Priority Mail: How the USPS is Spending Its Summer

The summer of 2012 finds the USPS working hard to gain financial stability, build mail volume, and be responsive to mailers. July saw the first phase of facility closures and changes in delivery standards, a repeat of last year’s QR code promotion, and initiation of the Picture Permit program.  

Facilities Closure & Delivery Standard Changes

This past spring, the USPS announced its intention to close 223 processing facilities. By early June, the USPS had set the schedule to phase in closure of 140 mail processing facilities between July 2012 and January 2014. The first phase (July and August 2012) will affect 48 facilities, whose operations will be consolidated with nearby locations. Because September to December is a busy mailing season, closures will be suspended until January 2013, then an additional 92 locations will be closed. The final phase will begin in January 2014 and will affect 89 facilities.

Facilities consolidation will be accompanied by a two-step change in service delivery standards. The first change will be implemented between July 1, 2012 and February 1, 2014, followed by more changes thereafter. 

The change in service standards affects first class and local periodical mail. The changes are:

• Reduction of overnight delivery in the local area (though 80 percent of current overnight delivery volume will still be delivered overnight)

• Delivery outside the local area, up to 200 miles from entry: delivered within two days

• Delivery to destinations over 200 miles from entry: delivered within three days

The service standards for standard mail are currently three to nine days. Mail must be entered by the national Critical Entry Time (CET) to be processed the same day as entry.

These changes were the result of extensive market research, which revealed that many customers were unaware of the current overnight delivery standard and that, for some customers, the new service standards will be faster than their current perception. From this the USPS concluded that customers will be able to adapt to service standards. However, it also concluded that the trend of mail being diverted to electronic delivery will continue, with or without changes to delivery standards.

Mailers will need to stay informed about what facilities are closing, inform customers of the changes to delivery standards, and adjust mail entry times and dates as needed to maintain customer schedules. Information on mail processing consolidations and service standard directory files and maps are available on the Information for Mailers website at The site is updated regularly. To stay informed about USPS news, subscribe to Industry Alerts by emailing and put “Subscribe” in the subject line.

QR Mobile Barcode Promotion

This summer the USPS is repeating its QR mobile barcode promotion first offered in the summer of 2011. This year’s program is called Mobile Commerce and Personalization Program and it runs through August 31, 2012. The discount is two percent, taken upfront, and is available for metered mail and pre-cancelled stamps as well as postage imprint (indicia) mailings. Find the criteria to qualify at

For a full explanation of the program, including a 25-page program guide, go to No other incentives can be combined with the mobile barcode discount.

Picture Permit

In response to requests, on June 24 the USPS launched the Picture Permit Imprint Indicia program for commercial mailers. The program allows mailers to incorporate logos, product images, or other brand visuals in the permit indicia area of the mail piece. The picture permit indicia can be used on automation-compatible presorted first class mail (letters and cards) and standard mail. Mail pieces bearing the picture permit will incur a postage surcharge of one cent per piece mailed for first class mail and two cents for standard mail.

The permit image must be business-themed (corporate logo, trademarked brand, photograph, or other graphic) and must be in color, although the required elements of the indicia—class of mail, permit number, US Postage Paid—must be in black. The design has to be approved in advance and the mailing must use a full service IMb.

Mailers interested in the Picture Permit must submit an application (PS Form 3615-A), available at and a PDF of the proposed indicia design.

After design approval, the mailer must submit 500 addressed mail pieces (live addresses), including sender return address, Picture Permit Imprint indicia, and full service IMb. The samples will be tested by USPS Engineering, Operations and Acceptance (this takes 30-45 days). After final approval, the mailer will be asked for a mailing schedule, including dates and volumes.

Mailers with additional questions not addressed on the Picture Permit website can contact the Picture Permit program office at or at USPS, Attn: Picture Permit Program Office, 475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Room 5621, Washington, DC 20260-5621.

Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (, a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at