Undeliverable bulk business mail (UBBM) is mail the U.S. Postal Service cannot deliver because of an expired change of address, or an incorrect, incomplete, or illegible address. By agreement, the Postal Service does not return UBBM to the business mailer, but recycles it. UBBM includes mail types such as flyers, newsletters, circulars, advertising, bulletins, and catalogs.
The Postal Service designed its Electronic Mail Improvement Reporting (eMIR) system to report mail quality issues such as UBBM and improve customer service for the mailer and the Postal Service. Use of the eMIR system should help reduce mailer production and postage costs while reducing the Postal Service’s handling costs. The eMIR system reports go to the Business Service Network or the business mail entry unit at the processing facility for resolution of mail quality issues that can be solved for the mailer and the Postal Service.
From fiscal year (FY) 2014 to February 8, 2017, Postal Service personnel reported almost 86,000 mail quality issues in the eMIR system nationally and coded about 31,000, or 36 percent, as resolved.
This report responds to a request from U.S. Representative Scott Peters of the 52nd Congressional District of CA to review how employees at the Margaret L. Sellers Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC), San Diego, CA, process UBBM.
Our objective was to determine if UBBM at the Margaret L. Sellers P&DC is being processed in accordance with Postal Service policy.
What the OIG Found
UBBM at the Margaret L. Sellers P&DC was not processed in accordance with Postal Service policy. We found that employees were not checking UBBM for mailpieces that could be processed before it was sent for recycling because there was no standard operating procedure or supervision for the handling of UBBM at the facility. As a result, mail that should have been processed and delivered was recycled.
During our unannounced site visit in January 2017, we counted almost 2,600 pieces of mail identified as UBBM and found that 176 pieces, or about 7 percent, should have been subsequently processed and delivered instead of recycled. The first day we found 162 out of 1,610 mailpieces, or about 10 percent, that were deliverable. There were two pieces of First-Class Mail and the remaining 160 mailpieces were periodicals or Marketing Mail. The remaining 90 percent of the UBBM should have been recycled. However, they did not use the eMIR system to identify for the business mailers and the Postal Service the cause(s) of the UBBM being recycled. The primary cause we identified was missing address labels.
During our site visit, management discussed with employees the importance of checking UBBM containers for mail they could process rather than recycle. As a result, the amount of UBBM that should have been processed and delivered instead of recycled decreased during the last three days of our observation to about 1.4 percent, but not to zero. There is additional opportunity to improve the UBBM error rate to zero by establishing standard operating procedures and supervision requirements for handling UBBM.
We also found that employees at the Margaret L. Sellers P&DC were not entering mail processing issues into the eMIR system. In the last three fiscal years, employees entered only 10 issues into the eMIR system (none about UBBM) and entered no issues in FY 2017 through February 8, 2017.
There were no standard operating procedures or supervision to ensure that employees routinely entered mail processing quality issues into the eMIR system. As a result, business mailers and the Postal Service are unaware of mail processing issues and the subsequent non-delivery of the mail. This adversely affects Postal Service customers, harms the brand, and can cause mailers to use competitors and the Postal Service to lose revenue.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management develop standard operating procedures for handling and supervising UBBM to achieve a zero error rate and develop standard operating procedures and supervision requirements to ensure the eMIR system is routinely used to identify all UBBM quality issues.