Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Cards & Other Matters

As I was splashing through puddles on my mail lady rounds today, it occurred to me it might be time for a post on sending holiday mail.

Holiday cards   I just bought two boxes of cards tonight. Here's the thing: people don't send a lot of letters these days, and they're out of practice writing out your address. Holiday cards get misaddressed like crazy. We try really hard to get cards to the recipient, but if we can't, you'll never know unless you put a return address on the card. Please. I hate throwing them in the nixie bin.

Use last names somewhere on the envelope. It hurts to see a card with a bad address sent to "My New Grandson" or "Grandma & Grandpa"—but if there's a last name on the envelope sometimes we can get it to the right house. But a nickname or title and a bad address? Again, the nixie bin.

I don't know about where you live, but here it's raining. Don't use water-soluble ink. Ball-point or Sharpie is nice.

And yes it's fun to have the kids address the envelopes. But please, check them before you mail them.

Oh, and don't put your return-address label in the middle of the back of the envelope. Sometimes the sorting machines think that's the To address, not the From. Put it somewhere along the edges of the envelope, front or back, to avoid getting your own card sent to you.

Postage is 44 cents for a first-class letter that the big sorting machines can handle. That covers 98-percent of holiday cards, so don't worry if it's too heavy and should you put a second stamp on it. It should be fine. However, if the envelope is too small (less than 3.5-inches high and 5-inches long) or too big (more than 6 1/8-inches high and 11.5-inches long), it costs more to mail. If you put a small toy or something in the envelope that makes it puffy, it costs more to mail. If you send it in a stiff mailer so that it will not bend, it costs more to mail. Many mail ladies and mail men pay the difference rather than returning your card to the sender, and if they do, please pay them back.

It costs more for Canada, Mexico, and Europe—98 cents, I think. But double-check that.

Are you sending photos or something you would like to not get bent or folded? Please indicate that on the envelope, and for crissakes, put it in something that won't bend! Machines and burly guys in sweatshirts and work pants are sorting this stuff, and they are not looking for the one or two envelopes in the tub that say "Please do not bend—photos!!!"

If you are mailing something that is fragile, liquid, or perishable, please tell the clerk YES when they ask you. Please. And pack it well! (Remember the burly men.) Every year we get a handful of packages that leak all over everyone else's holiday parcels. And no one wants their present to smell like white gas stove fuel, olive brine, or rotten fruit*. (All things that have broken open and leaked in my mail tub.) Also, you will then have to come down to the Post Office yourself to retrieve your newly-classified HAZMAT package. Not fun.

One more thing about packages. Parcel Post is the slowest, then Media Mail, then First-class parcels. Priority takes 2-3 days, and if you use the free Priority boxes provided by the post office, they ship faster than if you use your own packaging. Yes! It's because the post office boxes, with their standard sizes, fit neatly into trucks and aircraft, while your recycled shoe and banker's boxes do not. So guess which get loaded first?

Oh, and remember! "If it fits, it ships." Just use a LOT of tape. Burly men.

Express Mail arrives the next day. But someone has to sign for it, unless you waive the signature requirement. Unless you really, really need a signature, please waive it. I'm crushed when I try to deliver an Express package or envelope on a Friday, no one's home to sign for it, and it goes back with me to the Post Office until Monday. Bummer.

So, to sum up:  
Use last names! 
Use return addresses! 
No undeclared liquids!

Thank you, and have a very merry holiday season.

*One year a lady in Florida decided to send a family member a box of fresh Florida fruit. Only she sent it Parcel Post. Then when it got here a week later, that family member wasn't home, so it sat in the Post Office for awhile til they could come down and get it. By this time we had isolated it in Hazmat and sealed it in a big plastic bag because of the stench. When the lady came down to retrieve it, the manager who was helping her tore open the plastic bag, and a huge cloud of fruit flies poured out. We all turned around when the other clerks started shouting, "Close the bag! Close the bag! Aaggh!"

The sister decided she didn't want the box of rotten fruit, so she paid to have it sent back to her sister in Florida.

I can only feel sorry for the clerks on the receiving end.

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