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Return Address?
March 4, 2008 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Am I legally required to include a return address when using a first class stamp with the US Postal Service?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
 
I have both sent and received mail without return addresses. Post cards don't usually have return addresses, though that of course isn't a first class stamp. I think it's more of the other way around, if you include a return address and the mail is undeliverable it's the Postal Service who is obligated to try to return it to you.
posted by XMLicious at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2008


Wikipedia says: "The return address is not required on postal mail. However, lack of a return address prevents the postal service from being able to return the message (or a package's contents) in the case it is undeliverable (such as from damage, lack of postage, or invalid destination.)?
posted by misha at 3:45 PM on March 4, 2008


Not according to this.
posted by nanojath at 3:45 PM on March 4, 2008


It's a gray area, I think.

Will your mail be delivered without a return address? Yes.
(Although I heard that during and immediately after the anthrax scare, that wasn't always true.)

From the USPS site's tips:
A return address helps return the mail to you if it is undeliverable.
posted by Rash at 3:47 PM on March 4, 2008


IANAL but I'd speculate there was a difference between commercial and personal mail. sending out a personal letter without a return address simply makes it impossible to send it back to you in case they can't deliver it - that's tough luck. mailing out a commercial pamphlet or the likes without a return address or other identifying marker is bound to get some attention, if it's accepted at all by the postal service. (mass mailers probably would like a discount, which goes with some red tape) that's why politicians mailing out nasty letters about their competitors like to form these "friend of..." or "concerned citizens for ..." like companies and organizations.
posted by krautland at 4:09 PM on March 4, 2008


When I've had to go to the post office to mail stuff, they force me to have a return address on everything. So, they try to enforce that in person, at least.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:10 PM on March 4, 2008


nanojath: Not according to this.

I don't think First Class letter service is necessarily on that list. If the First Class letter is being used for one of the purposes on that list, yes. But if one person is simply sending a First Class letter to another, for example, the requirement you cited would not apply.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:14 PM on March 4, 2008


i think you only need a return address for priority mail or other expedited services. regular stamped or metered mail doesn't require one.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:38 PM on March 4, 2008


I don't see how such a rule, if it exists, would be enforceable. What is to prevent someone from putting on an innocuous, but fake, return address?
posted by 14580 at 5:05 PM on March 4, 2008


I have always wondered why you can't just put the address you want to send it to as the Return Address, then "forget" a stamp? Wouldn't it get "returned" to the person you want it to get to?

I'm thinking this would only work locally though, if at all.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:16 PM on March 4, 2008


From my resident alien perspective, having the return address on the envelope always looks so strange. It's very rare in my home country, Britain, to have anything but the destination name and address on the front of non-business mail. I think the UK post office opens letters to get the return address when needed. (Not that this answers the question at all, but maybe adds general information.)
posted by anadem at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2008


Sorry, my intention was to answer Ignatius' question, i.e. am I required to include a return address? No, you are not, according to this. Poorly stated (and un-previewed) on my part - thanks for clarifying for me, Nelsormensch.
posted by nanojath at 5:31 PM on March 4, 2008


drjimmy11: there is nothing to prevent that. In fact, there is some precedent for it — I've often noticed self addressed envelopes sent with various bills include the company's details in both the return address and destination address. I always figured they're hoping it will still arrive if the sender forgets to stamp it, although I've never tried it myself.
posted by tomwheeler at 5:31 PM on March 4, 2008


I'm not sure what First Class mail is for regular bills and such... I haven't written my return info on bills and such (say to "The Gas Company" or to "The City of Glendale" or "The Electric Company" or "The Phone Company") type of bills for years and years. I figure there's no way that The Gas Company pre-printed address won't make it to the right place.

I'll put return address on personal mail just in case. (and so the recipient doesn't go WTF and throw it away as junk mail.)
posted by zengargoyle at 12:26 AM on March 5, 2008


oh, just a note. One of the jobs I turned down ages ago was OCR processing checks and envelopes from places to create mailing lists. Tripped my OMG You Bastards switch. But don't be surprised that checks and envelopes you send somewhere that have your address are used to build bulk mailing lists... so, don't put your phone number or your SSN on your checks.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:32 AM on March 5, 2008


I'm a Business Mail Entry Unit clerk for the USPS. First Class mail is not required to have a return address except in the instances outlined in the DMM labove. However, if you want the piece returned to you, you'll put a return address on it. Why would you not?
posted by faceonmars at 7:04 PM on March 19, 2008


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