The post office is inexorably edging every business to use bar codes, says Phil Ballai of Pitney Bowes, and he predicts that the gap between the cost of barcoded mail and nonbarcoded mail will continue to widen. Ballai will be among the instructors at a Pitney Bowes postal reclassification seminar on Wednesday, September 24, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at 989 Lenox Drive, Building 1. These monthly seminars are is free by reservation; call 800-322-8000.

The seminar will show ways to save at least 40 percent on postage costs. I can generally justify a barcoded system on label savings alone, says Ballai. A 32-year-old mechanical engineer from Middlesex County College, he is earning his bachelor’s degree from Rider in computer information systems.

Pitney Bowes can provide a turnkey system, complete with computer, or add software and a special printer to the client’s Pentium 100 computer with CD-ROM. The software cleans the list, brings it up to USPS standards, and adds the delivery point barcode number which cues the printer to print the barcode.

Half of our customers elect to go with the turnkey system because it is a nice way to justify getting another PC into the office, says Ballai.

Leased turnkey systems cost from $200 to $500 a month including quarterly software updates. In contrast, most businesses would buy a system for $10,000; the printers cost from $5,000 to $15,000 and software is $1,000 to $2,000.

How much mail do you need to be sending to justify these cost? If most of your mailings are first class mail, such as billing statements, you will save only a nickel per piece. That’s not a lot of money. It may not make sense to implement a bar code system, says Ballai. But those sending newsletters, cards, or regular mailings to any kind of a membership or customer list should consider converting to barcodes.

I get a card five times a year from an optometrist who pays 20 cents full price for postage. I’m surprised he hasn’t investigated barcodes, says Ballai. He gives the example of a pizza parlor with three stores and an 800-household customer base. It uses barcode equipment to print the entire card as well as for the discount.

Nonprofits can also effect big savings Å more than a nickel per piece Å unless they have volunteers doing the stuffing and label pasting. The nonprofit postage for barcoded pieces is 9.9 cents (plus the cost of the equipment), compared with the presorted price of 15 cents (with no cost for equipment to stuff and label).

For flats (the postal lingo for larger envelopes) the savings is about $1. I saved one customer $2,000 a month with a turnkey system that costs $400 a month. It took him a whole day to address and label the packages. In our system he was able to do it in three hours Å we saved him four or five hours of labor a day.

Barbara Racich, proprietor of the dress shop Merrick’s on Moore in downtown Princeton, says she will not be lured by barcode savings because her marketing schemes depend on pretty stamps. I get very excited about the stamps that the post office comes out with, and I pick the colors to coordinate with them, says Racich. She sends six mailings a year, a total of 18,000 post cards, and though more than half go by bulk mail to Princeton zip codes, the rest are stamped for out-of-town addresses.

Racich also objects to the uglification of the addresses by postal software which would convert everything to capital letters and abbreviations. Only recently have I succumbed to having the lists on the computer, she says. For this type of business, a savings of five cents a card does not appeal to me.

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