fauxstal address problems
December 19, 2008 5:51 AM   Subscribe

[Postal_Filter] I sent out 45 postcards to friends for X-Mas. They had a "From" address (labeled as such) and a "To" address (also labeled as such). Somehow, the Post Office sent it all to the "From" Address (not return to sender for insufficient postage or anything). Do I have any recourse in getting these sent to the right address? Is it bad protocol on my part to put a very visible "From" Address on a postcard?
posted by Franklin76 to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Return addresses on postcards are fine but the USPS has rules about where it goes (upper left, I think, just like on a letter). I have done exactly the same To:/From: thing and had exactly the same result.
posted by phoenixy at 5:57 AM on December 19, 2008

Same thing happened to me too, and I was using a pre-printed label from a catalog. I had a big argument with the postal clerk about it but...well, what can you do?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:02 AM on December 19, 2008

The general answer to what you have resourse with in terms of the post office is "nothing" As someone who sends postcards to people pretty much weekly and has never had this happen, I was wondering if you could maybe explain a little more how you had the To/From labelled. That is to say, computers read your mail more often than not, so if the From address was where the machine would be expecting the To address, it might send it off the wrong way. More specifically the USPS has this to say
The address, postage, and any Postal Service marking or endorsement must appear within the portion containing the destination address. As an alternative, when the destination address appears within the lower portion, it is permissible for the postage, return address, and any USPS marking or endorsement to appear in the upper portion. The portion bearing the destination address must be at least 1-1/2 inches high (measured from the top or bottom edge of the card, as applicable, right edge to left edge inclusive).
So this clearly says 1) that a return address is okay 2) provided it's in the proper location. Also when I've has similar screw ups with the post office I'm often able to just write the proper address on the item of mail and toss it in again, usually I do this with forwarding, but it's a similar issue, and the post office sends it along. Your best bet, of course, is to talk to someone at your local post office and see if they can give you some more advice about this particular situation once they see the mail you've been trying to send.
posted by jessamyn at 6:04 AM on December 19, 2008

Can you post a picture so everyone can see what you did?
posted by lee at 6:12 AM on December 19, 2008

I did a college reunion mailer for my grandmother, and had the same problem. It turned out that the computer was reading the zipcode from the return address before the zip from the 'to' address. We solved the problem by removing all the return address labels, writing handwritten return addresses, and rewriting the 'to' zipcode in the lower left hand side of the mailer.

It helped that we were great friends with the postmaster in a small town, but maybe someone at the post office would be willing to help you figure out a solution.
posted by schyler523 at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2008

ARGH, this exact same thing happened to me this year. I asked my Mom about it, since she used to work for the post office, and she claimed that people usually don't put the "From" address on postcards. News to me.

As for the format that Jessamyn mentioned, I don't think I did that : however, the "to" address was on top, and written in larger letters. It also clearly said "To:" - while the "From:" address was also clearly labeled as such, written in smaller letters, and on the bottom.

I crossed out the "from" address with a Sharpie (leaving my name, so people would still know who it was from), put a new stamp on them, with a tiny handwritten note beneath the stamp that said "Had to re-send these because the P.O. doesn't know the difference between 'to' and 'from!'")

I suppose I could have gone over and argued with the post office, but weighing the cost of new stamps vs. the value of my time (plus any aggravation that might be incurred), the former seemed like the best option.
posted by HopperFan at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2008

The post office now uses OCR equipment to read the addresses on letters and post cards. The equipment identifies the destination address based on its location. Upper left corner is the return address, middle is the destination.

The words "to" and "From" don't matter. The only thing that matters is where they are. If your tags had "From" and an address, followed by "To" and an address, in the middle, then the OCR equipment would have read the first of those (the From) and used it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:30 AM on December 19, 2008

This is not directed at the OP, just the idea of being upset at the P.O. for this issue.

It's silly of people to get upset at this. It's quite understandable that the post office equipment is used to seeing return addresses in one place and "to" addresses in another. To say the post office doesn't know the difference between to and from is silly. There are standards that must be met, and I would find it to be fault of the sender for not following these standards when their stuff comes back to them.

To think the post office meticulously reads each letter individually and should treat yours differently for one reason or another is ridiculous.

I do not work for the post office; I just have sympathy for them this time of year.

Re-stamp your stuff and send it off with the stuff in the right place, then the post office will send it correctly for you. I followed this standard this year and had no issues.
posted by Brettus at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend does the PostCrossing thing, she gets this sometimes. She finds it helps if the return address is significantly smaller and way off to the side. Just stop by and explain that none of the postcards went to their destination and were all returned to you. The fact that you're visiting the post office with the same zip code as your address, the return address, will let them know that you're not trying to reuse a stamp because they're going to 45 different places.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:59 PM on December 19, 2008

"If your tags had "From" and an address, followed by "To" and an address, in the middle, then the OCR equipment would have read the first of those (the From) and used it."

I don't think this is correct, since mine had the "To" address first.
posted by HopperFan at 11:02 AM on December 21, 2008

The OCR reads from the bottom to the top, so the first zip code it comes to (the lowest one) will be where the mailpiece goes.
posted by faceonmars at 5:33 PM on December 21, 2008

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