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2006 3rd Quarter:

The Great Checkbox Derby

Why the Post Office Likes Our Double Boxes

Jeb Cashin, Vice President, Consumer Marketing

Several times each year, I get asked the question, "Why do Harland and Liberty use a double box for wallet checks instead of the plastic wrap used by your competitors?" Behind this question is typically a competitor claiming that plastic wrap is safer, and that’s simply not true!

The primary advantage of packaging checks in double boxes is they generally work better than plastic wrap with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) sorting equipment. Our brown outer boxes with white labels are much easier to read; whereas the reflective plastic wrap over an inkjet address on a single box causes frequent misreads. As a result, competitor check boxes go through sorting equipment multiple times.

Why Do Misreads Matter?

Misreads cause delays in processing that can slow down delivery to the end consumer. Harland and Liberty have very high service level agreements with our clients ensuring quick check delivery, so we’re always looking for ways to cut time out of our processes.

How Do We Know Our Double Boxes Are Better?

In an effort to win favorable agreements with the USPS, the three major check printers jointly participated in what I call "The Great Check Box Derby." Harland/Liberty’s delivery manager, Tom Dawson, flew to the USPS Denver sorting facility with 700 boxes of checks in tow. He had checks of varying package weights created for this special test run through the USPS sorters. Our competitors also brought hundreds of their own boxes to run during the same session. According to Dawson, "The post office arranged to shut down their lines during off hours just to run thousands of check boxes through the sorting system for all three check printers." Dawson was able to observe firsthand the problem the reflective plastic wrap caused, forcing many of the competitors’ check boxes to be resorted not just two and three times, but as many as six times! While Harland and Liberty continue to research packaging alternatives, it was this test that convinced us to keep our double boxes.

Winning the Derby

With the highest sortation rate of 98-99 percent for each weight category, Harland’s double box method was declared the winner and rated most USPS friendly. More importantly, Harland’s boxes are getting out faster to end consumers, while plastic wrap boxes are often delayed going back through the system multiple times. The USPS mail centers can be rough on a box of checks and multiple sorts create the opportunity for multiple dents. A single box with plastic wrap offers less protection from dents than our double box method.

While plastic wrap is materially cheaper, the benefits of the double box method—better service levels, USPS compatibility and a stronger check package—are the reasons why Harland has stuck with our double box. Of course, the real winners are our clients and their consumers who get better service!