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Stamps.com
Say Goodbye to Those Lines at the Post Office

by Nick Anis

Postage stamps has joined the growing list of tasks you can handle over the Web.  Back in 1996, The United States Post Office began experimenting with selling postage through websites.  One of the firms that joined the USPS' Information Based Program (IBIP) was Stamps.com.  

Stamps.com offers a software-only web-based service that's convenient, easy-to-use service, and relatively cost-effective for purchasing and printing postage over the Internet. You can purchase and print on demand First Class, Priority, and Express Mail postage for U.S. addresses.  Registered Mail, Delivery confirmation, Package Tracking, and Return Receipt services are also supported.  Most ink jet and laser printers can be used to print and address directly onto envelopes and labels.  The monthly service ranges from $1.99 to $19.99; from $0 to 19.99 per month = $1.99, from $20 to $199.99 per month = 20%, and from $200 and up = $20 per month maximum. 

The software you will need can be downloaded FREE from the Stamps.com website.  The Stamps.com software will also be built-in to the next release of Netscape Navigator, and is available for download from Netscape's Netcenter and AOL.com.

According to Chris Hylen, senior vice president of marketing, there are over 100,000 customers using Stamps.com as of this February.  The company defines a customer as someone who has installed its Internet Postage software and who has an active, licensed U.S. Postal Service account, funded with postage, and tied to a credit card or checking account number for billing purposes. As the pioneer Internet Postage service, Stamps.com does not require the purchase of an additional hardware device, such as a meter, electronic vault or dongle.

Although it is not required to use the service, Stamps.com offers a (4 pound capacity) digital postage scale for $29.95 or a (10 pound capacity) digital postal scale that interfaces with a PC for $59.95 - which are offered at about a 60% discount from their suggested list price.

To get started with Stamps.com all you need is an online connection, computer and printer.  The company is even giving new customers $20 of free postage (see http://www.Stamps.com).  Using the Stamps.com service, which only takes a few minutes to setup, you can have immediate access to purchase and print postage right on your PC desktop.  The service even verifies and corrects your address and adds 4 digit zip code suffixes on the fly.  When you use the software it will give you the option of adding the address (and any corrections) to your pc-based address book.  Stamps.com also provides a library of graphics that can optionally be placed on your envelopes and labels. Stamps.com has toll-free technical support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Stamps.com works with directly with Microsoft Word 97, 98, Microsoft Office 2000, Lotus Word Pro 97, 98, 2000, Corel Word Perfect 8.0, 2000, and Microsoft Outlook 97/98, Microsoft Outlook Express, Sysmantec ACT! 4.0/2000, Lotus Organizer 5.0/6.0, and Windows Address.  Import and export options are also supported for a variety programs and platforms.  A range of Avery labels are supported for printing labels for packages and manila envelopes.  Postal regulations require postage on letter and legal size envelopes to printed directly on the envelopes, or to be printed on Avery florescent white labels (available from Stamps.com at about the same cost as regular Avery labels). 

When you sign up for the service you are issued a user name and password.  The service used the same level of encryption as the US Pentagon so you shouldn't have to worry about someone using up your postage.  If you forget your password you can have your password reset and emailed to your registered email address, which is the standard way Internet-based services handle that problem).

February also marks the widespread kick-off of the Stamps.com partnership with AOL, a $56 million marketing and distribution agreement signed by the companies in the fourth quarter of 1999. Stamps.com is launching interactive advertising across all the AOL brands - the AOL network, AOL.com, Netscape, CompuServe, and Spinner.com - with dynamic targeting to Digital City customers in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

For technical support, pre-sales questions, or to sign up for the service you can call 888-434-0555 or point your browser to http://www.getstamps.com.

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.

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