As of January 5, 2013 the United States Postal Service (USPS) published revised standards in effect for Folded Self-Mailers (FSM) and specific Unenveloped mailpiece designs that receive automation, machinable letter discounts. This means that in order to qualify for presort, bulk rate postage discounts, your direct mail projects must meet the USPS defined fold methods, paper basis weights, flap and panel guidelines, tabbing requirements…..the list goes on.

While this may sound troublesome it’s actually rather simple and sensible.

Non-machinable mail requires manual hand sortation, and consequently increased cost for the USPS. To be classified as non-machinable, a mail piece needs only to violate one of the outlined standards. We can’t stress enough how important it is to review postal requirements when designing your direct mail pieces, otherwise you could find yourself paying near double for non-machinable postage rates.

The key is finding the right translator.

Mitchell Graphics’ in-house mail experts are always available to help. From consultation to mail piece design, presort list management, inkjet addressing and barcoding, we have all the tools and resources to help plan and execute your campaign, achieving the deepest postage discounts available.

There are several online resources also available, starting with the full official language for FSM regulations in the Federal Register’s Final DMM section 201.3.14 and 201.3.15. If you’ve never read the DMM, I would invite you to do so. Just for fun. Occasionally it can read like a cross between a math word problem disguised in legal jargon, with the twists and turns of a choose-your-way novel.

If Jerry tries to mail an unenveloped tomato (see chart for examples of acceptable unenveloped tomatoes) he must use two 1in. non-perforated wafer seals (or tabs), unless the tomato is over 1 oz, he must use three 1.5in. tabs. See exhibit A for acceptable tab placement and closure method standards. Decayed or decomposed tomatoes are non-machinable and will incur a surcharge as a result of mechanical intolerance of foul odor. See Price Notice 123 under non-machinable tomatoes for surcharge rates…

You might even find yourself reading about tomatoes, but you really want to mail grapes. They have similar texture and consistency, but the package presentation is different. Can you even mail grapes? The DMM section only mentions tomatoes and then skips on to pineapple (which has a completely different set of rules). Where in the heinous DMM do you go for guidelines about grapes?!

Note: The above statements are not actual excerpts from the DMM. We know you can’t tab and stamp unpackaged fruit. The sanitation violations alone would be like bowling your produce across the supermarket floor and into your basket. Gross. But, it is near lunchtime as we write this and food sounds more interesting than envelopes.

If you experience frustration and confusion, like the above described, there are other resources available. One of those options is the USPS abridged version for FSM standards. This 5 page Folded Self-Mailer Reference Material provides charts, diagrams and brief descriptions. Again, you may find you’re solving math problems amid legal jargon—but in cliff note fashion.

If you’re a visual learner or just want to skip the technical reading, we’ve discovered a short 7 minute YouTube video with simple direction and visual aids.

The presenter—Trish Witkowski from—offers plain English explanations and examples, outlining the new and updated regulations so they are easy to understand and apply to your print and direct mail projects. It’s well worth the time. So take a look and then give us a call. We’re always available and would love to help.

And we keep it simple.