Where is my Journal?

News: Where is my Journal?

That’s a question I’m hearing more and more, which is very frustrating. To help out with the explanations of what we face, I’ve corralled Journal Editor Mike Bryant to fill in some of the blanks. His contributions are in italics. (He also suggested “Postal Service: Oxymoron?” as the headline: I didn’t take him up on that.)

The sad thing is that ATOS had made no changes to the way that the Journal is handled as far as the mailing is concerned. The Journals are all printed, packaged, and mailed at the same time, at the same post office, just as they have been for the last several years. So, what is happening? Well, I can truthfully say that it is not anything to do with ATOS. It is fully on the United States Postal Service.

Here, in basic form, is what happens after the Journals are printed and begin making their way to your mail slot or post box.

As you know, each Journal comes either in an envelope (First Class and International) or a polybag (“Periodicals class”). The difference is primarily the delivery standard and target; First Class has a delivery standard of two to five days, anywhere in the continental United States. [Most First Class mail is handled for a two- to three-day delivery window, no doubt to keep the on-time statistics looking good.—Ed.] Periodicals-class mail, as Membership Secretary Donna Parker and Journal Editor Mike Bryant have repeatedly pointed out, has no “official” delivery time target. [More on that later….—Ed.]

Inside that polybag, along with the Journal, is a sheet of white paper which serves two purposes – although many seem to ignore one of them! If you are not coming up on your renewal date, its first purpose is its only purpose – it serves as a carrier for the address label. First Class and International just have the mailing label on the envelope. So now the post office has everything they need to get your Journal on its way to you. This is, obviously, the most important part of this insert.

[Why do we waste money putting the label on a sheet of paper inside the polybag, instead of putting it on the polybag itself? Two reasons: first, when we did have the label on the outside, we encountered what we considered too many instances of the label coming off in transit. Second is that weight is part of the equation for calculation of postage. In Periodicals class, all pieces must weigh EXACTLY the same in order to be combined for the lowest postage. Since we put the renewal notice in, we have to replace it with another – blank – sheet for those of you not due for renewal.—Ed.]

The second purpose, which many seem to ignore, is that we use this form to notify you when your membership is about to expire. First Class and International recipients will find this form inside the envelope, where members sometimes miss its presence. If you look at your mailing label, though, the line just above your name has your member number and month and year of expiration – all memberships expire on the last day of the month. Using this form has saved ATOS much money, as this keeps us from having to do a separate mailing for renewals. And, as you know by now, having to deal with another mailing would be pretty rough right now.

Once the Journal and insert are in the polybag or envelope, it is sealed, and then all the Journals are taken to the post office to be mailed out. After that, it is all out of our hands, and completely in the hands of the postal service.

[Here’s the “more on that” part—Ed.] In January 2020, the United States Postal Service (USPS) was delivering 91% of all First Class mail on time, against a target of 96%. That’s pretty good. At the end of December 2020, they were delivering 71% of all First-Class mail on time. That’s not so good, and the trend appears to be continuing on its journey to the basement.

As we said, Periodicals Class has no delivery time target, although the USPS Inspector General claims a “two to nine-day standard with a 91.8% on-time target.” [Yeah, like we’ve ever actually seen that….Ed.]), but there is a class of the next higher priority (generically called “3-to-5-day mail”) for comparison, and that isn’t a pretty picture. At the beginning of January 2020, 3-to-5-day mail was at 79% on-time; at the end of December 2020, it was 38%. [That performance chart was heading downhill steeper than Game Stop was heading up not long ago…By the way, thanks to the USPS Inspector General for providing this data. You can find it on the web if you’re so inclined.—Ed.]

So, what can be done to help out? The main thing that could be done – if you haven’t already and you’re in the US – is to sign up to receive the Journal by First-Class mail. If you’re an International member, you are already paying a premium for Journal delivery through a program called “International Surface Air Lift” (ISAL). This gets your Journal delivered to your home country by air, where it joins the domestic First Class delivery mechanism. That’s all we can do to expedite delivery for you. If you’re a US member, and haven’t selected First-Class mail on your membership form, make sure you do so on the next round of renewals.

I still didn’t get my Journal – now what do I do?!?

If that happens, get in touch with ATOS Membership Secretary Donna Parker (membership [at] atos.org). She will make sure we have your correct information, check to be sure a Journal was sent (just in case you forgot to renew….) and get a replacement copy on the way.

Just a reminder – because of the “no delivery time target” on Periodicals mail, we ask that all members wait until a full month has elapsed before requesting a replacement. We addressed that in the Journal, November/December 2020 and January/February 2021 issues.

[If you’re outside the US, sending a single copy internationally is prohibitively expensive. Some destinations cost us more than $8.00 to mail a single copy to, so we try to minimize the need. We have some members around the world who have agreed to receive a few extra copies of each issue, and to mail them out to fellow countrymen (and women) if necessary. Before you get too excited about this, they will only send out a copy in response to a request from Donna.—Ed.]

We are asking for your patience. As mentioned before, once the Journals are dropped off at the postal service, the mailing is out of our hands, and in the hands of the postal services of each destination country […although the USPS gets first whack at it…—Ed.]. The US Postal Service says that service is slower due to the pandemic and holiday mail. [What, holiday mail? in January? They seem to conveniently skip over the cutbacks for overtime and the removal of a significant number of the sorting machines in postal facilities. Nah…that couldn’t be a factor, could it?—Ed.] Hopefully, as the vaccines become more available and more people are getting that shot in the arm, things will start to pick back up and the mail service will improve. Until then, we are all at the mercy of the system and the many slowdowns that it is causing.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact either Donna Parker (membership [at] atos.org) or me (chairman [at] atos.org) and we will do our best to help you.
Dave Calendine