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Using a mailing service can save businesses time, money

DEC 27, 2005 - For Madison Area Technical College, the problem was how to mail tens of thousands of alumni newsletters.

The college didn't have the space to prepare a bulk mailing, said Kathy Waters, the lead worker at MATC's mail center. And they didn't have the machinery to make the process easy, meaning they were looking at having to do the job by hand.

But there was a solution, which saved the college $5,000: Use a mailing services company, one that had the machinery and expertise to get the job done fast and efficiently.

"Mailings can be a very effective way of doing business," said Terri Bouffiou, customer relations coordinator for the Madison branches of the U.S. Postal Service. But she added, "as well as a big cost to a company."

Mailing-services companies' assistance may be more important and timely beginning next month, when postal rates rise by about 5 percent.

Everything from the color of ink to the shape of an envelope can add cost to a mailing. Mailing-services companies sort items, which saves money per piece.

The Postal Service created the mailing service industry by offering mailing discounts, said United Mailing Services district manager Mark Colb. Mailing-services companies, by sorting mail, take away much of the Postal Service's workload.

United Mailing has five branches in Wisconsin, including one in Madison, and 500 employees.

"We are the mail business, we know about the postage industry," said J&J's Bauer. When businesses use mailing services companies, "they can focus on the core business that they have."

Mailing-service companies advise clients about the best ways to get mailings noticed. They also provide automated inserting equipment and mailing lists.

"I just met with a law firm that sends mail out at full rate and also uses a carrier service," Bauer said. "I went in and educated them and I figured out I'd save them about $2,000 per year. Once their mailing equipment lease is up, I can save them another $1,200 per year."

"A lot of this is educating the customers about their options," said J&J's operations manager, Jeff Utter.

Design errors are one of the the most common mistakes people make with mailings, said Bruce Virgin, vice president and general manager of First Class Mailers on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Madison. A flower company he worked with made a $3,500 mistake when they printed a direct mail advertisement on the wrong color of paper. The paper was too dark, so the post office couldn't distinguish between the paper and the text, Virgin said.

Capital Newspapers, publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times, also provides mailing services through its Target Marketing program.

Nonprofits can also save big. Volunteers often stuff envelopes and put stamps on mass mailings, Virgin said. But these groups can save more money by bringing the job to a mailing service because as a nonprofit organization, they can receive a special bulkmail rate, bringing their cost from 18.5 cents per piece - the best price if they do the mailing on their own - to as cheap as around 9 cents per item.

Mailings also often take longer than expected, Bouffiou said. Before a mailing is sent out, it needs to be designed and printed. The company needs a mailing permit and a mailing list. Mailing-services companies, however, can provide all of that and complete most mailings in less than a week, Bouffiou said.

Capital Mailing Systems on Advance Road in Madison mostly caters to small businesses. The most common and costly mistake businesses make is formatting for bar code, said business manager Daniel Phelps. Incorrect bar codes can cost businesses an extra 5 cents per piece, which, for a large mailing can mean thousands of dollars.

"The domestic mail manual is hundreds of pages long and people in mail services are people who are experts of that book," Phelps said.

Out of 2-cent stamps: rate increase leaves post office short

By DAN SIMMONS / La Crosse Tribune

January 10, 2006 - Terry Felt chose Monday to send his 15 letters, many of them full of photos he took last May on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, his 29th visit since 1978.

“I regret waiting until now,” he said. The postal rate went from 37 to 39 cents Sunday. Felt knew, but didn’t get around to sending before the rate changed.

Felt went to the downtown post office about 3:30 p.m. to get 2-cent stamps.

Then he really regretted waiting.

The post office started the day with about 20,000 two-centers. By 3 p.m., they had zero.

And a line of 20 people hot to get them.

They weren’t alone. Joanne Marshall, manager of mail processing for the postal service, said other area post offices called, saying they were out, too.

“They’re just stamps, you know,” said Terry Larsen, vending technician and supply clerk for the U.S. Postal Service.

Some may disagree.

Such as Huang Yuenong, 43. She mailed a letter to her mother in Guangdong Province in southern China. It contained a big check for

Chinese New Year, customary for children in China. Yuenong has lived here since May 2004. She’s married to Joe McRaniels of La Crosse. And she knows how important the mail is.

“They corresponded only by mail for five years (before she was able to come here),” said Zhao Qi, visiting Chinese professor at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Yuenong’s companion at the post office.

The Chinese New Year is Jan. 29 this year, so Yuenong doesn’t have time to have her letter returned to sender.

The 2-cent stamps feature a teal, beaded Navajo necklace. Once they ran out, people flocked to the vending machine for 1-cent stamps, featuring a colorful Tiffany lampshade.

Tonya VanRiper, 30, was one of the last to get 2-cent stamps.

She bought four packs of 20 stamps from the vending machine. The nursing assistant at Hillview Nursing Home became instantly popular: her mother needed 31, and residents in the nursing home will need some, too, she said.

She was nearly broadsided in the post office parking lot. She waited in line four times among throngs of people.

“I got them for others so they wouldn’t have to come down to this zoo,” she said. She knew about the change only because her mother, Belaine Roberts of La Crosse, told her.

“For people with no time to watch the news, how are we supposed to know?”

Answered Marshall: “It was announced two months ago. Everyone’s had ample notification.”

Before you go, call

Local post offices may get more 39-cent and 2-cent stamps today, but “we can’t guarantee anything,” Terry Larsen of the La Crosse office said. To avoid frustration, call ahead. To reach La Crosse County post offices, call:

Bangor: (608) 486-4025
Holmen: (608) 526-4055
La Crosse: (608) 791-8100
Onalaska: (608) 781-8777
West Salem: (608) 786-1710

Dan Simmons can be reached at (608)791-8217 or


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