Late mail delivery: USPS's or my printer's fault?

Answered by Dave Loudon, VP of Mailhouse, EU Services

My printer mailed my direct mail catalog campaign on 9/14/01 and 9/18/01 from Texas. All pieces were sent Standard A. I have the 3602s from the USPS. Each of our dealer's mailing lists were seeded, which we confirmed with the dealers. But as of October 11, 2001, 10 seeds were still not received. Our seeds are located in California, New Jersey and Illinois. To date, some still have not been received. The catalog starting effective date was October 1, 2001. We lost two to four weeks of sales (varied per dealers list delivery) due to late delivery.

Is my printer at fault for this or is it USPS's fault? What can I do to prevent this from happening again? Is there anything in particular I should ask my printer about how the mail is prepared and transported?

Postal delays are usually random in nature and can be rather mysterious. Mail disappears for weeks and then starts to deliver unexplainably. In my experience, when the USPS is confronted with these issues they rarely have an answer to where delayed mail is or when it might deliver. My best guess is that most delays are caused by sorting errors within the USPS. Conceivably, a skid of mail placed on the wrong truck could disappear for a week or so and then reappear. If the skid was leaving Maryland destined for Georgia and was loaded on a truck headed to California, it could take a week to get there, only to discover that it needs to be returned to Georgia. This situation could extend to several more weeks' time before the mail finally will be delivered.

This scenario may not be what happened in your case. Historically, there have also been infrequent issues when trailers are delayed for processing at BMCs (Bulk Mail Centers). Other non-sortation human errors are also possible sources of delays, as well as those caused by extenuating circumstances such as the events that have hit the USPS in the past several months.

Since most cases of delayed mail occur once the mailing enters the USPS processing stream, changing transportation probably isn't the answer to your situation. Mail processing (manufacturing) facilities do not have a "typical" scenario for identifying when or where slowdowns may occur.

For more expert advice, you can reach Dave Loudon at or at
© Copyright Print Buyers, Inc.