Getting a piece of mail delivered with a postage stamp on it wasn’t always the case. The modern day postage stamp was born on May 6, 1840 in Great Britain. It was a one penny stamp and was printed in black ink only which lead to its name, the “Penny Black”.
Prior to the Penny Black stamp being printed, the postal services of the world did not charge the sender. The recipient paid the postage when the letter or package was delivered. This was extremely unprofitable for the postal services since the recipient could refuse the mail and pay nothing. Before long, many people had developed a system of secret codes to beat the postal system out of the postage due. They would put secret markings on the outside of the mail. These markings conveyed their message without the recipient having to open or accept the mail.
The first stamps were printed on sheets without any perforation. The user would need to cut one of the stamps off the sheet and affix it to the envelope. Because of the revenue that the pre-paid stamp was generating, it did not take long for this concept to be adopted by postal services around the world. The United States Post Office Department printed its first stamps in 1847. These were a five cent Benjamin Franklin stamp and a ten cent George Washington stamp.
Since 1840, stamps have evolved into different shapes, sizes and colors, but they all can trace their roots back to the “Penny Black” created on May 6, 1840.
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About FNBR Incorporated
FNBR is a marketing company located in Tampa, Florida. We provide printing, direct mail, mailing lists, database management, graphic design, web design, and email marketing services to companies throughout the U.S.
FNBR can be reached at email@example.com or toll free 1-888-988-8148.
I know that this is your first time mailing, so I’m going to cut you a bit of slack.
Yes, I agree that the USPS rules and regulations are about as complicated as a schematic to build the space shuttle.
You’re right. There is no Do-It-Yourself Heath Kit solution for direct mail, despite what the overly optimistic USPS publications promise.
For starters, your hair was on fire when your secretary contacted us. She explained you had to get your mail out fast! No problem. We can handle it. We do “fast” every day.
She said you wanted to mail 4.25×6” postcards. That’s OK by us.
She said you would print and provide the cards to us. And you wanted to mail at First Class (I talked her into First Class Presort, thus saving you about 7 cents each in postage, remember?)
She said your list was regional, and for us to please provide you with a quote based on those premises. “Then I’ll turn you over to my boss,” she concluded sweetly.
It looked like it was coming to together well. 4.25×6” is a perfect size to mail at First Class Presort. It’s a post office pricing sweet spot. Your job looked like a cream puff, a walk-in-the-park.
And then the wheels started to fall off your wagon.
You and I “met” by email, but never spoke. That’s a problem, but I won’t dwell on your invisible cloaking device here. Despite my inability to reach you by phone so we could clear everything up in 5 minutes, we exchanged emails for 2 days about indicias, wording, positioning, barcode clear zones and other postal related things. Eventually I thought we had everything squared away.
On Tuesday your cards arrived. They were nicely designed and beautifully printed. But they were 6×8″, not 4.25×6″.
Sorry. It was a big deal. While I agree 100% with your decision to upsize from a marketing perspective (and would urge any of my clients to do the same thing) changing the size changed the postal rates—and your quote—totally.
Instead of 20.9 cents postage per card, your rate was going to be 33.5 cents a card.
“That’s over my budget!” you yelped. (Now you could pick up the phone and call me!) “What can you do?”
“Mail at Standard rate,” I countered. “Your postage will be about 23.3 cents each. It will take longer to be delivered, but you’ll be back in the budget range. Of course we’ll need to X-out the wrong language on the indicia and overprint with the right language, but this is do-able.”
First crisis averted, but the second was approaching fast.
Your data arrived. As per our arrangement, we cleaned it, NCOA’d it, presorted it and were preparing to address your cards when you realized you had sent the wrong data. You sent the data three times before you got it right. And then you asked us to merge/purge the various files against each other to be sure you hadn’t sent any duplicates.
At the end of the day, your regional list was national. Surprise!
“Bad news,” we told you again. “Your data is national, not regional. As a result, your postage is nearly 28 cents each. You lost the address density that the USPS rewards with lower pricing.”
Oh, yes. Another itsy bitsy point: your data was 7,000 records; we had quoted on 5,000. And you question why you were over budget?
You were backed into a corner. Your hair was still on fire; the event you were promoting was now less than a week away. There were no options. You sucked it up; we mailed your job.
Now you’ve come to me (by email, naturally) to ask me how to do your job better next time.
- Know your data. That’s the #1 thing that can make postage and production estimates go bad. Since you didn’t know if it was regional or national—and you didn’t even know the count—it led to several huge miscalculations.
- Realize that a postage estimate is an estimate. Until the data goes through data processing, we can only provide you with an estimate. Of course, if you tell us one thing and it proves to be another, then all bets are off. Oops!
- Assign one person to handle the job. In time, this person will become knowledgeable about USPS rules and regulations. Once he/she knows the rules, the budget-busting misunderstandings will decrease enormously.
- Don’t change your package without checking for unintended consequences. An innocent change can be costly. As you found out.
- Find a reliable direct mail provider partner to work with you. Then follow their instructions. Don’t go rogue. The USPS punishes rogues.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to educate you about the US Postal System. We’re sorry that your education was painful. But that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Or so they say.
FNBR Inc. can be reached at 1-888-988-8148 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Used with the permission of the author — Ellen Paul of Paul&Partners
The first woman ever hired to work for the United States Postal Service was Mrs. Adeline K. Evans, hired in July of 1862. She would go on to work in the Dead Letter Office for over thirty years. At the time of her hire, the Civil War had been going on for well over a year. Wars often times provided opportunities to women that were not previously available. As more and more men were enlisted in the military, employers began to seek out a new work force – in women. While at first they typically earned about 35% less than men who held equal positions, in 1870, federal legislation would be passed to grant pay based on class grade, rather than gender. This was not enforced until 1895, when a lawyer named Belva Lockwood took up the fight for women’s rights.
Vinnie Ream, hired around the same time as Mrs. Evans, was a fifteen year old from poor origins. She took the job to help out her family, and soon after, had a chance encounter with a sculptor at the U.S. Capital. She picked up a piece of his clay, and made a medallion of an Indian Chief’s head. It was so impressive, that she became an over night success and was soon creating sculptures of generals and congressmen. These people would later convince President Lincoln to sit for her. The finished product was so realistic, that in 1866, at age 18, she would become the youngest artist and first women to receive a congressional commission. The life-size statue that she sculpted of President Lincoln was unveiled at the U.S. Capital in 1871.
Alice B. Sanger began her career working in Benjamin Harrison’s law office. Two years later, he would become the 23rd President of the United States. As President, he appointed her as a clerk to work in his office, making her one of the first women to serve at the White House in that capacity. Later, in 1925, she would become the first woman to be named as Assistant Chief Clerk of the Post Office Department. Two years later, she would claim another first when she was put in charge of the Appointment Division of the Post Office Department. What she is most remembered for is her love of American flags. She created a collection of flags that consisted of one from each state in the Union, and they were displayed at the Post Office Department in Washington, DC. This led Postmaster Hays to ask her to design a flag for the Postmaster General’s office. She became affectionately known as the “Betsy Ross of the Post Office,” and is responsible for having designed the first official Post Office flag.
In 1985, Jackie Strange became Deputy Postmaster General, the highest position ever held by a woman in the Post Office. To date, more than ten women have held the position of Governor of the U.S. Postal Service, with more than forty women serving as officers. During any given year, almost 61% of postmasters around the nation are women. It seems as if the last uncharted territory for women in the United States Postal Service is the position of Postmaster General. I imagine that isn’t too far away.
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