If you use PayTrust, you should use this tool to make an unencrypted backup copy of your data.
While I am glad the tool still works, I am very sad that they have not done any meaningful work on this system since Intuit bought it back in 2005. With a tiny bit of effort, they could save us users thousands of hours of work and frustration.
Considering that the US Post Office is going out of business, I think there could be huge value in services that divert traffic away from the mail system. PayTrust is well positioned for this play.
In case you don’t know, PayTrust is a system that lets you receive your paper bills online. They give you a special postal address somewhere in South Dakota and you set up all your bills to go there. Every time a bill arrives at PayTrust, they open the envelope and scan the bill and then email you. You never have to touch the paper (or possibly loose) the paper.
If I owned PayTrust, I would make some very easy improvements to make the system better, and then immediately make it free. Even in its current dilapidated state, it still saves me significant time every month and if it were actually good and free, I think huge numbers of people would start using it.
With a large number of users receiving their paper bills though the system, I’d be in a unique position to start diverting paper mail.
Fist step would be to run a report of the top billers sending paper into the PayTrust scanning center. Then I’d start making very easy phone calls….
JOSH: “Hello American Express! This is Josh from PayTrust. I see from my report that you mailed 100,000 bills to my processing center last month. You paid an average of $0.30 per piece in postage to mail these to me- that’s $30,000 in postage last month – $360,000 last year! I also see that 5% of the bills you sent never even made it to me, which makes your customers sad. How about next month I just send a truck to your mailing center to pick up all the bills addressed to our common customers? I also promise to have all the bills you give me delivered to your customers within 24 hours after I pick them up rather than making them wait the extra 2-3 days they typically spend in the mail.”
AMEX: “So, you are saying that you will save me $360,000 a year in postage, and you will eliminate my problem with bills lost in transit, and you will get the bills into my customers’ hands 2-3 days sooner? Sign me up!”
JOSH: “Done! Listen, if you are interested, I can also save you the $300,000 you spent on ink and paper to print those bills. I just have to scan them in anyway once I get them, so it would save both of us a lot of work if you just gave me a download every day of all the bills that you would have printed and loaded onto my truck. You might even be able to shut down a few of those crazy expensive high speed printers too! I can send my computer people to talk your computer to work out the details, but it could be as simple as you just redirecting the output from your printer to PDF files. We do this all the time and know all the tricks, so we will make it be super simple and easy for you!”
AMEX: “Wholly cow that would be awesome! We hate those printers, they are so frickin’ loud! Thanks Josh!”
See what happened there? 100,000 pieces of mail completely diverted from the USPS’s trucks and trains and planes. Millions of sheets of paper saved.
Everyone is better off – Amex saves money and is able to focus on what they really do rather than printing and mailing, the customer gets the bill sooner and with higher reliability, and PayTrust saves having to scan and store all those paper bills. The only apparent looser is the USPS, but considering how unprofitable they are maybe having less mail will help them to lose less money.
Repeat the above steps for everyone who is sending bills into PayTrust and soon you will reduce the flow of paper bills to a trickle. Yeay.
There are some other interesting angles, too. PayTrust could also get into the paper bill mailing business. I know this sounds backwards, but bare with me. This requires buying, building, or renting a huge bulk mailing operation – basically a bunch of very fast printers scattered around the country near the postal distribution hubs.
Now can call Amex and say…
JOSH: “Hello Amex! I hope you have been enjoying the 100,000 fewer paper bills per month as much as we have!”
AMEX: “We sure have! I just wish we could get rid of all our paper bills!”
JOSH: “Funny you should say that- the reason I am calling is to ask if you’d like to just send us all your bills as PDF files. We will handle the details and deliver the ones to PayTrust customers electronically, and the other ones we will print and mail for you. You are already spending $0.60 each to print and mail these, but we can do it for you for $0.25 per bill. Interested?”
AMEX: “Wait, just the postage to mail these is $0.30, and you are willing to print and mail them for $0.25? Done! We will start sending you all of our PDF files tomorrow! You might want to check ebay tomorrow for our giant printers- you are going to need them!”
So how do I stay in business by charging $0.25 for something that costs $0.60? Two ways…
On every bill I send out, I add a cover sheet that says…
You can also view this bill online anytime at http://paytrust.com/567H8S5
When the person goes to that URL, they see their bill on the screen (I already have it in digital form from the PDF file). There is no security exposure since they are seeing the same info that is on the paper bill, which they must have to know the URL. At the bottom of the page it says…
Enter your email address here to receive an early copy of this bill via email 3 days before it comes via postal mail.
With no downside (they still get the paper bill same as always, just now also get email a few days sooner), many people who are otherwise reluctant to switch to ebills will sign up. Once that is done, the cover letter on their future paper bills will say something like..
You should have already gotten the email copy of this bill a few days ago. Are you tiered of opening envelopes and sorting papers? You can now choose to all your PayTrust paper bills mailed to you in a single envelope once every week, month, or year. You will continue to get your early email copies like you do now, and will also get the periodic backup paper copies to keep – already sorted and ready for you to file away.
Again, no downside and lots of value for the customer, so many people will opt for this. While I am still printing and sending paper, I am paying a lot less in postage because I can now put many bills into a single envelope, aggregating both multiple bills from the same sender and multiple bills from multiple senders into a single periodic envelope. It is much cheaper to mail 1 envelope with 20 pages in it than 10 envelopes with 2 pages in each. In the case of a person who ops to get all the backup copies mailed to them annually, I can send a single Priority Mail parcel with 500 pages of bills for about 1/10th the cost of sending sending 100 bills of 5 pages each via First Class.
The final step, of course, is the cover sheet on the periodic aggregated pack…
Here are the backup paper copies of your bills. Did you know that we can store these copies for you, and we will then send them to you immediately whenever you need them? And it is free! Just visit http://paytrust.com/freestorage
Again, if I do it well (always printing sending out backup copies the same day people request them and even offering to print them instantly at a local FedEx if needed), then I will end up almost never actually having to print bills.
The end game, then, is moving a huge amount of mail into electronic form and, at each step of the way there, both sender and receiver were better off and did not have to give up anything that they wanted. Compare this to the current path from paper bill to ebill, which requires work to log into the website of each biller and figure out if they even do ebills, then find the way to opt in, which almost certainly will immediately terminate your paper bills forever.
If anyone at PayTrust is listening, please call me and let’s get this done. Come on PayTrust, let’s save some trees (and trucks)!