Monday, 10 July 2017

Who Should Pay For Mail Forwarding

More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million.

The cost of mail forwarding – and returning to sender and treating as waste -- is baked into the overall First Class Mail rates, so all customers effectively pay for this service whether they use it or not. Canada Post has taken a different approach to mail forwarding, charging recipients either an annual or semi-annual fee when they move. Residential customers pay $75 for 12 months of forwarding and business customers pay $235. These prices increase slightly if the person or business moves to another province.

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The Canada Post model extricates the costs from the overall First Class Mail rate and is structured so recipients pay for the service, but only if they use it. Some U.S. business customers have requested that the Postal Service explore new pricing and product options to reduce the costs of forwarding and returning mail to sender. Would a model similar to the Canada Post one work in the U.S. or would residential recipients, in particular, feel like they were being charged for a service they thought was free? Should the sender pay for forwarding instead of the recipients? What would happen if recipients or senders decided against paying for forwarding? Would total costs merely go up since return to sender mail costs more than twice as much as forwarding per piece?
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Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts below.

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The Changing Change Of Address System

Did you know that one in seven people in the United States change their address each year? Naturally, this creates a tremendous challenge for the Postal Service, which strives to maintain a high-quality repository of current addresses.

Change-of-address requests can be made in person at local Post Offices using a hardcopy form (PS 3575), or electronically using the Internet. They can even be made over the telephone. By far, the most popular way to change one’s official address is still using the hardcopy form, but those contemplating a move should consider their options carefully.

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While the Postal Service’s change-of-address process generally works properly, our audit found that improvements are needed in the way hard copy requests are processed, authorized, and validated. Although Postal Service employees should reject and return orders with no signature, in some cases change-of-address orders without a proper signature slipped through. We also saw signature mismatches and occasions when Postal Service employees rather than customers signed or initialed the forms.

Is there a better way? We think there is. Our audit also examined the Internet and telephone change request systems. We found that these electronic alternatives are not only much more convenient for the customer, they are also far more effective in ensuring that only authorized and validated change-of-address requests are processed. Digital requests can be electronically matched against customers’ credentials quickly and efficiently. This results in a more secure environment, which is important because mail diverted to another location based upon unauthorized change-of-address orders is a major contributor to identity theft — America’s fastest growing crime.

There has to be a catch, you say. Well, there is. This service costs $1. We think it’s a bargain! To change your address online, go to To change your address by telephone, call 1-800-275-8777.

You should know the Postal Service does have systems in place to protect customers against unauthorized address changes. If a change of address has been submitted for you, the Postal Service will follow up with a Move Validation Letter. This letter is sent to your current address and notifies you that a request has been made to forward your mail to a new address. If you did not request to change your address, you should inform your local Post Office immediately as a potentially fraudulent situation may exist. In our audit, we found that the Postal Service generally sends these letters in a timely manner. Recently, the Postal Service has taken steps to further improve the timeliness of these letters, ensuring that they are processed within 3 to 10 days.

What do you think about the Postal Service’s change-of-address process? How can it be improved?

This topic is hosted by the OIG's Information Technology audit directorate.

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

How To Mail A Letter

In the age of email and texting, writing a handwritten letter is a thoughtful way to show someone you're thinking about them. However, it takes a little more effort to mail a letter than it does to press "send." If you're unaccustomed to using snail mail, you may be confused as to how to make sure your letter gets to the right place. You can ensure this by writing the address correctly, and using appropriate postage.

Method 1. Getting The Letter Ready To Mail

Choose an envelope. It's important to find an envelope of the right type for your letter. If you choose an envelope that's too light, for example, your heavy stationery might break through the envelope while it's in transit. Take the following factors into consideration as you decide what kind of envelope you need for your letter:
The weight of the paper. The weight of the envelope should match the weight of the paper and any other contents you may be mailing with it. If your letter is written on heavy cardstock, or you're including something else like photos inside, choose a sturdy envelope that can handle the contents.
The size of the paper. The size of the envelope should be appropriate for the size of the paper. Letters written on standard sized 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper are typically folded into thirds, then mailed in a business-sized envelope. Letters written on notecards may be mailed in smaller envelopes.
The intent of the letter. If you're mailing a cover letter, you'll want to choose a professional-looking business-sized envelope. A personal note may be sent in a decorative, colorful envelope if you wish.
The letter's destination. If you're mailing the letter overseas, you may want to use a sturdy envelope, since there is a greater chance it could get damaged along the way.
Enclose the letter and seal the envelope. Once you've chosen the right envelope for your letter, place the letter inside and lick the edge of the envelope to moisten the glue, then press it shut to seal the letter.
You can wet a sponge with a little water to moisten the envelope glue if you don't want to lick it.
Place a bit of clear tape along the edge of the seal if you are afraid the letter might open on its journey.
Address the envelope. Write the address of the recipient in the middle of the front of the envelope. Include the recipient's name, apartment or house number, street name, city, state or province, and zip or postal code. Use clear, printed letters written in dark ink so that the post office knows just where to send it.
If you are writing to someone outside your country, make sure you include the country name as well.
Some people have their mail sent to a post office box, rather than a street address. If this is the case for your recipient, write the correct post office box number followed by the city, state and country if applicable.
Write each part of the address on a different line to make it more legible. For example:
Skyler White
2004 Rosethorn Court, Apt. 4
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87041
United States
Write your return address. In the top left corner of the envelope, write your name and address. You may also choose to write it on the back of the sealed envelope or use a printed return address label. Including your address will ensure that the letter comes back to you if for some reason it doesn't make it to the recipient.

Method 2. Finding The Right Postage

Use a first class letter stamp. If you're mailing a letter of standard size and weight within the same country, place a first class letter stamp in the top right corner of the letter. Stamps are available for purchase at the post office, online at, and at some convenience stores.
Stamps come with either standard or special designs. If you want to purchase a decorative stamp, go to the post office and ask to see their selection.
Stamps rise in price every few years. If you have old postage stamps, check to make sure they're still valuable enough to use. You may have to use two.
Buy extra postage. Letters that are heavy or oversized and letters that are being mailed overseas require extra postage to reach their destination.
If you have a scale at home, you can weigh and measure your letter to determine how much postage you'll need to pay. Record the measurements, then check for rates. Affix as many stamps as you need to the top right corner of your letter.
If you don't have a scale, take your letter to the post office to have it weighed. The postal worker will be able to calculate exactly how much postage you'll need to buy.
Method 3. Mailing The Letter

Place the letter in a blue mailbox. If you live in the United States, you'll notice blue USPS mailboxes bolted to the sidewalk in cities and suburbs. Walk to one of the boxes, open it with the handle, place your letter in the slot, and close it. A postal worker will collect your letter and start the delivery process.
Every mailbox has a notice detailing when the mail gets picked up. If you place your letter in the box after the scheduled pick up time, your letter will get picked up the next day instead.
Be careful not to place your letter in a brown mailbox. Brown mailboxes are for residential or commercial use.
Place the letter in your own mailbox. If you have a mailbox on your house, you can place your letter there and alert your mail carrier of its presence by lifting the red metal flag affixed to the side of the box. When the flag is raised, the mail carrier knows that there's a letter that needs to be mailed.

Take the letter to the post office. If you need to buy postage at the post office, you can leave your letter with the post office worker and he or she will mail it for you. Even if you don't need to buy postage, you can still take your letter to the post office to be mailed.
The post office is a good place to mail your letter if you want to make sure it gets to its destination as quickly as possible. Taking your letter directly to the post office can cut down on the transit time by a day or so.
See for information on where to find the closest post office.

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How To Send A Registered Letter

As opposed to standard mail, when you send a registered letter, the US post office promises to secure your package from the point of departure to the point of delivery. In addition, they will insure the package for up to $25,000 (with some limitations on the coverage amount). Registering a letter or package is typically useful for when you're sending valuable contents by mail.

Method 1. Preparing Your Registered Mail At The Post Office

Locate and visit your local US Post Office. Click here to look up the locations of the branches nearest you.These days, small branches can often be found inside office supply stores like Office Depot or Staples. The employees in those stores will be able to help you send a registered letter as well.

Find the public service table. There, you’ll find a wide variety of forms for the different mailing services offered by the USPS. Feel free to ask a post office employee if you need help finding the right form — PS Form 3806, in this case.
If you want to skip hunting around for the form at the post office, you can download PS 3806 directly from the USPS website here.
Fill out the appropriate registered mail form. There are two types: one for domestic registered mail, and another for international mailings. Be sure to review the form carefully before filling it out.
If there’s a long line, it’s best to enter the line while filling out the form. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll have moved along quite a ways.
If the line is short, or if there is no line, fill out the form at the table so you don’t inconvenience the people around you by holding up the line.
Hand the filled out PS Form 3806, along with payment and the letter being mailed, to the post office employee at the counter. The cost of sending registered mail has risen in the past few years, but will likely be slightly above $10.
The post office accepts cash, credit and debit cards, and checks (with appropriate ID).
The employee should provide you with a receipt of transaction, but if they forget, don’t be too shy to ask for it — it’s the whole reason you’re paying for this service! The receipt will prove exactly when the letter was sent, so you can’t be held accountable if it doesn’t reach its intended recipient.
Tell the employee at the counter if you would like to purchase insurance for the letter. The USPS offers insurance up to $25,000 for registered mail. Rates will vary depending on how much insurance you want to purchase.

Method 2. Preparing Your Registered Mail At Home

Visit a post office branch to get authorization to print the appropriate labels off on your own printer. Click here to look up the locations of the branches nearest you.
Label 200 is the form that requires official authorization for off-site printing.
This permission is generally only given to individuals who send a lot of registered mail. If this is a one-time service for you, just send it through the post office as in the previous method.
This permission is only given for domestic mail. If you’re sending international mail, go to the post office.

Fill out PS Form 3806 on your computer. This will help reduce any complications with illegible handwriting, since you won’t be there to answer any questions when the postal worker enters the information into their system. Be sure to review the form carefully before printing.

Print off the appropriate forms: Label 200 and the filled-out PS Form 3806. Make sure the ink levels are healthy enough to deliver a clearly legible form.
PS Form 3806 should be printed in black and white ink, and Label 200 should be printed in color, so as to be nearly identical to the official label used by the Postal Service.
Label 200 must be printed on either 1) white OCR bond, 20-pound basis weight paper (17 inches × 22 inches) with little to no fluorescence or 2) Smudge-proof Litho Label, 50-pound basis weight paper (17 inches × 22 inches), with general-purpose, permanent-type, pressure-sensitive adhesive coating on the back.
Label 200 must be printed on adhesive paper that sticks to the letter directly. Don’t try to tape the label to the package being mailed.
Affix Label 200 to the letter to be mailed. Make sure it doesn’t bend over the corners of the letter, as this might make it difficult to read some of the information on it or scan its barcode.

Deliver the letter and PS Form 3806 to the post office for mail-out. Hand the filled out PS Form 3806, along with payment and the letter being mailed, to the employee at the counter.
Again, don't forget to ask for the receipt of transaction if the employee forgets to offer it to you.
Tell the employee at the counter if you want to purchase insurance for the letter.The USPS offers insurance up to $25,000 for registered mail. Rates will vary depending on how much insurance you want to purchase.

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