All utilities battle returned mail. Do you know how to protect yourself from returned postage fees?
In June, Ruralite Services received 3,285 returns for all four publications. Ruralite began using the post office’s full-service intelligent mail barcode a few years ago, allowing members to receive most address returns electronically. There is no charge for the first two offenses. After a utility has been told about an address problem twice, they are charged 31 cents for each return. The barcode system saves Ruralite members about $21,000 annually on address-return postage fees.
Only 185 of June’s magazines were physically returned to Ruralite’s office (the rest were electronic returns). Each paper return costs 57 cents.
Addresses should be fixed promptly. Otherwise, the problem compounds monthly. Not only do you lose the money spent on printing and mailing, you pay for repeat address offenses.
What Triggers Returns?
Returns stem from two main causes: old or improperly written addresses. If a consumer moves, the post office forwards first-class mail for a year. Magazines use the more affordable periodical rate, and are only forwarded for 60 days. Then they are returned to Ruralite Services and, eventually, the utility.
The other return trigger—improperly written addresses—is a tougher challenge. There are five steps you can take to ensure most of your magazines make it to consumers safe and sound.
1. Make sure mail pieces are properly addressed. Street names need to be accurate, not abbreviated or shortened to what it is known by locally. Include St., Ave., Pkwy., etc. in the address. Having an address formatted correctly can result in huge savings. The per-piece rate ranges from 14 and a half cents for a perfectly addressed local label to just over 47 cents for an improperly addressed magazine not in the local area.
2. Include secondary information (suite, space or apartment numbers). Not having these details can cause the mail piece to have a higher postage rate because of the missing information or, due to periodical delivery rules, the mail piece can be returned for insufficient address.
3. Be accurate. If Apt A is used and it should be Apt 1, the mail piece could be returned for insufficient or no known address. Most mail carriers will deliver the mail piece, but some postmasters tell carriers it is incorrectly addressed and should be returned.
4. Cut excess hyphens. Do not use a hyphen unless it is an official part of the address. For example, using ‘PO BOX 3500-148’ when it should be ‘PO BOX 3500 PMB 148’ will not help the piece be presorted, so you will be charged a higher postage rate.
5. Add STE and PMB. When working with suite and private mail boxes (PMBs) in an address, the proper format should be ‘123 ABC STE 10 PMB 151.’ An address of ‘123 ABC 10-151’ will be charged the highest postage rate for that area, and has a greater chance of being returned by the post office. Proper formatting gets the best rate and ensures delivery.
Delivery Rules for Letters vs. Magazines
Bills and magazine postage follow different rules. Letters are sent first class for 47 cents each. First-class mailing delivery standards require the post office to make every attempt to deliver the mail.
Magazines are sent at a periodical rate—less than half the first-class price. But the periodical rate does not meet the same standard of delivery. The better the address, the better the chance of having mail delivered.