Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Postal Plan Gives Junk Mail a Boost

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Postal Plan Gives Junk Mail a Boost

Article excerpt

The Postal Service will begin next month a yearlong test that critics say will lead to a sharp upsurge in so-called junk mail.

Those ubiquitous fliers now have to be mailed to a specific address and often arrive with the impersonal greeting "Occupant."

But starting next month in four test cities - excluding St. Louis - the fliers will be delivered to every dwelling along a requested route and need only the more impersonal "Postal Patron" or "Neighbor." The Postal Service plans to relax the rules for advertising mail. That will enable advertisers to pay for delivery by route, ending the costs of buying mailing lists and commercial mail services.

One postal expert said the yearlong test threatens to turn "every Kinko's (copying store) in every strip mall" into an advertising mail producer. Another mail industry official said: "To become a mailer, I just need a Xerox machine, that's all. Maybe that's good, but it sure stirs up the status quo."

Postal officials said the change would help small businesses that need cheap advertising, but newspaper officials and bulk mailers were furious, charging that the plan would place the Postal Service in direct competition with them for advertising dollars. "I think the Postal Service has lost its way," said Tonda Rush, president of the National Newspaper Association, a group of 4,000 community newspapers. "They think they are in the advertising business."

Harry Buckle, a senior vice president of Harte-Hanks Communications Inc., which operates one of the nation's largest bulk mail houses, said, "This is absolutely outrageous." Newspaper and bulk mail groups vowed to fight the proposal.

Loren Smith, a senior Postal Service vice president, contended that the new service was targeted at small businesses - "the florist and the mom-and-pop stores" too small to be served by newspapers or bulk mailers. "It would be extreme to say that we're going head to head" with other advertisers, he said.

Until now, the Postal Service has required each piece of advertising mail to go to a specific address. …

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