How To Read A Nixie Label

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Nixie Labels- Mysterious Hieroglyphics or Useful Information?

In our series focusing on how to reduce returned mail, we thought it would be useful to unveil the mystery of how to read the yellow nixie label on returned mail pieces.

Nixie labels are chockful of information. Let’s start with getting acquainted with the USPS systems that generate these labels.

The Postal Service utilizes two systems for forwarding and redirecting mail. Each system will generate a Nixie label:Undelivered envelope with yellow sticker

  1. PARS=Postal Automated Redirection System
  2. CFS=Computerized Forwarding System
    • RFS=Remote Forwarding System (a subset of CFS)


The Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) identifies and redirects forwardable, machinable letter mail during processing. It handles 2 categories of mail: Carrier Identified Forwards (CIF) and Return to Sender (RTS).
The Postal Service uses the Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) to handle mail that is non-machineable, including letters, flats and parcels. There are two categories that CFS handles: Forwards and Nixies (Return to Sender).
Very simply, these two systems sort and process the mail, which includes:

  • Identifying whether the letter, flat or parcel has a correct address and is mailable
  • If not, if there is a Change of Address (COA) on record and can be forwarded
  • Determining whether the mail piece is Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA)
  • If it is undeliverable, following directions given from the Ancillary Endorsements, i.e.:
    • Forward the mail piece and notifying the sender
    • Return the mail piece with new address information (via the Nixie label)
    • Destroy the mail piece
  • Complete processing and delivering the mail

The Nixie labels generated by these two systems provide valuable information to the sender regarding why the mail piece cannot be delivered. Some of the reasons mail is Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) that are mentioned on the Nixie label include whether:

  • A new mailing address exists for the recipient (a Change of Address has been filed)
  • There is no forwarding address (often because the recipient did not fill out a Change Of Address (COA) with the Post Office
  • The Change of Address has expired (COA’s cover a one-year period)
  • There are errors in the address
    • Missing information
    • Incorrect information
  • The address does not exist (Address Unknown)
  • The location is vacant
  • A mail receptacle is not available

Additional details are listed on the label. The illustrations below identify the specific information that return labels contain for each of these two systems
(Click on each graphic for better visibility).

CFS RFS Nixie Label with arrows

Nixie labels are a valuable tool to keep your database up-to-date and ensure money is not spent on mail that will never reach the intended recipient. Ancillary Endorsements also play a helpful role. You can read more about Ancillary Endorsements in our earlier post: Ancillary endorsements – What are they? Why use them?
Contact us today for information on tools to reduce the number of Nixie labels you are receiving – 303-761-0681 or envelopes@cms-colorado.com

Ancillary Endorsements -What are they? Why Use them?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Ancillary Endorsements – Why do I care?

If you’re like most companies sending various communications to customers or prospects, you’re faced with an unfortunate fact – your mail doesn’t always reach it’s intended recipient without an ancillary endorsement. With over 11%* of the U.S. population moving each year, and 20% of new businesses failing in their first year+, keeping your mailing list up-to-date is an on-going challenge.
Given these stats, we have to ask: Why would you put anything in the mail if you weren’t 100% sure it would be delivered (especially invoices, statements, checks, etc.) or it would arrive with postage due? How would your Customers react?
We highly recommend you cleanse your database with CASS certified software annually, at a minimum. If for some reason that cannot happen, you’re next line of defense is to use Ancillary Service Endorsements on your envelopes.

What Are Ancillary Service Endorsements?

Ancillary Endorsements allow you to obtain an addressee’s new address (if a change-of-address has been filed with the USPS) or the reason why mail cannot be delivered. It tells the USPS how you want mail handled if there is a problem with the recipient and the address. For example whether you wish your mailpiece to be forwarded to the recipient’s new address, returned to you with updated address information, or destroyed. The endorsements include one keyword: “Electronic,” “Address,” “Return,” “Change,” or “Forwarding,” followed by “Service Requested.” Depending upon which endorsement you use, you’ll receive new address information, either on each mailpiece (via yellow “nixie” sticker) when it’s returned to you, or by a separate card if you want your mail piece forwarded.

Some of these services are free, others are not; for example, First-Class and Priority Mail do not incur fees for forwarding even without an endorsement (although you won’t know there’s a new address), whereas Marketing Mail and Package Services do incur fees for forwarding. The mailer is obligated to pay any applicable fees for forwarding, return and separate address notification charges. Check out the USPS Ancillary Service Endorsements Quick Service Guide for an overview of the specific endorsements available, actions and time limitations for each.

What Is That Yellow Sticker?

Ancillary Endorsements (e.g., Address Service Requested) alerts the Post Office what to do with your mail. The yellow “nixie” sticker on your mail piece alerts you of address changes and issues, such as:

  • The recipient is no longer at the address (unknown, moved, deceased). Notice may or may not have been given to the Post Office.
  • There is missing or incorrect address information (missing apartment or suite number, wrong city or ZIP code).
  • Mail was refused by the recipient
  • No postage was affixed

Why Use Ancillary Endorsements?

The use of Ancillary Endorsements initiates the flow of information from the Post Office, which will help you better manage your communications and avoid communicating with someone who is no longer there. Other benefits include:

  • Timely Information – you’ll receive updated information about the recipient, which will allow you to ensure future mailings are deliverable.
  • Improved Receivables – correct addresses ensure there is no delay in invoices or statements reaching recipients, which helps improve cash flow.
  • Lower Costs – having fresh address information ensures your mail gets to its recipient the first time, every time. No need to reprint and resend – a savings of $25 or more each mail piece! Surprised? See our earlier post on The Cost of Undeliverable Mail .
  • Clean Data – eliminates mailing to someone that may no longer be able to use your services because they have moved from your service area.

You’ll be able to better manage your database and mailings with the help of Ancillary Service Endorsements. 

Best Practices


We recommend the following:

  • CASS certify your data at least 1/x per year.
  • Print envelopes with endorsements. If your current envelope supplier doesn’t know about endorsements, call us about our envelope printing services and assistance with Endorsements.
  • Use your postage meter for Endorsements on the fly – call us to find out how.

Contact us today for information on other tools to keep your mailing lists up-to-date as well as help in determining the best Ancillary Service Endorsements for your mail – 303-761-0681 or envelopes@cms-colorado.com.

* U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC)
+ Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Employment Dynamics, March 2016

How Does the Postal Service Change Rates?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

“Why doesn’t the USPS just implement a larger rate increase and get it over with?”

How many times have you or someone you know said this about postal rates for office postage meters and stamps? Postal rate increases (and the rare decrease) are often so small and frequent that it doesn’t seem worth it. People often wonder if the costs of implementing a one or two cent increase outweigh the resulting revenue increase. Yet nearly every year (with some exceptions) we see rates go up a penny or two.
What most people don’t know is that the USPS is severely constrained by laws and regulations including the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA). Many also don’t realize that the USPS is not a department of the US government. In other words, it isn’t organized under any of the executive cabinet departments. It was reorganized in 1971 under the PAEA, to be an independent establishment of the executive branch of our government. As such, it has neither government funding nor the freedom to set its rates and policies in the ways that a free-market, for-profit corporation does. Considering these and other factors outside the purview of this post, they’re placed in a situation in which it’s quite difficult to succeed.

Interesting facts about the USPS

  • The USPS is not tax funded, but is an independent establishment of the federal government. Revenue is earned exclusively from product sales. Learn more here.
  • $71.5 billion in revenue for 2016 would put it in the top 40 Fortune 500 companies if it were independent.
  • The Postal Service is the 2nd oldest federal department or agency. See the history of the USPS


The USPS is governed by the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) and, therefore, can’t make independent decisions about what rates should be (more on this in a future blog). So that begs the question…

How are rates determined?

The Postal Service operates two lines of business: one for “market dominant” products (First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Media Mail, etc.) and one for “competitive products” (e.g., Priority Mail, Express Mail and First-Class Package Service). Each line has its own regulations and pricing rules that are administered by the PRC. While rate adjustments are a fairly in-depth topic, a key factor in determining rates for market dominant services (which account for 74% of USPS annual revenue) is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). When the CPI goes up, rates can be increased; however, when the CPI drops, postal rates must be lowered. Because they are constrained by the CPI, the USPS can’t respond to competitive pressures such as rate changes by UPS or FEDEX, who can increase their pricing at will.

My Apple Is Not Your Apple – 5 Considerations When Comparing Mail Machines

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions

We often come across companies who obtained new postage meter machines that they thought fit their needs only to find out they did not perform as expected or there were costs were higher than expected.

Decisions are often made based on the monthly rental or lease fee alone. However, you need to understand the total cost of operating a mail machine. There are 5 key areas to consider when comparing mailing machines:

Magnifying Glass with $ sign small
1. Equipment
2. Pricing / Fees
3. Postage – Funding / Managing
4. Customer Service – Training / Problem Solving
5. Supplies

Let’s take a look at each area.

    1. Equipment

The primary decision you’ll make is which mail machine best meets your needs. Consider:

      • Mail Volume

Consider daily/weekly/monthly/seasonal mail volumes. Your mail machine should easily handle your highest volume needs – don’t expect a low volume mail machine to handle heavy volumes.

        • Manual vs. automated feeding – The more automation during feeding, the faster mail can be sealed and imprinted with postage. Automation can reduce processing time up to 36%.
      • Types/Handling of Mail Piecesmail machine
        Consider the types of mail pieces you use – standard, oversized, flats, thick?

        • If you mail large pieces, be sure to get a wide deck so mail transports smoothly.
        • If you have a variety of mail pieces, look at differential weighing. Depending upon the type of differential weighing you can reduce the time to affix postage by 100%.
      • Accounting
      • Determine whether you will need to chargeback postage to internal departments or clients.
    1. Pricing / Fees

You’ll be living with your mail machine for many years so know what your costs will be.

      • Lease/Rental Fee
        Beware of low monthly rates. Vendors often increase the price up to 25% each subsequent year. CMS’s leases remain unchanged through the life of the lease.
      • Postage Feeshand held calculator
        Charges to reset (add) postage onto your machine (initially and over the life of the lease) can add up.
      • Maintenance
        Our most satisfied customers have a Preventive Maintenance program as part of their lease to ensure limited/no down-time.

If you opt out of a maintenance program, understand service charges (this can be a flat or hourly rate and include a trip charge and mileage fee).

    1. Postage – Funding, Managing
      • Funding
        Funding your postage account is generally available via:

        • Check – can take up to 10 days for postage funds to be available
        • ACH Debit Transfer – allow up to 48 hours for postage funds to be available
        • Line of Credit – postage funds are available immediately

        Costs vary for each of these options. Call CMS for more information.

      • Managing
        Online tools provide account visibility, invoice payment options and reporting. This is an invaluable time-saver.
    2. Customer Service – Training, Problem Solving

Support after the installation of your postage meter machine is critical.

      • Training
        Who (if anyone) will install and provide training on your new postage meter machine?
      • Questions and Problems
        • Is there a local resource providing help with problems or must you call a national (or international) Help Desk?
        • Will service be handled locally or remotely?

Complete Mailing Solutions (CMS) is a local resource providing training and personal help every time you call. We answer all your questions and resolve problems to save you time and frustration.

    1. Supplies

Supplies costs are generally not considered. Vendors often offer low monthly equipment rental/lease fees but have high supply costs.

You should compare:supplies

      • OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) vs. recycled cartridges
      • Low vs. high capacity cartridges (number of impressions for each)
      • Average shipping costs

There can be up to a 29% difference in the price of ink alone, depending upon the manufacturer.

CMS offers OEM supplies exclusively to ensure highest performance on your mail machine. We ship locally, which keeps costs low.

These are just a few areas to consider. Comparing apples and apples when considering different mail machines/manufacturers can uncover hidden costs. Use our comparison list to help: Mail Machine Comparison Checklist.

Need help finding the best mail machine solution for your business? Avoid the frustration of committing to equipment that is not want you want or need. Call us today – 303-761-0681.