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Watch What You Drop in a Mail Collection Box

USPS
Watch What You Drop in a Mail Collection Box

If you drop off orders in USPS mail collection boxes, be aware of changes going into effect on October 1st.

USPS mail collection boxes can be handy for sellers dropping off orders, but if you use postage stamps instead of online postage labels, beware. Linn’s Stamp News reported on a change coming October 1st that may impact you:

“On Sept. 26, the United States Postal Service announced more restrictive rules governing the mailing of packages and letters franked with postage stamps. To alert USPS customers regarding the new regulations, a new warning label is being affixed to the nation’s more than 142,000 mail collection boxes.”

According to the USPS Postal Bulletin article cited by Linn’s, the new policy is due to a modification in the Aviation Mail Security initiative, which was first enacted in 1996:

  • Effective October 1, 2019, mailpieces bearing stamps for postage that are more than one-half inch thick or weigh more than 10 ounces will be prohibited from entering the mail stream through collection boxes, building mail chutes, and Post Office mail slots.
  • Customers who need to mail packages with postage stamps that are larger than one-half inch thick or heavier than 10 ounces must conduct the transaction at a Post Office retail counter.
  • This modification increases the safety and security of Postal Service employees, customers, transportation networks, facilities, and the U.S. Mail.

According to the notice, that includes Post Office lobby drops: “This change will primarily affect customers who ship heavier mailpieces using postage stamps and deposit them in their neighborhood collection box or Post Office lobby drop.”

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The suggested alternative: “These customers can use Click-N-Ship on usps.com to print shipping labels from their computer. The mail carrier will pick up the boxes while delivering mail that day, or they can ship boxes from their neighborhood Post Office.”

What happens to stamped mailpieces weighing more than 10 ounces or more than one-half inch thick that are dropped in collection boxes after October 1?
Mailpieces bearing stamps for postage and exceeding the weight or size restrictions that are deposited in collection boxes, mail chutes, or lobby mail slots after October 1 will be returned to the sender. Packages will be returned with this label attached to the mailpiece

What if there is no return address shown?
The supervisor, manager, or postmaster will contact the addressee by phone and describe the mailpiece to the addressee, providing the city and state of the postmark, if possible

However, unless you’re the most casual of sellers, Click-N-Ship isn’t the best option, since it no longer provides Commercial Base discounts – you get the same “retail” rate you get a the Post Office counter. But there are plenty of online postage providers where you can get discounted postage rates and more sophisticated tools.

Interestingly, sellers were discussing the issue of what could be dropped in a mail collection box last year in the EcommerceBytes Letters blog (“USPS Shrinks Letter Box to the Annoyance of a Bookseller“) after a reader reported a newly designed USPS letter box with a smaller opening. It used to be big enough to fit a Regional Rate A box and a Medium Flat Rate oblong, they reported, but no longer did.

Sellers may also want to pay attention to how they package their items. The September 26th issue of the Postal Bulletin also includes a graphic that advises postal workers on suspicious packages. Soiled boxes and excessive tape are among the signs to watch out for – check out the graphic on the USPS.com website – hopefully your packages look better than the one featured there.

And check out that Linn’s article for more background on this latest development.

Update 10/1/19: The USPS issued a press release today about this development.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

2 thoughts on “Watch What You Drop in a Mail Collection Box”

  1. The past couple of years, I noticed that my local post office’s drop-box has had Priority Mail boxes covering the opening. When I first saw that, it was around the tax deadline and I just figured they didn’t want people putting their returns in there, but they’ve never taken them off.

    It’s a small post office and they don’t have drop boxes inside for anything other than letters. So, I thought it odd that they wouldn’t have had the drop-box fixed by now if there was something wrong with it.

    Now I see this announcement and it suddenly dawned on me the real reason, which I can’t believe I didn’t think of before. I live in Texas and it was in Austin where they had a serial bomber disguising bombs as mail packages back in March 2018 (when I first noticed the drop-box being covered).

    I don’t frequent any other post office and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a drop-box anywhere else. So I just thought it was that particular box that had an issue. Now I’m curious to see if the other post office has covered their boxes, too. I’ll be heading that way sometime this week to run some errands, so hope to remember. Haha!

  2. Ya, they welded All the mailboxes shut here.
    You can only get the thinnest of letters in.
    This after I witnessed a heavy set middle aged woman trying to shoe horn a Fat Package into the Good Ol’ mailbox.
    Ruined it for every one.
    As a M.A.D. fan, it was quite comical at the time :o)

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