Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Post Office Ponders Changes in Way It Sets Stamp Prices

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Post Office Ponders Changes in Way It Sets Stamp Prices

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ The post office wants to revamp the way it classifies mail so it can base the price on the service provided instead of what's in the envelope, Postmaster General Marvin Runyon says.

"What's needed is a complete overhaul of our classification system," Runyon told the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service on Thursday.

"The current four classes of mail were created more than a century ago," Runyon said. Prices are based on what's in the envelope rather "than by what our customers expect us to do with it."

"We need to develop a simple menu of products. One that's based on service level, use of technology and volume, one that's easier for customers and postal employees to understand and use, and one with prices tied more closely to cost and market factors," Runyon said.

He said the agency has a committee studying potential changes and he hopes to have a proposal for a new system by the end of the year.

Currently, mail rates are based on four classes of mail. First class is for letters, second class for publications, third class for advertising mail and fourth class for parcels.

But the system also has complex sets of discounts for mailers who send in bulk, sort the mail in advance, print computer bar codes on mail and do other work.

Charges for a level of service would allow mailers to pay more or less depending on how quickly they wanted something delivered, without having to resort to costly overnight service. But Runyon didn't detail what plans are under discussion.

The post office currently has a proposal for rate increases _ including a 32-cent first-class stamp _ pending before the independent Postal Rate Commission. Action isn't expected until early next year.

The committee grilled Runyon and his staff about problems with mail delivery in Chicago, increasing use of overtime and the growth of the postal workforce, which had been cut last year by a buyout program. …

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