Starting next month, the cost to mail items through the U.S. Postal Service won't depend only on weight and distance.
The Postal Service on May 14 will implement "shape-based" pricing, which will also take into account the size, shape and thickness of mail to determine the postage.
A lot of media attention has focused on an increase in the price of a first-class stamp to 41 cents, and a "forever" stamp that will be good for mailing one-ounce letters regardless of future rate increases.
But the shift to shape-based pricing is expected to affect businesses the most, and influence what they use to mail items. Businesses produce about 94 percent of the mail stream, said Victor Laudisio, customer relations coordinator for the Postal Service.
Postal Service officials the rate changes are designed to ensure that all types of mail cover the costs they generate. Letters are very cheap for the Postal Service to handle, compared with a large envelope or a parcel, said Ron Corcoran, rate implementation coordinator for the Postal Service's Western New York District.
"There's some huge savings in converting your mail pieces to different sizes and shapes," he said at a Wednesday meeting of the Buffalo/Niagara Postal Customer Council.
Customers won't necessarily pay more for their shipments. For instance, the cost to send two ounces of content in a large-size envelope is increasing to 97 cents. If a customer takes the same content and folds it into a letter-sized envelope, the cost will be 58 cents, a savings of 39 cents per item. That's because the Postal Service is cutting its charge for an additional ounce of content to 17 cents, a 7-cent reduction.
The cost of mailing a parcel will start at $1.13, and while the cost to mail a postcard is going up to 26 cents.
Corcoran suggested people in the mailing industry, as well as individuals, study their options in light of the rate changes.
"Take a step back and look at what you are actually mailing," Corcoran said. "Can you mail it in a different way?"
Details of the changes are available at www.usps.com/ratecase.
The price of a first-class stamp on an envelope is going up by two cents, but the cost to send something like a two-ounce wedding invitation will actually drop by a nickel, to 58 cents, thanks to the lower additional-ounce charge.
Members of the local Postal Customer Council's executive board, which includes a range of people connected to the mailing industry, say their biggest task is educating their customers and colleagues about the rate changes in a fairly short amount of time.
"It's going to be a significant impact on some departments," said Rob Basko, project administrator for M&T, referring to his employer. "On others, it won't be at all."
Coleen Lacina, field sales leader for Pitney Bowes, said her company has been holding seminars and individual meetings to inform businesses about the upcoming changes and provide them with examples of how to offset costs.
"The final decision is up to them," she said.
Rate changes related to periodicals is being delayed until July 15 to allow more time for those customers to make software updates.
Laudisio noted the Postal Service doesn't receive tax dollars and needs to raise enough revenues through sale of its products and services to support itself, and keep pace with rising expenses like health care and fuel.
"If we don't get more revenue, then universal service as we know it, meaning delivery to everyone, every day, everywhere, is in jeopardy," he said.