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E-Postage Efficiencies.

For the association executive running a small office, running to the post office--and waiting in long lines--may quickly become a distant memory. The U.S. Postal Service has given the go-ahead to four private firms to offer postage via the Internet. According to Forbes (January 10, 2000), "these upstarts--which let you print postal indicia on envelopes using standard printers, along with USPS-verified address labels--are targeting the 22 million home offices and 7.5 million companies with fewer than 100 employees." Perhaps your small-staff association office should be one of them. (Most electronic postage programs require a personal computer with at least 16 megabytes of RAM and a laser or inkjet printer.)

Postage online, not in line

Here's how it works.

* Install software. You may download software, order CD-ROMs, or buy software from retail stores. Prices vary among providers; some sell the software while others charge monthly fees.

* Print postage. The new postage can be used for first-class, priority, and express-mail service, as well as for parcel post. Like other forms of postage such as meter impressions and stamps, the Information Based Indicia is printed on an envelope in the upper right-hand corner, or on a label for an envelope or package. There's no need for special printers; you can print IBI postage directly from your laser or inkjet printer.

* Mail it. You can simply drop mail and packages off at your nearest mailbox or--better yet--many locations offer free pick-up service by USPS.

Multiple benefits

A 24-hour online post office is the most obvious advantage. Here are a few of the other benefits to the new e-postage.

* Print postage anytime. Purchased postage is stored online or in a special storage vault that plugs into your computer. You may print on envelopes, labels, or documents using a standard printer. At least one service allows you to access your accumulated postage without the need to remain connected to the Internet.

* Integrate the program with other software. Internet postage works with many popular software applications, allowing you to apply postage while you do word processing or create invoices.

* Verify addresses. USPS requires that address verification be performed, and the programs include a CD-ROM that contains all deliverable addresses in the United States and validates your addresses to ensure faster delivery of your mail.

Early drawbacks

As with many new technology applications, there have been some reported growing pains. Some of the programs don't yet print labels, some establish a minimum monthly fee even if you don't buy any postage that month, and others have been known to disrupt certain computer operations. Check these things out before selecting a provider.

And, of course, there is a convenience charge for the service, varying from a monthly fee ($15 for one of the services) to a flat fee of 10 percent of postage purchased. Visit the service Web sites for more information.

If You Don't Want to Lick 'Em...

Four private companies have received approval from the United States Postal Service to offer postage via the Internet. Pitney Bowes, the most recent to receive the USPS authorization, began beta testing its Internet-based postage solution in March. To find out more about the four providers, visit their Web sites:

* E-Stamp (the first company to sell Internet postage commercially)

* Stamps.com, www.stamps.com

www.e-stamp.com/associations

* ClickStamp from Pitney Bowes, www.pitneyworks.com

* SimplyPostage from Neopost, www.simplypostage.com
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Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:562
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