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International Mail Distribution – The Facts About “Remail”

Date: October, 2010 --

Certainly it is appealing to be able to save some money on foreign mailings. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting some of the low-ball offers you may get for your mail, saving you as much as 20% over the USPS. 

Just be aware that the source of the offer may be doing some “remail” into your destination country. The most common form of remail is when the mailer is in country A, but the mail is sent to country C by using the Post of country B, rather than the post of country A. Why would they do this? Well, let’s suppose the postage for a promotion piece mailed from the US to Japan in a commercial mailing was $1. You might be quoted a price of say $0.75 if you ship the letter to China, put Chinese postage on it, and deposit it into Japan from Shanghai. In this case, the negotiated “terminal dues” rates for letters from China are lower than for letters from the US. “Terminal dues” are the postage paid by the “mailing country” to the receiving country in order to compensate the receiving post for delivering it.

It’s perfectly legal for you to do that, and under the UPU rules, it’s ok for China to do that as long as the return address is in China. But why would you do that? You want the returns so you can clean your database. If there is enough volume in Japan the day your stuff arrives, and perhaps the mail consolidator breaks up your mailing into many smaller bundles with a lot of other mail instead of its own bags, you might get past the intake sort. No one notices the disparity of the stamp and the return address. 

If Japan Post notices the disparity of stamp and return address, it’ll take a careful look at that envelope, and may begin to see a lot of them. If they’re still bagged, or in trays, they’ll trap them and either return them to China Post, or destroy them. Since China has been paid, and doesn’t care about delivery or return, it’s unlikely it’ll ship them back to you in the US, since if the USPS is on the ball, it’ll ask for terminal dues postage! 

Also, even if the return address is in China, but the piece is a commercial mailing, the Post can open it. When it finds your pre-addressed reply envelope to the USA inside, it knows you’ve remailed to avoid postage and again it’ll seize what it can find. 

The most likely thing that will happen in this scenario is that the mail will be “disappeared” in Japan, and in many other countries with high rates which mailers want to avoid as much as possible. Postal expert Charles Prescott told us that his contacts in Japan Post, asked to track a missing campaign from “India”, concluded that this is what happened to a 500,000 piece mailing. It was to a house list whose normal response was 5%, but this time, nothing. 

Be warned. As the posts have less and less mail to carry, and thus less income, they are looking more and more carefully at mail that seems out of character for its alleged country of origin. 

Data Services has pretty deep roots in the postal business and can help you avoid messy mistakes. You’ve made a good investment in address hygiene and updating, don’t throw it all away with a risky mailing scheme.