on Aug 13th, 2012 in Products & Services | 29 comments
More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million. The cost of mail forwarding – and returning to sender and treating as waste -- is baked into the overall First Class Mail rates, so all customers effectively pay for this service whether they use it or not. Canada Post has taken a different approach to mail forwarding, charging recipients either an annual or semi-annual fee when they move. Residential customers pay $75 for 12 months of forwarding and business customers pay $235. These prices increase slightly if the person or business moves to another province. The Canada Post model extricates the costs from the overall First Class Mail rate and is structured so recipients pay for the service, but only if they use it. Some U.S. business customers have requested that the Postal Service explore new pricing and product options to reduce the costs of forwarding and returning mail to sender. Would a model similar to the Canada Post one work in the U.S. or would residential recipients, in particular, feel like they were being charged for a service they thought was free? Should the sender pay for forwarding instead of the recipients? What would happen if recipients or senders decided against paying for forwarding? Would total costs merely go up since return to sender mail costs more than twice as much as forwarding per piece? Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts below.


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Reduce the base price of First Class mail and let those that want additional services pay for them, as they do in Standard Mail. A lower First Class mail price would entice Standard Mailers to step up to premium delivery services for faster more consistent delivery.

This would provide more revenue for the USPS and better service for the mail owner.

Since it cost about $27.50 per change, charge a nominal one time fee when customers submit a change, such as $20 for individuals and $40 for businesses. This would generate substantial revenue and keep the record keeping simple (rather than trying to figure out which service each customer paid for.)

Otherwise, they have to notify all the mailers and none of their mail will be forwarded.

Everyone should pay the same price to mail letters. The Postal Service gives large mailers discounts and you and I have to pay full price for each letter! It should be the same price for everyone across the board, NO EXCEPTIONS!
Then maybe forwarding your mail to you when you move for the first 12 months wouldn't be such a big hassle for the Postal Service, it would be a "service" like their name reflects.

Mail should be forwarded for one month. After that, they pay postage rate.

AS a lette carrier too many people think we change their address with the sender.
Give them one free month of FORWARDING Service.
After that charge THEM for ever piece we have to forward!
Too many people think The postal service changes their address for the BUT WE DON'T. It Clearly states on the yellow sticker PLEASE INFORm THE SENDER OF YOUR NEW ADDRESS, THEY JUST IGNORE IT!
Ups charges for packages to be forwarded.

USPS is still cheapest postage ,so they would not have to lower stamp prices. Many people take advantage of the free forward. I am retired but when I was a carrier , there were forwards for names that were not even at a particular address or people would come and go and forwards would stop and restart etc. If nothing else a nominal fee would save on bogus forwards from trashy people just doing something because it is free. Many manhours of labor would be saved as well. I say go for it and keep stamp prices the same. Let the people complain. Who cares?

Change of address fee for the reciever is an excellent way to get people to update their addresses with the senders. It should be a large fee greater than $50.00

This would in the long run help customer service. On the other hand it may accelerate the demise of First Class mail.

As you said - it costs more than twice as much to return mail to sender as it does to forward it. This plan would have 4 side effects, 2 of which are detrimental to the service. 1 - it would raise revenue from those that choose to have their mail forwarded. 2 - it would lower First Class mail rates - but since the USPS offers some of the lowest postage rates in the world already, it is unclear on the advantage this would have on stabilizing mail volumes. 3 - it would hasten the change to electronic bill presentment and payment as people would quickly realize that by doing so they could avoid the fee for mail forwarding. 4 - as stated, it costs more than twice as much to return mail to sender than it does to forward it, this plan would dramatically increase RTS mail which would in turn dramatically increase costs with no financial gain (since points 1 and 2 would be revenue neutral).

In summary - this plan would be revenue neutral at best, and increase costs and reduce volumes further at worst. Sounds like a lose-lose proposition to me.

The best deal on the globe, still, is the cost to mail a letter. Most other countries are 2 to 3 times as much as we pay and there is no security in the mail system. We need to go ahead and raise the cost of a stamp, even o .80 a letter. No more mail that is actually used these days, it would not be that big a burden, but in exchange for the increase, the unions need to get off your back and let USPS Management run the company like a company.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is how to handle those on a limited/fixed income. In theory, renters (presumably lower income citizens) have to move far more often than those who own a home and live there for a decade or more (and often not by choice).

If the fees to forward mail have to be passed on to the group of people that can lease afford it -- not to mention those who may not have access to the internet or other electronic banking/bill paying programs, etc., how is this going to help them? It essentially becomes another "tax" on the poor.

What business or right does the OIG have in commenting about policy or procedure? They are an offshoot of the Postal Inspectors, and a law enforcement arm of the PO/USPS, they look after the USPS's business ONLY, not the consumer or the worker. Lets disband these bottom feeders and turn the expenses they run up to the workers and the bottom line of the service.. They seem to comment on ideas and decisions that they have no vested interests; most employees think they are an offshoot of management anyway!!

These comments are right on! The OIG are a management tool, running up costs, and justifing management's excess expenses and budget padding. They should investigate middle and upper supervisors credit card usage, travel expenses and moving expenses.! The non payment of headquarters health payments are another area they could... but will not look at, because these leeches are controlled BY USPS's UPPER MANAGEMENT!

Well, there's a flip-side to this argument. At MVS, I would find at Tour 3 dispatch, almost daily, and at multiple suspect location PO's, returning 2-3 APC's of missent mail to GMF for reprocessing. And much worse, from there reprocessed to the L&DC, then back again.
So, is that cost repatriated back to the Management, the Rank and File,
or the cost of postage??? Perhaps the delta of these costs should become a line item in the balance sheets. It would be interesting to see the processing numbers on this pesky little problem. I'm certain they are not hailed as am bonus factor at year end.

I forwarded my mail on July 29th - It is now August 16th and I still have not received any mail at my new house!

Canadian forwarding rates for individuals:
Within the same province$75 for 12 months*
$45 for 6 months
Outside of province$95 for 12 months*
$57 for 6 months
U.S.A./International$225 for 12 months*
$135 for 6 months

A big problem area is Move Update. Mailers are certifying on their mailing statements that their lists are compliant. If that was true, the only NOV mail would be vacant delivery points. I have never seen so much NOV mail. The lists are years old. We need to police the acceptance operations to prevent mailers from using these outdated lists. The savings would be staggering.

Follow the Canadian Forward System. Charge for 6 and12 months of forwarding. Most people don't change their old addresses. If they have to pay, they will change their address sooner.

This is the US Postal SERVICE. For LITERALLY years, I have hear our management tell PTFs and TEs not "to read the manes just deliver the mail". Since the PO went to the current "label pulled by the office management" program, I have gone 5-9 weeks without any labels "the machine is broken, we are out of labels, it's not my job etc". It was 5+ weeks this last time and I had asked for them once a week for 3 weeks. How can you really expect anyone to PAY for this SERVICE..........someone would have to be accountable

I agree. We go 3-4 weeks without any labels then suddenly get 15-20 in one day, finding some that should have started a month ago. After we've already sent their mail back to sender Moved, Left No Address. Start holding management responsible for doing their job, but that would be another report for them.

I am shocked to know the cost of mail forwarding by US postal services. You must have done a lot of research while writing this post. Thanks for sharing this writing with us. I think the third party mail transfers are much cheaper when comparing to us postal services.

There is a problem with mail forwarding: any person can request any other person's mail to be forwarded to a third party. For example, I could request the postal service to forward your mail to someone else's address. It would be fraudulent, but there are people who do this and get away with it. This is a way to harass people you do not like by having their mail forwarded to another person who one does not like.

So, government are paying for the return to sender mails? $800 is a whole lot of money. It can be use to other projects that can be of great cause.

Cannot speak for all the circumstances that require a customer to forward their mail but it would seem we should be not be offering the service for free either for forwarding or returning mail.

In regard to the COA's. I cannot see the one month free and then charge idea working. You would still have to have the infrastructure to handle COA's. Why not make premium forwarding THE service. No free service. Either tell customer to call up those that you need to correct your address or use our service.
We have snowbirds. Let them pay for the service. They can use premium forwarding.
We are constantly correcting customers forwarding requests. Having to fix their incorrectly filled out forms, correct CFS errors, explain to customer why the delay in their getting their forwarding. With the change of plants handling our forwards we are having an increase of problems.
Premium forwarding. You go to you office, they review form, they handle the forwarding, they are accountable. No middle man, no delays and customer has a contact person to speak with if a problem or question arises.
If USPS wants to still have a record, input can be made via the office handling the Premium forwarding.
And it is already set up on USPS for the customer to request.

Honestly I believe the cost of COA's is much higher, as I cannot imagine how they would know how each office spends their time handling the COA issues. We have to deal with COA issues daily.

In regard to "return to sender". Charge the customer that is receiving. They want the mail back for a reason, they should be willing to pay for that service.

I am not in favor for this hidden cost within the first class mail. You want a service pay for it.

Harry, I believe you are absolutely correct. The cost of each time a piece of mail is diverted from its set course to another address is much higher than $.45. In 2001, the cost to divert a piece of mail to the Central Forwarding System was &.75 per piece of mail. If there was an error in the Change of Address, and it was sent back to the Carrier Post Office, that cost another $.75. Every time it bounced from one location to another, it would cost an additional $.75. That was way back in 2001, while the carriers still managed the mail that was sent to CFS. I do not know how much it costs now that an off-site facility is handling it, but I know that the number of Forwarding Errors drastically increased when it happened. It was better when carriers could generate a COA for each misspelling of a customer’s name. Carriers that were regulars on the route would know the nicknames, maiden names, and aliases of the longtime customers. Carriers would know to personally discuss the COA’s and how they worked with the customer BEFORE they filled the COA’s out. Carriers usually know their longtime customers and all their little quirks. Carriers were the customers first line of defense when it came to giving long lasting help to their patrons, even long after they moved.

Could not agree any stronger with Harry's comments. Lets not forget about the irrate customer because they did not inform someone of their new address, then want us to pay their late charges. I spend at least 5 hours a week on the phone trying to fix forwarding errors. Example: Son moves out puts in family order, customers put wrong new address, wrong old address, wrong date. Moved back didn't know he had to cancell forward. I am a strong supporter of the CFS it does work our employees are just lazy. During mail count my carriers wanted credit for removing the reject labels from forward errors. I told them to give them to me and if they were indeed CFS errors I would give them a mark-up. Surprise no CFS errors all carriers error.I believe this is a service that needs to be paid for. How can 45 cent possibly cover this service? How many people have to handle a single piece of mail to get it to a second destination. Insane for anyone to think we could make a cent of a letter period. But to basically put it thru the mail stream three times, each piece of mail forwarded must cost us several dollars each.

Sandee, if you are in one of the Postal Regions where the mail carriers no longer handle the forwarding of mail, the mail to be forwarded often never even reaches the carrier’s route. The Central Forwarding Databases catch the mail and forward it, and the carrier only receives it if there is an error caused BY the Central Forwarding System data entry teams. Did you know that? If you are having all mail being forwarded by the carriers, and they are continuing to have a high percentage of mail coming back, there is a way to fix it. While I was in Charge of Quality Control, we were able to bring the 12% of errors returned to 4.5%. Of that 4.5% I was able to prove that 3.5% of those errors were made by data entry clerks in the Central Forwarding System. We were able to figure out exactly what the problems were and find solutions for those issues. The best part, is that it was an amazingly simple process from start to finish. All we needed were the end of run reports from CFS which breaks down exactly what type of error was repeating and which route it came from. Piece of cake.

“Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million”. This is your quote. Wouldn’t it save money if instead of returning mail to the sender, that you extended the Mail Forwarding Time to two years instead of one? I would have very happily paid a Fee of $50.00 to extend my Mail Forwarding Time for an additional year. Instead of forwarding the mail with a yellow sticker to the person who moved (for a year), why don’t you make it happen that if a person moves and does not bother to notify the people and companies they correspond with within the first six months do something about it. You issue reports that list the names in the Central Forwarding System Database. You should have the ability that instead of alphabetizing the database by customer name and address, add a field that indicates where the forwarding piece originated. Alphabetize the database by sender. Sometimes, it is not the fault of the customer that moved that their new address has not been updated in a company/sender database. Some companies will not update to your new address no matter how many letters, E-mails or phone calls you send. Often, it is the sender who is costing the USPS so much money. Do something about it. Alphabetize your sender list. Figure out who the culprits are that refuse to update their customer databases. Send them a report that shows them which of their customers have moved, and list the new corrected address. It is not the job of USPS to update their databases. It is their job. Charge them $.75 for every name that they have refused to update their database for during the last six months. For companies that maintain incorrect addresses for over 200 of their customers per month, send them this list on the second Friday of every month. That should give them time to correct the databases for the next billing cycle or magazine delivery. They may gripe about the outlay of cash, but in the long run, it will mean that the address they send each item to will be the correct address the first time. This might remove a great deal of mail traffic and cost from the Central Forwarding System and the Return to Sender Expenses. They will pay much less to have the mail correctly sent initially, than they would if they have to pay “Return to Sender Fees” for many pieces that are sent back to them because of the same customer with a bad address.

In it affluent home with plenty of "snowbirds" they are always doing over the phone change of addresses and coa is stead premium forwarding . Forwarding should be paid for, if you can afford two home you can afford forwarding.

If a letter has a return address and you know it is from someone or a company who is just soliciting, you should be allowed to refuse it and have it returned to the sender at their expense. You should also be allowed to write on it refuse, return to sender, do not send solicitations here, thank you. But my post office does not allow this.