patience”.   So at the same time that Gen X and Gen Y are moving away from mail partly due to the time involved, the Post Office decides to make us wait longer. Great.

As I’ve suggested in previous posts, the politics surrounding Post Office reform will make it virtually impossible to fix.  Yet, the best solution  for direct mailers and the many small businesses that serve them would be to abolish the government monopoly on first class mail service and allow private companies to compete for that service in the same way that FedEx and UPS have done for parcel delivery.  That would allow direct mailers who provide the biggest chunk of concentrated business for the post office to receive preferred rates which would drive down the cost of direct mail and keep it strong along with the printers and envelope companies who provide the components.

In my next post, I’ll delve into the politics in a bit more detail and also flesh out a simple proposal for reform.  As always, your comments are most appreciated.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, printing and envelopes, postal monopoly, post office problems, envelope industry, declining mail volume

Envelope Printing Tip: Intelligent Bar Code Explained

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 11, 2012 11:27:00 AM

Elite Envelope Intelligent Bar Code photo

In a posting in the Federal Register on May 3rd, 2012 under the heading “POSTNET Barcode  Discontinuation,” the Postal Service set a deadline of January 28, 2013 to convert all barcodes to the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) format.

The previous deadline set by the Post Office was postponed due to complaints from some mailers about the cost to retrofit printers and a lack of time to prepare. Since then, the Postal Service has been encouraging mailers to switch over to the IMb with the idea that it will become mandatory eventually.  That date has now been set and it seems highly unlikely that the Post Office would postpone final implementation a second time despite the fact that some mailers are still not happy according to some of the comments on the Federal Register.

IMb has already been in use for some time by many mailers. The Postnet barcode has been in use for decades and contained the actual carrier routing code which allowed for speedier mail delivery; a boon for mailers at the time.  The Intelligent Bar Code allows for the same information plus the ability to identify the mailer, tracking information on the mail piece and data on the type of mail services pertaining to the piece: i.e. Forwarding Service, Return Service, etc.

From the standpoint of a printer or envelope company, converting a customer’s Postnet barcode to the IMb is an easy matter.  It’s just a different graphic image to reproduce with no special inks or anything unusual required. Elite Envelope uses its local (excellent) Post Office reps to supply a PDF of the IMb. Once the file is received, we make a new plate and we’re good to go.

For those using laser printers to spray the barcode on outgoing pieces, there could be some difficulties converting to the IMb.  Some of those difficulties might involve updating software while others could require newer equipment. While it’s never fun having to be forced to invest in new equipment, the benefits to the customer with the IMb are significant and it’s not as if this has just been sprung on the industry. Anyone in the mailing business has been aware of this eventual new requirement for years and should have been making provisions for implementation.

For the print and mail industry, anything that gives end-users better, faster service is a necessary and welcome development. In order to compete with digital communication, we need to be able to provide as many advantages as possible. The IMb increases the value of printing and mailing. How is that not a good thing?

Topics: post office, envelopes and the post office, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, intelligent barcode conversion, intelligent bar code

Envelopes, the Post Office and Ma Bell: – Part 1

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 27, 2011 11:28:00 AM

We left our usual package of homemade cookies and wine for Dave, our mailman this Christmas. He responded as he usually does with a thank-you card including a handwritten note.  He gives us great service throughout the year and, as the saying goes, is not deterred by “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night”… (Although I have to say I don’t see Dave much at night. We’ll chalk that part up to poetic license).

The 6 day week of mail delivery by the regular mail carrier is a fixture of our culture and only one of the many reasons why it would be very difficult to sell a private mail service to the American public. The mail has been immortalized in art and song and goes back to the founding of America. For many, in a world of increasing complexity and depersonalization, the constancy and daily contact that many have with the “mailman” harkens back to a simpler time.

Norman Rockwell jolly postman resized 600

However, many of the same feelings and connections were associated with the monopoly that AT&T had on telecommunications for most of the 20th century. How many scenes in the movies involved those old, black telephones and the battery of operators who connected the calls?  Wasn’t there something reassuring about dialing “O” from any phone and being able to speak to a live person who could give you a number or answer your questions?  Everyone had that spot in their kitchen or pantry for the monstrous phonebook including the yellow pages which were so handy.

These days, with cell phones so universal and inexpensive, even in the poorest countries, coupled with rate plans that make the average call a fraction of what it once cost under the regulated system, the days of Bell Telephone being the only game in town seems unthinkable.  I have kept a telephone with a cord in my attic so my 12 year old daughter can see what it was like. It’s right next to the gigantic metal calculator my Dad bought in the 1960’s and not far from the turntable my mother had that played 78’s: all relics from the past.

Sad to say, but the Postal Service is now also a relic from days gone by. Times are changing but as with all huge public bureaucracies, adapting to change is never high on the list of priorities. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Social Security system. When the program was first proposed and enacted in the 1930’s, the retirement age was set at age 65. At that time, the average life expectancy for a man was below 65.  Fast forward 75 years to the present when the average man lives well into his late 70’s, and the retirement age for Social Security is still age 65.  As a result of this and other factors, the system is going broke.  Anyone who dares suggest that we adjust the retirement age to reflect current realities even slightly  is met with howls of protest or worse from the vested interests of the current system.

Even though the amount of first class mail has decreased substantially in the past 20 years, there are billions of envelopes that need to be delivered.  We still need the mail for a variety of reasons, most notably to facilitate the advertising/fundraising function of direct mail. However, there is no longer any reason to perpetuate a government-sponsored monopoly to provide this function. In fact, doing so could do much more harm than good.

More on this later.

Topics: direct mail, envelopes, post office, postal monopoly, declining mail volume

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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