USPS 1st class rates going up
Posted by bitguru on April 28, 2007
I remember hearing on the radio about a year ago that the U.S. Post Office had made an accounting mistake, that they had way more money then they thought they had, and therefore postal rates weren’t going to go up for a while. That must have been a hallucination because (1) I’m unable to find any corroboration on the net, and (2) rates are going up in two weeks.
The way they are increasing their rates is unusual this time around. They are actually lowering the “each additional ounce” rate from 24¢ to 17¢, but they are steeply raising the first-ounce rate for non-letter first class mail. Letter rates are increasing only 2¢, to 41¢ from 39¢, but they are restricting what counts as a letter. If it exceeds 6⅛ inches in both dimensions, exceeds a quarter inch in thickness, or weights more than 3.5 ounces it is considered a “flat.” The first ounce for flats will be 80¢. Flats that are more than 1¼ inches thick are considered “parcels,” which are increasing to $1.13 for the first ounce.
Evidently, the steeper increase for flats and parcels vs. letters is more in line with USPS’s actual costs for handling them. If so, I guess I have no objections. It makes for some interesting situations, though.
Consider a hypothetical situation where I have some sheets of paper that weigh 1.2 ounces and are a tenth of an inch thick. I want to send these first class. I can fold them into thirds and stuff them in a letter envelope, or fold them in half and use a 6×9 envelope, or leave them unfolded and use a 9×12 envelope.
At the current rates this would cost me 63¢ (two ounce rate) no matter which envelope I used. Starting May 14 the 9×12 envelope will cost 97¢ (flats rate), the 6×9 envelope will cost 58¢ (letter rate), and the letter envelope will cost 97¢ (too thick for letter rate). If I choose the right envelope the new rates actually save me 5¢, otherwise they cost me an extra 34¢.
Note that the rules for what qualifies as a letter, flat, and parcel are actually more complicated than I’ve described above. There are other factors besides size and weight (such as aspect ratio, rigidity, and uniformity of thickness) and there is an NFM (“not-flat machinable”) rate which falls between flats and parcels. It’s complex enough that some high-volume mailers still haven’t quite figured everything out.