The Postal Service™ has begun a 2-year market test of its Alternate Postage Payment method for greeting cards. This new payment method allows consumers to send greeting cards without affixing postage. This added convenience is expected to increase greeting card volumes. Hallmark Cards is the first company to participate in the Alternate Postage Payment greeting card program. Its new line of greeting cards was launched in February.
Greeting card companies producing the cards will add an Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb™), a facing identification mark (FIM), a legend, and a “No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States” imprint to each envelope, allowing the cards to be identified in the mailstream by automated scans.
Greeting card companies will pay the Postal Service 50 percent of the postage when the card is sold. The remainder of the postage will be collected based on scans of the cards as they are processed. If a customer purchases a card but does not mail it, the Postal Service will still retain 50 percent of the postage value. Scan information captured during mail processing also is used to sort the cards.
Employees should follow normal First-Class Mail® processing and delivery procedures when handling these greeting cards. Do not obliterate the IMbs. This will ensure that the Postal Service receives full value postage value for each card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is this a test or a new product?
A. We are conducting a 2-year market test with the greeting card industry to evaluate the feasibility of full commercialization.
Q. Is the revenue reallocated to the Post Office™ (ZIP Code™) where the greeting card is sold?
A. No. The revenue is recorded as “commercial” and is assigned to AIC 114, Postage Due, in the office where the permit is held, similar to a Business Reply Mail (BRM) account.
Q. What are the mailing elements on the greeting cards?
A. The mailing elements consist of:
1. Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb): The IMb will enable the recording of piece-level information for volume and revenue reporting.
2. Legend: The legend contains the permit number and the city and state where the permit is held, and identifies the business customer responsible for paying the postage.
3. Facing Identification Mark (FIM): A new FIM E is being introduced for this market test to separate and orient the mailpiece, and to allow separate identification of this mail for future use.
4. Imprint: “No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States” will appear in the upper right corner of the address side of the mailpiece in lieu of postage.
Q. What happens if the card exceeds 1 ounce?
A. The postage price of Alternate Postage Payment greeting cards during the test period is $0.48. This is a premium price that factors in the possibility that some customers may add photos and other items to the card. There is no need to weigh or measure these cards.
Q. What happens if the card enters the mail but doesn’t get a scan?
A. Fifty percent of the postage ($0.24) is paid to the Postal Service when a card is sold, even if it is never mailed or scanned. Our preproduction tests revealed a very low “no scan” risk, which was factored into the premium price of $0.48.
Q. What happens if the cards are deposited in “Local Mail” slots?
A. This program relies on Intelligent Mail barcodes to detect Alternate Postage Payment greeting cards as they travel through the postal system. Although the possibility of “no scan” was factored into the premium price of $0.48, Post Offices are to follow nationally established procedures for mail preparation and dispatch.
Q. Will any companies other than Hallmark participate in the market test?
A. Hallmark is the first greeting card company to offer Alternate Postage Payment greeting cards. The test is open to all greeting card companies.
Q. What happens when the First-Class Mail prices change?
A. The pricing during the test is established through a contractual agreement and is not subject to normal price changes.
Q. Can customers obtain a refund for the postage from the U.S. Postal Service® if the card is not mailed?
A. No. The U.S. Postal Service will not refund the price of postage for unused or spoiled greeting cards.
Q. Can these greeting cards be sent to international addresses?
A. No. Alternate Postage Payment greeting cards can be mailed only to domestic addresses within the United States to APO/FPO locations.
Q. Will these greeting cards take longer to be delivered?
A. No. The greeting cards are processed and delivered like First-Class Mail items with postage.
Q. Are there any special instructions for postal employees?
A. Handle them as First-Class Mail, and do not obliterate the barcode.
Q. Will the cards get forwarded?
A. Yes. The greeting cards will be forwarded if the U.S. Postal Service has a change-of-address notice on file that has not expired.
For more information, contact Jenny Kalthoff, Marketing Specialist, Transactions and Correspondence, at Janine.firstname.lastname@example.org.