In recent months we’ve seen a bump in cases where papers mailed out to long time subscribers are returned by the US Post Office to us as undeliverable, even though nothing has changed about their address.

It’s unfortunate on a number of levels:

  • We are charged $0.78 by the USPS for each returned delivery attempt, regardless of why the paper was returned, or if the return was a mistake.
  • We usually don’t get notice of the first returned delivery until several weeks after a given edition is mailed out…which means by then we’ve sent several additional papers that may also be returned, each one costing $0.78.
  • A few dollars in returned postage costs on top of the printing and postage cost of the original delivery attempt starts to eat in to our low subscription pricing margin pretty quickly.
  • Our subscribers are upset about not getting their paper, and even though we can explain that it’s mostly out of our hands, since they are usually receiving all of their other mail just fine, in their minds it’s likely associated as a failure on our part.
  • It takes a non-trivial amount of staff time to document these returns, investigate them, contact subscribers and/or the post office, and facilitate a resolution.

From what I can tell, these false undeliverable reports are most likely happening due to new carriers on routes..but even then, one would hope that a valid USPS address and correct postage should be all we need to get the paper to the right place, regardless of staffing changes.

On the whole, our delivery via USPS works okay. But from a customer service perspective, it’s tough to know that some loyal subscribers aren’t getting what they expect, that it’s costing us extra when we did everything right, and that there’s not much we can do about it beyond begging our post office contacts for help.

Chris Hardie is a journalist, newspaper publisher, software developer and entrepreneur based in Indiana, USA. Read more from Chris on this site, learn more on his personal website, subscribe for updates or follow Chris on Mastodon.

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