Monday, June 14

bulk mail: the inside story

I learned a new abbreviation today: BMEU (Business Mail Entry Unit). Bulk Mailing isn't as easy as finding a mailbox and depositing your letters, but it can save a lot of money.

Four times a year, we mail ~1200 copies of our neighborhood newsletter; we use a Bulk Mail Permit which costs $150/year. For going through this exercise, your costs are less than First Class mail (ours is less than 25¢ each). After backing out the annual fee, our homeowners association saves about $430 a year. Today, I tagged along to the BMEU, to learn The Magic involved.

Very few post offices are BMEU locations; I only know of 2 in the Dallas area, although there must be more. We drove to the rear of the building and unloaded our newsletters. There was one guy in front of us, clucking at how their Enhanced Carrier Rate sort routine allowed the lowest possible price for their postcard: 12¢ each. He said that his company delivers them to the post office sorted in the way the carrier walks the route. This could explain those mystery fields (Carrier Route; County; Delivery Point; Check Digit) I see whenever I use the US Postal Service's 9-digit ZIP code lookup.

We use Standard Mail which is cheaper than First Class. Once onsite at the BMEU, we locate a "work table" and sort our newsletters (printed with the permit imprint) into 3 piles: one each for the 2 ZIP codes in our neighborhood, and a 3rd set of "others" (advertisers; other homeowner associations, local politicians and school principals, etc.). Each pile must be placed into a mailing tray, then slipped into a cardboard carrier (there are hundreds of these on the loading dock); the outside of the carrier has a slot for a special label -- identifying the destination ZIP code(s). That third pile must be listed [X] which means "other ZIP codes".

One that's done, you go inside the BMEU and work with the postal clerk, who takes your Form 3602-EZ (Postage Statement) and verifies the weight and quantity of items being mailed. If you don't have enough funds in your account to cover the mailing, you pay the difference.

Unrelated, mostly: at the BMEU, they were wheeling some computers off to be repaired, and they mentioned [MERLIN] which I later found to be an acronym for Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup INstrument. Woo hoo: 2 new acronyms in one day! My heart, be still.

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