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Mail Call

Save time and money with the newest electronic mailing systems.

Mail is one of the lifelines of a business, but if you're still licking and sticking envelopes and stamps, spending precious time at the post office to reset your postage meter, and struggling with skyrocketing costs, it's time to invest in one of the laBODY electronic mailing machines that can save you time and money.

These electronic mailing machines consist of a base through which envelopes are guided for stamping, which can be rented, leased, or bought from a mailing equipment manufacturer, and a meter which must be rented from the United States Postal Service (USPS). The more automated and faster the machine, and the more features it incorporates, the more it costs to rent, lease or own.

Before you rush out to shop, however, there are two new government regulations you should know about: reclassification and decertification.

The USPS recently introduced Classification Reform, a new concept that mutually benefits the Postal
Service and its customers. Reclassification changes the rates of postal discounts to various customers, depending on how intricate your automation is. If your mail is bar-coded, metered with an "indicia" (the red stamp imprinted by the meter's tiny printer), or sorted and bundled in quantities, you probably qualify for significant discounts.

Under decertification, the USPS is calling in all its mechanical meters, declaring them obsolete by 1999, and requiring electronic metering. If you use a mechanical postage meter system with a meter and a mailing machine base, you must return it to the post office by December 1997.

While decertification necessitates re-evaluating your mailing equipment, there is a huge plus: Electronic postage meters can be reset either with a phone call or via computer instead of visiting the post office. Mailing equipment manufacturers offer this service free or for a nominal fee.

Even the smallest office can benefit from a meter to determine exact postage and print out a stamp, and a scale to weigh mail. The USPS estimates accurate weighing can save customers up to 20 percent on mailings.

An efficient, automated mailing machine can also save hours of time if you handle direct mail or large mailings. Mail that's presorted and bar-coded bypasses many of the post office handling steps and is delivered 24 hours sooner than mail lacking automated preparation, according to the USPS. (And if you don't think a day makes a difference, consider the results of a study by market research firm The Gallup Organization Inc. and mailing equipment manufacturer Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems. Their study found that 11 percent of executives surveyed at large and midsized companies said the net income of their businesses would jump 5 percent if they received payments one day sooner!)

If you're not familiar with the new regulations and postal rates, a call to a mailing equipment manufacturer or distributor (look in the Business-to-Business Yellow Pages under "Mailing Equipment") or a post office can set you straight and give you some money-saving tips.

"We hold regular seminars for our salespeople and customers so they can keep up to date on the laBODY government edicts and plan for future needs and budgeting," says Ed Lomasney, a Fountain Valley, California, sales manager for Hayward, California-based Neopost, one of the four leading national mailing equipment manufacturers. The other three mailing equipment manufacturers are Pitney Bowes, which has an 85 percent share of the market; Ascom Hasler; and Francotyp-Postalia. All design and develop a variety of machines and add-on modules for various-sized businesses.

A few smaller companies sell machines that prepare your documents for mailing, such as inserters for putting letters into envelopes, extractors for removing mail from envelopes, and bursters for stripping the sides off tractor-feed computer paper forms. The four major manufacturers offer full lines of equipment.

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This article was originally published in the February 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Mail Call.

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