What?! A Reduction in Postal Rates?

The first class postage rate is going up again this month.  But not so fast!  The USPS is actually having a sale on postage as well.
The new first class postage rate is going up again this month. But not so fast! The USPS is actually having a sale on postage as well.
Death … taxes … rising U.S. postal rates. It seems all three of these things are just a given. And the USPS is getting ready to up the price mailing a first-class envelope another 2 cents, effective next week.

But hold on! Because it’s suffering from a significant decline in mail volume approaching 15%, the USPS is concurrently rolling out a special program heretofore never seen from this most politically tin-eared of government agencies. The impressively named Saturation Mail Incentive Program gives large standard mail direct marketers who increase their mailing volumes the opportunity to earn per-piece credits — discounts essentially — on their mailing activity.

The discounts themselves are rather small — ranging from 2.2 cents per nonprofit letter mailer to 4.0 cents per flat piece (catalog).

… And the “fine print” conditions as to who actually qualifies for the discounts are almost byzantine in their description.

… And the savings are for a limited time only (~1 year) beginning this month.

… And program participants must formally apply to the USPS for approval.

… And they must do so by June 11 or lose their opportunity to participate at all.

… And, and, and … Well, you get the idea.

But the fact that the postal service is actually throwing a “sale” on rates is big news in and of itself. When has this ever happened before?

Quoting the eloquent words of USPS spokesperson Michael Woods, “The Postal Service is always looking for ways to use our pricing flexibility to improve business, and the current economic climate makes that more important than ever.”

Translation: “We’ve lost a pile of business in the economic downturn, and maybe if we lower our prices, we’ll get some of it back.”

Good luck.

We’ll check back after a few months to see how things are going. Judging from the most recent financial results published this week — a quarterly loss of nearly $2 billion — we may not see much improvement. After all, the USPS has managed to make money in only one quarter out of the past eleven!

UPDATE (5/18/09) — The USPS has now finalized the program, which will now launch July 1. Details are here.

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