Anticipating Exact Day of Mail Arrival
May 18, 2016 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I need to mail (via USPS) a manila envelope to someone important in lower Manhattan. And I need to know for sure when it will arrive, so I can email him same-day notice of its imminent arrival, so he watches for it and it doesn't sink into a pile of other mailings. If I drop it at a post office in his zip code (10007) the previous afternoon, am I assured he'll get it the next day? Is there any other way (without making it look like I'm trying too hard) to be sure of delivery date? I'm not in a rush....I just need to know for sure.
posted by Quisp Lover to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
You can track some letters/packages using the USPS's website.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:01 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The only way to get next day assurances from USPS is to go with overnight guarantee but its not cheap. Otherwise yes all first class mail can come with tracking though it may be that you mail the thing one day and it tells you it's been delivered the next day so it may not give you 24 hours lead time. Is it okay to just know that it has been delivered?
posted by jessamyn at 7:04 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, USPS isn't generally that accurate for tracking that you'll be able to tell something is going to be delivered that day, nor be able to anticipate the number of days until delivery. Most of the time, with a tracking number you can check online and see an "out for delivery" notification, but it's not guaranteed nor accurate.

You may want to mail it certified, so it requires a signature which will draw attention to it, or send it via a private courier, who will be able to give more accurate delivery expectations. For example, find a delivery service in their town, mail it to the delivery service, who can then tell you their courier is going to drop it off.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Why use USPS at all? Why not drop it off? Or, I suppose you could make it look like a USPS package, e.g., include the right postage, but deliver it yourself/via Task Rabbit?
posted by carmicha at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Priority Mail comes with tracking and it's only like 6 or 7 bucks. There are flat-rate envelopes. It's super easy, you'll be able to watch it online to see when it's out for delivery, and give your contact a heads up.

The USPS is actually pretty great about this.
posted by phunniemee at 7:22 AM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Thirding USPS as an option. You can pay extra for signature confirmation. You can also pay for overnight if you want to be extra sure of its arrival time.

Also, since you're in NY, you could use a courier service. You have to sign for receipt of those and they are same-day deliveries.
posted by LKWorking at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to say, just 'courier' it to the address and by that I mean, take it yourself.

The only problem is that once something reaches the mail room, it may languish there because no one checks snail mail any more.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:35 AM on May 18, 2016

The only USPS service that absolutely, 100% comes with any guaranteed delivery date that you can predict ahead of time is Priority Mail Express (previously known just as "Express Mail") which will offer you second-day delivery if you meet the cutoff times.

phunniemee's Priority Mail option is good and offers 1-3 business day service; there is tracking and it can tell you that something is out for delivery, but this can sometimes be a bit unreliable, and there is no firm guarantee on the exact date. I would probably go with this latter option unless you really, absolutely need to predict something ahead of time with 100% certainty.
posted by andrewesque at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You may want a product with a guaranteed delivery date. Does it need to be USPS specifically? Here are a few options that will give you a specific delivery date (unlike standard Priority Mail):

- USPS Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Envelope
- UPS 2nd Day Air Letter
- FedEx Express Saver Letter

These will all offer a specific delivery day (which will almost certainly be the next day within NYC. All of them will cost more if you need to place a label directly on the manila envelope instead of using their branded letter product.
posted by reeddavid at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2016

My primary suggestion is to use a courier, who may actually be able to hand the manila envelope to the person in question and then mark as 'confirmed' in their system, which notifies you.

Otherwise slide the manila envelope inside a Priority Mail Express envelope and send same-day USPS with signature confirmation. You'll at least get their secretary or someone with the authority to sign for a personal package. It may be possible to list Important Person as the only authorized signor but that's a question for USPS.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2016

So the thing about USPS tracking is that the tracking information does not update in real time, and is not updated at every step. What I've been told about how it works is that the letter gets scanned when it gets scanned -- always on acceptance and delivery, but not always at other stages -- and then when the person who handled the letter gets back to the PO at the end of their shift, they stick their scanner in some kind of docking station and it uploads the data. So you may check the tracking at 4:00pm and see nothing, and then check ten minutes later and see that your item was out for delivery at 7:30am and delivered at 2:15pm. USPS tracking can tell you when a letter *was* delivered, but not when it *will be* delivered. Not sure if that works for your use case or not.
posted by phoenixy at 2:55 AM on May 19, 2016

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