USPS urges mail staff to “respect the clear zone”
The US Postal Service is launching a publicity campaign to raise awareness among carriers and clerks of the need to keep barcodes free from marks and obstructions.
A new corporate video is being shown to employees around the country explaining why the traditional striking-out of address information on undelivered letters is no longer good for business.
Stand-up talks will be used alongside the video to explain that with the Intelligent Mail barcode system, the Postal Service uses the barcodes to process returned mail, and to correct incorrect addresses for mailers as part of its Address Correction Service.
Crossing out the barcode and address information means returned or redirected items cannot be read by barcode scanners, and must be keyed in manually, causing extra work.
For full-service Postal Service customers, the outdated practice has also meant in the past that they have been charged unnecessary fees because barcodes have been obliterated by mail staff.
The Postal Service’s Address Correction Service fees system is currently suspended as a result of complaints of high charges.
But, fees will start to be phased in later this year as the new video campaign spreads awareness of the need to protect the “sanctity” of the area around a mailpiece’s address – catchily termed the “clear zone” in the video.
“Hard to break”
Dean Granholm, the USPS vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations, said there was a history of making out the barcode in Postal Service procedures – and it was something he remembered doing when he was a letter carrier.
But Granholm told mailers last week that it was a “hard habit to break”, particularly for veteran staff.
“Carriers that have been in the job a long time continue to mark out the barcode because they feel that is the right thing to do,” he said. “But we think this fantastic video is the final death knell for this. It will be shown to all our employees with a stand-up talk.”
The video teaches staff best practice, for example to use a single line to cross out incorrect house numbers, then writing corrections to the left of the “clear zone”.
Granholm said that with improvements in its Intelligent Mail visibility system, the Postal Service would also be able to tell problem areas, putting targeted action in place to encourage staff in those plants to stop marking out barcodes.
Speaking at last week’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, the Postal Service’s manager for addressing, Jim Wilson, confirmed that ACS fees would begin to be phased back in for mailers from September 24.
Up until that date, ACS notices would continue to be free, but then a threshold will require a 70% scan rate for mailings to remain exempt.
“We will then raise that threshold 5% every six months,” he said. “We will cap that at 90% – once you achieve a 90% level, all those mailings will continue to receive traditional ACS without charges.”