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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Going Boldly Postal – Pushing the Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 28, 2015 11:10:00 AM

Postman Zoolander

 

Just got finished reading an article from Newsweek (I thought they were out of business!). The article is entitled “Do We Need a Postal Service?” and is written by Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute; a Washington D.C. think tank.

It’s an interesting piece, filled with data about the Post Office’s indebtedness (maxed out at $15 billion), unfunded medical benefits liability ($50 billion and counting), inadequate capital investment (140,000, 20 year old vehicles in need of replacement) along with the same sad song about its inability to modernize and adapt to a greatly reduced mail volume caused mostly by widespread preference for digital communication.

The tease of the article’s headline gives way to some hedging by Kosar on why the Post Office couldn’t be completely eliminated. He also avoids taking direct responsibility for his implied conclusion by saying the “public” views the Postal Service as a “pointless, environmentally harmful anachronism” which they therefore would be reluctant to bail out once the gargantuan bills come due. 

Certainly those bills will come due and need to be paid and that is a huge problem for the service and ultimately the taxpayers. Unlike a private enterprise which has to be competitive and answer to stockholders, the postal monopoly just keeps rolling along beholden to its political masters; very few of whom have any desire to upset any of their constituencies who might complain about commonsense reforms like doing away with Saturday delivery and closing unnecessary post offices.  The largest single constituency is the postal union which of course will not take kindly to any significant lay-offs or cuts in pay or benefits.

Kosar succumbs to the canard that mail is an environmentally harmful exercise because it cuts down trees which are turned into paper in factories that pollute the air and then delivered in old trucks that do the same.  I’ve never quite understood why some people think that growing trees and then harvesting them for paper is such a bad thing.  New tree growth is an unequivocal positive for the environment. The more paper that’s consumed, the more new trees need to be grown to meet the demand.  On the environmental argument I’d say “don’t get me started” but that’s obviously too late. I’ve posted several times on that topic if you’re interested.

But the larger question is how best to provide the mail delivery service that we still need.  You can make the argument that much of what’s delivered (direct mail advertising) isn’t really a “need” but you can also make the argument that we should all ride bicycles and take public transportation and not drive cars.  The fact is that while the amount of first-class mail has declined significantly over the past couple of decades, there are still billions of letters and packages that need to be delivered.  I don’t think it matters whether those letters are now primarily marketing-related rather than love notes or letters from camp.  There is a market for mail delivery services and that needs to be serviced.

Is the Post Office as presently constituted the best way to do that?  I think not. In an ideal, non-political world (yeah, right!) we’d have private companies competing to deliver the first class mail just as we do for packages.  Pricing would mostly likely be based on the destination and if you lived in a remote area, it would cost more to send you mail which is how it should be.

While that utopian scenario seems far-fetched, ironically I think that the same technology which has caused the mail to be less important than it used to be will actually allow it to be delivered more efficiently in the future. The direct marketing industry should be a driver for Post Office reform rather than defending the status-quo as it too often does.

I also think the country could do with many more hand-written love letters!

What do you think?

Topics: direct mail, postal monopoly, post office problems, paper and trees

Pushing the Envelope against a Snow Bank

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 10, 2015 3:15:00 PM

snowstorm picture

 

Do I have your attention? If you live in most of the United States outside of the west coast, Florida and, interestingly, parts of Alaska, you have just about had enough of winter this year.  I happen to be writing this from the Boston area which has been the epicenter of snow, ice dams, parking-space wars and freezing cold temperatures this year. 

 

As much as I’d like to kvetch a bit about the weather, I’ll resist the temptation. The extra hour of daylight we now have is putting me in a better mood and besides this blog is supposed to be about making and printing envelopes and web printing.  So, I’ll take advantage of the early onset of spring fever on a 50 degree day to clean out some thoughts that have been hanging around all winter.

  • Hard to believe but commercial digital printing has only been around for a little over 20 years. While there have been tremendous strides made in the technology and it’s become the standard for small quantity, quick turn printing not to mention personalized direct mail, digital still represents less than 20% of the total print market by some estimates.  How much that increases over time will be an interesting market study pitting convenience against quality.  That’s not to say that digital printing doesn’t produce excellent quality. But when held up against offset, there’s no comparison at least to my eye. When audio CDs hit the market, it wasn’t long before vinyl records were hard to find.  I think if digital printing were going to make the same inroads versus offset, it would have happened by now. 

  • A few weeks ago the Boston Globe featured an article about how the Grateful Dead were planning one final tour this summer. The fact that they are doing a concert without Jerry Garcia is odd enough. But perhaps the most interesting aspect is that they were giving hardcore fans the option to order tickets by mail before they went on sale online. According the article (sorry I couldn’t find the link) it was a huge success and there were pictures of tie-died clad office workers moving about trays of envelopes received from fans and then sending the tickets back in the mail.  Given the average age of Dead fans, along with the assumption of their, shall we say, uniqueness, it’s not hard to see how this could be a successful tactic for ensuring that the hardcore fans (presumably those who still know how to include a stamped, self-addressed reply envelope) get first crack at the seats.  Might be a nice gimmick for other summer tours.

  • Haven’t written about the Post Office in a while but since we passed Groundhog Day a month or so ago I thought I’d report that the news is basically the same as it ever was.  On the plus side, operating revenue increased over 9% which was on top of the 8% or so increase from the previous year. This was pretty much all due to increased revenue from package delivery. However, the Service incurred a net loss of over $5 billion which is roughly the same as the year before and the year before that.  And yes, the Post Office blames the deficit on the fact that they have to fund a significant portion of their retiree health care costs rather than carry them on their books as an unfunded liability. They have been assigning this blame for many years as well.   Is anyone else hearing the faint strains of “I Got You Babe” in the background?

  • Lastly, here’s to the truck drivers and package delivery personnel (yes, that includes you guys at the Post Office – you do a fine job!) who have struggled mightily over the past couple of months or so in the greater Boston area trying to make the deliveries and commitments that we and many of our customers count on. It’s been tough getting around not to mention trying to back into a loading dock or parking lot. We appreciate all you do and couldn’t run our business without you.

Happy almost spring!

 

Topics: post office problems, pushing the envelope, web printing, digital envelope printing

Post Office Keeps Trying – Direct Mail World Keeps Hoping

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 27, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The ongoing mess at Veteran’s Administration hospitals across the country is yet another example of the futility of providing necessary services through a bureaucratic, unionized government monopoly.  In a market-based enterprise, the imperative of good customer service is driven by entrepreneurial energy, the desire for upward mobility and profits as well as competitive pressure.  In the government model, these factors are virtually non-existent and instead are replaced by an unholy alliance of rent-seeking politicians, interest groups, corporate supplicants and union bosses whose primary mission is to preserve the jobs of their members at all costs.

The latter factor was on painful display recently in a recent article in the BostonGlobe entitled “Postal Union Targets Staples over Mail Services Program”.  In 2013, the Post Office entered in a deal with Staples to put small customer centers in 82 of the office supply company’s retail locations.  The mini-postal counters would provide most of the services available at Post Offices.  “Customers like it because it’s more convenient and we’re open longer hours,” said a Staples spokesman.  Sounds like a reasonable plan to provide better service at a lower cost from an enterprise that lost “only” $5 billion in 2013; the seventh straight year of huge losses for the Post Office.

 Well apparently it’s not reasonable to the Postal Workers Union who’ve been picketing Staples stores with signs that read “The US Mail is Not For Sale” (?).  The article points out that the USPS already has deals with over 3,600 small businesses throughout the country to provide basic postal services. I’m guessing that a big, fat corporate target like Staples provides a more useful foil for the protests than the small independently-owned pharmacy. 

 While I’ve been critical of the Post Office in previous posts, I’m a fan of the present Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe who’s been trying to bring the costs of the Post Office in line with current revenues which have been trending downward for many years.  The Staples deal is just the latest attempt to bring about a win-win with two entities that have been struggling with the trend away from paper and mail. The union was able to scuttle a similar deal with Sears decades ago. They are now gearing up to increase the pressure through the teachers and other large unions.  Will Staples management eventually cave?  Will the union ever be realistic about the need for the Post Office to balance its budget for their own long-term survival?  Pardon me for being pessimistic about the likely answers to those questions.

The real victims here, besides the taxpayers who must continue to fund the Post Office deficits, are the direct mail, print and envelope industries which continue to swim against the tide of higher paper costs and postal rates.  According to a recent article in the DMA newsletter, second quarter periodical mailing volume decreased 7.8%. This follows a recent rate increase of 5.9% passed by the Postal Rate Commission late in 2013.  At that time, many in the direct mail industry protested that the increase would depress volume. The Post Office responded that mail rates were “inelastic” or mostly irrelevant to the mailing industry.

Direct Mail Elite Envelope & Graphics

The recent drop in catalog mailing volume may be an anomaly and small increases in mailing costs may not have significant short-term impact. But unless we suspend the basic laws of economics, prices do matter and they will affect the decisions of mailers to mail, printers to print and envelope makers to convert to some extent at some point.  Those effects will be mostly negative unless the Post Office can find ways to end-run Congress and implement the necessary cost-savings measures.

In the meantime: stay strong Staples!

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

Post Office Drama Continues - Any Direct Mail Solutions? (Part 1)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 27, 2014 2:06:00 PM

 

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Direct Mail Solutions,

As you're probably aware, the US Postal Service raised the rate of a first class letter by 3 cents on Jaunuary 24th 2014.  I say “probably” since fewer people are relying on first class mail delivery these days although the number of those who do is still substantial.

This was the largest single increase in a while. Typically the increases have been in the penny range. The main reason for this is because it’s such an ordeal for the Postal Service to get any kind of rate increase or service reduction through the excruciating bureaucratic and congressional oversight process. After going through all the necessary motions, the wisdom is to make the increase as small as possible for appearance sake. 

An example of the ridiculous hoops the USPS has to jump through is that, according to, CNN Money, The Postal Regulatory Commission only approved the recent increase for two years at which point they will have to re-evaluate it. Given the amount of red-ink in which the Service currently treads, does anyone really think they will reduce the prices back to 2013 levels in 2016?  Is it really necessary to even go through that charade? Such is life in bureaucratic hell - wonder if Dante would have created a unique circle for that one.

As every business owner knows, when you’re going broke you’ve got to raise prices or cut staff or service. Since cutting staff with a government monopoly-style union is virtually impossible, cutting service or raising prices are really the only options. To be fair, the PO has been aggressively incentivizing early retirement in order to reduce payroll.  However, that also causes the very generous federal pension benefits to kick-in which I’m guessing reduces savings on a net basis. 

The USPS lost “only” $5 billion last year. That’s a lot less than in recent years; in part due to the 8% increase in parcel deliveries compared to the previous year.  But it is simply added to the debt burden incurred during those previous years as revenues are still nowhere close to where they would need to be in order to sustain the Postal behemoth. The Postal Service has been cutting back on processing facilities to account for the reported fact that nearly 2 billion fewer pieces of mail delivered in 2013 compared to 2012.  However, there are still far too many local post offices and many other ways they could and should cut back if they were allowed to truly run like the independent business they claim to be.

The spin usually given for the fiscal woes of the USPS is that Congress has forced them to fully fund their pension liability. Given the enormous amounts that will be paid out to retirees in the next few decades that seems very fiscally prudent to me. If only Congress would handle its own federal debt in such a manner; too much to ask I suppose.

No, the Post Office and Congress simply have to face the fact that mail delivery will never be what it once was. That means either allowing for privatization of the service (the best option in my opinion) or making the necessary cuts and adjustments to allow a smaller Postal Service to operate profitably and still deliver the large amounts of mail and packages it will handle for the foreseeable future.

And speaking of mail, as I’ve pointed in previous posts, the percentage of direct mail continues to increase relative to the overall mail volume. We see a lot of that at Elite Envelope and Graphics both on our envelope converting equipment and web printing side where we make and print many of the components that go inside the envelopes we produce.  Direct mail continues to be an effective way for companies to promote and sell their wares. 

But how can companies combat the higher postal rates and still mail at a competitive cost?  We have a couple of tricks up our sleeve that we’ll share in our next post. Stay tuned!  And as always, your comments are much-appreciated.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope converting, post office problems, direct mail solutions, direct mail printing, web printing

Cold Web Printing and Direct Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 17, 2013 11:07:00 AM

The recent announcement of a second bankruptcy filing by National Envelope Corporation has put envelopes, and to a lesser extent direct mail back in the news.  National first filed Chapter 11 in 2010. At that time they were taken over by a private equity company,the Gores Group in hopes that they could turn around their fortunes.  Plants were closed, hundreds of workers were laid off and some severe methods were employed to boost productivity.  Three years later, it appears they have not been able to accomplish their mission.

This is sad news for the remaining 1,600 employees spread throughout the country. At this writing the company is saying they are looking for a buyer and are encouraged at the response they are getting.  However, I think it’s safe to say that National Envelope’s future form will be significantly changed from its present state. 

It seems that the only time envelopes and direct mail make any kind of national news is when there’s a plant closing or when the financial woes of the Post Office are discussed. The Post Office’s problems are well-documented and we’ve written about them here in our blog on numerous occasions.  Generally the press accounts in both cases focus on the significant drop in first class mail due to the digital revolution and then infer that this means paper mail is on the way out.

Anyone in the industry knows that while the total amount of mail has decreased, the mailing industry is alive and well and, in many cases, thriving. Much of the decline in first class mail has come from the financial sector. More folks are paying bills, receiving statements and prospectuses and submitting documents on their computers. Automation has also affected envelope usage.  Many bank ATMs now allow a customer to simply insert a check for deposit without the envelope. In many cases the envelopes used in those transactions were purchased in bulk quantities and their decrease has affected companies more adept at producing large volume orders at commodity-level pricing. One of those companies is National Envelope.

Elite Envelope direct mail

As we’ve written about here, direct mail remains one of the most cost-effective ways to reach an audience and generate sales.  As the overall amount of first class mail declines, the percentage of direct mail increases and this trend has resumed after a decline during the worst years of the recent recession.

Marketers are finding that while e mail blasts have their use, they do not produce the type of measurable results obtained from a well-designed and executed direct mail campaign.

We believe that companies which can serve the direct mail industry in the most efficient, flexible and service-intensive way will be those that survive and prosper in the future. That was one of the main reasons why Elite Envelope joined forces with Web Corp,the full-service cold web printer late in 2012. Cold web printing is perfect for direct mail; allowing companies to produce full color components with superb quality at very competitive prices. The combination of cold web printing and envelope converting and envelope printing under the same roof gives direct mailers an edge.

 

We welcome your comments about the future of the direct mail and envelope industry and the type of company required to thrive in the new climate.  

Topics: direct mail, four color envelope printing, elite envelope, elite envelope, post office problems, e mail and direct mail, cold web printing, direct mail printing

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, postal monopoly, post office problems, envelope industry, printing and envelopes

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

Holiday Print and Envelope Wishlist

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:00 AM

Letter to Santa Elite Envelope

Well, 2012 is almost behind us:  another year of challenges and ups and downs but hopefully more than your share of success.  The printing and envelope industries continue to either decline or evolve depending on your outlook. I prefer the latter. While there’s no question that far fewer envelopes are being mailed today as opposed to ten years ago, direct mail has remained a vibrant and attractive tool to marketers.  New digital technologies have made personalized mail affordable.  Improved four color envelope printing equipment and technology has moved process printing firmly into the mainstream.

As I write this we are facing the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  My 13-year-old daughter wanted to sleep over a friend’s house to mark the occasion which was fine with me. I could use some peace and quiet before the end of time. So who knows if you’ll even be around to read this?  Just in case, here are some of my fervent hopes and wishes for 2013.

  • I wish that companies in our industry and in general would be less timid about wishing customers “Merry Christmas”.  I understand that businesses tend to be risk averse and generally will take the path of least resistance. But Christmas Day has been a national holiday since 1870 and has a healthy and ubiquitous secular side.  I know there are some that take offense at being wished Merry Christmas but they are a tiny fringe and do we really want to consider their tender feelings above the vast majority who, regardless of their religion, enjoy and celebrate the Christmas Holiday?   How about “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”?

  • Along the same lines, I hope that printers and envelope companies will be less accommodating to the “green” agenda which ultimately does not have our best interests in mind. I’ve written in more specific detail about this issue in previous posts.  We should all take responsibility in our personal and professional lives to use resources wisely and consider the environment. But the greens think paper consumption is bad and that’s not right.

  • To add to #2, I wish that companies in our industry would stop claiming that their products are produced with “certified wind power” when all they are doing is buying Renewable Energy Credits.  If you have a wind turbine in your parking lot or solar panels on your roof then you are entitled to make this claim.  If not, it’s misleading and more kowtowing to environmental purists who are, for the most part, not our friends.

  • I wish more customers would go back to using formal purchase orders. E mail has certainly made us more productive but getting unspecific messages to proceed on an order via e mail requires us vendors to confirm everything in writing which is really what the customer is supposed to do through a detailed and precise purchase order.  Plus, sometimes you have two or three separate trails going on the same order which requires printing out voluminous correspondence for the job ticket. (I wonder if any of these e-mail orderers have that “don’t print this e mail unless it’s absolutely necessary” message after their signature?)

  • I wish more people would stop responding “your” welcome when I say thank you for doing something for me.

  • I wish our political class would allow Postmaster General Donahoe to implement most of the reforms he’s been recommending for the past several years. The Post Office is a mess. It’s losing money at a terrifying rate and needs to be significantly downsized and reformed or face collapse. What really needs to be done is to break the monopoly and privatize the delivery of first class mail as we have with parcels with great success.  What will most likely happen is dithering followed by another taxpayer-financed bailout.

Despite the many problems we face as an industry, we can be thankful for the chance we have to persevere and dream. We can also give thanks for our friends, family and loved ones; without whom our lives would be diminished. Lastly, to everyone in the printing and envelope world: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may we all flourish and prosper in 2013!

 

Topics: four color envelope printing, going green, envelopes and post office, postal monopoly, envelope printing, post office problems, envelope industry, printed envelopes

The Direct Mail Answer: Privatize the Post Office

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 19, 2011 1:01:00 PM

When the federal government first established the postal service in the late 18th century, the United States was a relatively small parcel of land on the east coast of the continent.  At a time before telephones or even telegraphs, letters were the only long-distance method of communication. It made sense to facilitate such an important function in a nascent and growing society.  

Of course, we now live in an age where telephones are ubiquitous and cheap. Sending someone a written text on a cell phone is commonplace and costs nothing.  The internet and similarly cheap personal computers have made e mail the preferred method of written communication. Why spend the time and money typing a letter and sending it to a relative overseas when you can send them an e mail for free and have them receive it within seconds?  Additionally, fax machines are either on your desk at home or easily available at a local copy or print center.  Lastly, you can scan a document on your computer and send it as an e mail attachment for someone to print out upon receipt.

All these developments have reduced the amount of regular mail delivered by the Postal Service dramatically in the past decade.  That trend is going to continue. The reduction in demand would seem to require a commensurate reduction in costs and overhead.  However, there are no incentives to economize or streamline operations at a government-run agency. The incentives are exactly the opposite; spend all the money in the budget so that more can be allocated for the future. "Don't kill the job", has been the public sector motto for as long as there has been a public sector.

Ultimately, the huge fiscal problems facing the Post Office are not solvable through the political process. A government which spends taxpayer money at a rate that is slowly but surely leading to the bankruptcy of the nation cannot be expected to muster the fortitude and common sense required to put the Postal Service on a fiscally sustainable course.  It seems to me the only viable course of action is to break up the postal monopoly and allow private companies to compete for the letter business.

The Post Office used to have a monopoly on parcel deliveries but, as everyone alive knows, UPS and Fedex and many other excellent companies have gobbled up a huge portion of that market by providing great service at very competitive prices.  In the process they have forced the Post Office to implement service upgrades like online mail tracking.  Does anyone believe that would have happened without the healthy competition provided by those private companies?   

Are there any good reasons why the same thing could not happen for the delivery of first class mail? Aside from the huge political uproar which would certainly accompany such a move, I think not.  Would the increased competition for the first class and bulk mail business be a boon to direct marketers and the printing and envelope companies which supply them?  I’ll get into that in my next post along with some of the reasons generally offered in opposition to Post Office privatization.

In the meantime, your comments are most appreciated.

Topics: direct mail, post office, elite envelope, postal monopoly, post office problems, printing and envelopes, e mail and direct mail, envelope company

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!

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