Now Arriving! – The 21st Century Request
One of the worst things about postal progress and trying to keep up with the times is the burden of a 1,700 page Domestic Mail Manual.
The Postal Service has a history as old as the country and as the nation grew so did the rulebook. Unfortunately some of the rules did not catch up to the times. One of the biggest offenders in this category has been how to subscribe to or request a magazine or newspaper.
For as long as there has been Second-Class mail (it became Periodicals in 1996 with the Reclassification effort), the only way to verify that a subscriber or requester wanted a magazine or newspaper subscription was to present a hard copy document to the Postal Service when a statistical sampling was made for a review. Eligibility for new and continuing publications hinged on this dusty concept.
Eventually, means were established for telemarketing publications and in time it was generally accepted that a record of payment could back up the purchase of a subscription. However, that great interloper, the Internet, reared its electronic head and made it unnecessary to sign for things with pen and ink. That is except at the post office.
For Internet requests where no financial transaction could back up the validity of the request, the publisher was made to jump through hoops to prove that readers really wanted their publications. An antiquated system of the Postal Service sending out obsolete post cards to a statistical sample of requesters was an ongoing failure to get a sufficient response. A letter tailored to the needs of the publisher to be sent to those sampled readers and returned to the Postal Service was developed. It was better, but still inadequate.
In 2004 it was decided that the major audit bureaus recognized by USPS could perform an audit and USPS would accept the information provided based on having certified their methods of obtaining that information. Much better but expensive and still time consuming.
Finally, at the end of April 2011, Customer Support Ruling 54 has been rewritten and published to allow Internet requests under certain conditions without additional signature verification. Item 2 states, "A request to receive copies of the publication sent to the publisher by email communication that specifically includes a request date, the title of the publication, an expressed desire to receive future issues of the publication, and the complete name and address of the requester" and is listed as one of the conditions to validate a request.
Item 1 also reinforces what we know—that FAX (signed and dated) requests are also acceptable documents.
This one came into being kicking and screaming but is a good step toward moving into the electronic age to try to save print media. Go to the RIBBS website or to the DMM advisory for a complete copy of revised CSR 54.
Ed Mayhew worked for the Postal Service for 37 years, becoming one of the most recognized experts on periodicals mail in the country. Ed was a part of the Rates and Classification Service Center (RCSC), ending his career as a Classification Specialist in the New Pricing and Classification Service Center in New York City. He has written rulings, instructions and articles for postal publications, appeared as an expert witness in court, a rebuttal witness for the Postal service at the Postal Rate Commission, co-authored postal handbooks and applications, and was the RCSC coordinator for six postage rate cases.
He is the 2002 winner of the Angelo R. Venizian award for contributions to the publishing industry, the first postal winner of that award in its history.
Ed has made training videos appearing on radio and TV, speaks at numerous seminars and is an 11-time top National Postal Forum speaker. He is founder and president of consultancy Eddie Mayhew’s Classification Station. Contact Ed at 973-462-5662, E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @eddiemclass.