Implementing Mail.dat and January 2012 Postal Changes
As we have been telling you in recent E-tips, there will be a change in the prices for the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) market-dominant and competitive products effective January 22, 2012. Also undergoing change during this time is the Mail.dat® file specification. The current Mail.dat file specification version is 11-2, with the older version 11-1 files still accepted by the USPS. Shortly, the version will change to 12-1 to accommodate the new rate and regulation changes that take place on January 22, 2012. In preparation for all these changes, software companies such as Window Book are in the process of coding the necessary software modifications to accommodate all the changes. Since there are so many changes, we thought it appropriate to walk through the schedule of upcoming changes and associated dates for Mail.dat versions so that you can plan better for this transition.
Mail.dat version changes
The chart below (provided by the USPS) details the various mailing scenarios based on mailing date, and shows the applicable Mail.dat version(s) that apply. Mailers should use this as a guide to planning their mailings and their mailing software updates.
Mailing software impacts
Window Book software products, such as DAT-MAIL™, Postmaster™, TagMaster™ and Postal Package Partner™, are in the process of being updated to support the new 12-1 Mail.dat version and the new January 2012 postal changes. Window Book software is designed so when there is a change to the postal rates and/or regulations, the changes are driven by the date of mailing. For example, postage statements generated in DAT-MAIL with a mailing date of January 19, 2012 will result in postage calculations using the current postage rates. If the date of mailing is input into the software as January 23, 2012, then the postage statements will generate using the postage calculations for the new rates. From this perspective, managing the rate changes in the software is fairly transparent to the user. However, the added complexity of the Mail.dat version change does require the user to pay attention to the version that applies based on the mailing date if you are u sing Mail.dat files.
Window Book software will automatically convert Mail.dat files to the most current version at the time of import. For example, the most recent versions of DAT-MAIL will automatically convert Mail.dat files to the 11-2 version upon import. The user then has the option to export the Mail.dat file in either the current Mail.dat version or the immediate prior version - in this case, version 11-1.
You can see based on the chart above that trying to manage this during this period of transition could be a real nightmare. For that reason, Window Book is coding into our software the ability to monitor the Mail.dat version used to perform the original export to PostalOne! and help insure that any update submissions to PostalOne! are submitted using the correct Mail.dat version.
What it means for mailers
So, what does all this mean for mailers? Mailers need to make plans to coordinate their mailing software updates and the mail processing steps to accommodate all these changes. In addition, there are some services that have been discontinued by the USPS, new products and services added, and some existing services modified and re-named. That, along with the pricing changes, should prompt mailers to evaluate their future mailing plans as there may be alternative products/services that might better serve your needs. Stay tuned for further updates as this transition unfolds.
Don't miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.