Envelope help
August 5, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Quick question about the USPS: Can I ship a flat-rate Priority Mail envelope by printing postage for it online and then dropping it in a blue USPS mailbox? Or do I need to take it to a post office?
posted by mekily to Society & Culture (13 answers total)
At least here in my Chicago office, these envelopes have to be taken into a US Post Office, even though we have daily mail pickups. So, at least anecdotally, yes, unless someone has more substantive information that shows me to be wrong.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:34 PM on August 5, 2010

if you print out that label with a barcode on it online and tape it on as per instructions (no tape covering the bar code), then heck yeah, pop it in a blue mailbox.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:34 PM on August 5, 2010

you do not have to take it into the post office. this is not anecdotal
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:37 PM on August 5, 2010

The only postage that must be canceled at the counter is stamps for packages weighing more than 13oz. Any and all printed postage with a bar code (which must be paid for with some form of identifying electronic payment) can be put into an unattended mailbox.

USPS policy

Relevant quote: Starting Monday, July 30[, 2007], customers can use one of several convenient online postage applications — available 24/7 — or an Automated Postal Center, if they wish to mail items that weigh more than 13 ounces in Postal Service collection boxes or Post Office lobby mail slots; or if they wish to leave the items for pickup by their letter carriers. Online postage applications include the Postal Service’s Click-N-Ship service on usps.com and PC Postage from an authorized USPS vendor.
posted by fireoyster at 1:40 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

All right, then, apparently my office is doing it wrong, so I've learned something too.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2010

On the mailbox, it will say that packages larger than 13 ounces (?) have to be taken to a post office. So this might depend on how much you stick in the envelope.

The post office calculator gives a price of $4.90 for flat-rate envelope if you pay at the post office, and $4.75 if you pay online. So this makes it sound like you can pay online.

That being said, a 13-ounce first-class envelope is $2.92, so if you're legally allowed to put the package in the mailbox then that's probably not the cheapest way to do it. (On the other hand, depending on location, Priority might be faster than First-Class.)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2010

(On preview, fireoyster seems to have actually looked up the policy I was thinking of, whereas I was quoting it from memory and a bit incorrectly.)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2010

I was at the Post Office today and asked the counter cashier this same question. fireoyster has it right, you can use the boxes for non stamped mail of any weight.
posted by lee at 1:57 PM on August 5, 2010

I never understood that 13 oz. limit on their drop boxes. What is the post office going to do if you put something in the drop box that fits in the slot but exceeds their size limit for using the box? They have no choice but to deliver it or return it to the sender, right? I hate to say it but I usually totally ignore these directions and drop it in the box anyway. So far it has always been delivered. If this is a security issue then I'm pretty sure these boxes would be gone by now, so I am guessing it's a convenience thing for USPS and this suggestion is simply a deterrent. Any thoughts?
posted by thorny at 2:03 PM on August 5, 2010

yeah, seems to me the whole 13 oz in person security thing is to avoid anonymity of the shipper. so if you're printing postage online, they have your credit/contact information. no problem, same as using the APC kiosk.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:23 PM on August 5, 2010

I've sent those envelopes, full beyond 13oz, by printing the label online and dropping it off. It arrived without any issues.
posted by niles at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2010

I've sent those envelopes, full beyond 13oz, by printing the label online and dropping it off. It arrived without any issues.

Same here. Although it seemed like it added a day to what I would normally expect the transit time to be.

But I also had the same issues with trying to figure out whether they could be deposited in regular mailboxes or not. There seems to be an information gap on the USPS website regarding that. I've come to the conclusion that while it might seem like the post office offers three products (Standard, Priority, Express), they actually only offer two. And Priority Mail is just a subset of Standard Mail with a higher class of service. I envision it as always being on the top of the pile of regular mail- it gets sorted and thrown on the trucks first, so if the truck leaves or gets full before that batch of mail is done, the Priority stuff is in there. And you get free boxes.
posted by gjc at 4:03 PM on August 5, 2010

Last week a postal worker told me that if you use the click-n-ship to buy postage you can drop it in any box because they have your info. I was asking specifically about Priority Mail packages going to Canada (and included the applicable customs forms) but the same applies for domestic.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:31 PM on August 5, 2010

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