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From taxi meters to postage meters

Wednesday, 16 May 2018
By Jake Nelson

Murray Bell, Whitestone.

Four years ago, Murray Bell was the owner of a small taxi company in Oamaru, 90 minutes down the road from Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island. As his drivers didn’t have much to do at night, Bell needed a way to keep them profitable – and thanks to Pitney Bowes, was able to implement a unique solution.

Bell hit upon the idea to have his drivers deliver mail for local businesses at night. The drivers would pick up the mail in the late afternoon, sort it, hand-stamp it and deliver it by 10am the following morning. That was fine when it was only 200 letters per night, according to Bell, but business soon grew to the point where automation was necessary. “After diligently researching the service offerings available in the market, we contacted Pitney Bowes, and started with a digital postal meter that would help us qualify for postage discounts. It allowed us to replace our hand stamps and also put indicia on the envelope to send to NZ Post,” he said.

Soon, Whitestone Post outgrew that first DM800i postage meter as well, and Pitney Bowes supplied a SendPro P1000 mailing and shipping system with a Relay 7000 mail inserter, and a Riso ComColor X1 7150 inkjet press, to help the company keep up with demand and offer additional services to its clients. “Today, when we sell envelopes to customers, we can sell them in boxes with the company logo printed on each one as an added service,” said Bell.

Amid all the talk of declining use of postal services, Whitestone’s experience has been that addressed direct mail is a thriving business, and market research shows that it receives far more eyes on it than letterbox inserts. “Unaddressed mail doesn’t get a good reception rate, and a lot of houses put a sign on their letterboxes saying no junk mail, and it’s illegal to put junk mail in there,” said Bell. “Advertisers are realising that junk mail may not make it to all the houses, and approximately 30 percent ends up in the bin. Addressing the mail helps bypass the sign, and has a better opening and response rate.”

Bell gives Pitney Bowes his seal of approval, as the supplier hasn’t just provided new kit – it’s supported Whitestone Post with ideas on how to expand the business. “I would say Pitney Bowes knows how to take care of clients and provide good service,” said Bell. “They’ve looked at what we’re doing and tried to come up with additional suggestions for how we can expand our services. They’ve not only boosted our business with equipment, but with advice and suggestions of other things we could do.”

Since 2014, Whitestone Post has gone from a taxi business that also does mail to a mailing house that also operates taxis – the postal business has grown and grown, while the taxi side has remained static. That’s not to say the taxis will ever completely disappear, however. “We do expect to keep the taxis on,” said Bell. “The postal operation has turned the nighttime taxi operation into a profitable rather than a loss-making exercise.”

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