Faster delivery if mailed by earlier collection time?
December 29, 2005 5:48 PM   Subscribe

US Postal Service collection times: those blue boxes at the post office or street corners often list 2 or 3 different collection times. Does my mail really get to its destination faster by my getting it in the box by 12pm as opposed to 5pm?
posted by state fxn to Grab Bag (18 answers total)
It might. It depends how far you're sending it. The earlier it goes in the box, the earlier it gets to the post office, and the earlier it gets sorted and on to the next plane or truck to the area you're sending it to.

However, it will not get postmarked for an earlier date.
posted by bingo at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2005

Clarification: yes, assuming that I have two pieces of mail destined for the same address, say, within the US. If I drop one at the blue box at 12pm and the other at the same box at 5pm, and barring any other factors on its trip, will the one dropped at 12pm get to its destination faster? Now for the second part: in real life, is there an appreciable difference, say a few hours apart, in when they arrive? I do understand that the farther they have to travel, the more things vary, so that question might be impossible to answer.

(In case anyone wonders: I'm asking because I have Netflix and I am watching 24. I want the new discs to be shipped ASAP =) .)
posted by state fxn at 6:05 PM on December 29, 2005

I'm SO keeping an eye on this thread. I have more than a few friends who think I have issues b/c I mail my Netflix returns in specific (sometimes slightly out of the way) mailboxes. I'm convinced the DVDs get there faster if they're in a box that has earlier collection times.

I keep an eye on my account online and it *seems* to make a little bit of difference, but that's local mail going from Chicago to Chicago. Not sure it makes as much of a difference if the mail is going a greater distance.

Great, now I have the AskMe community thinking I'm weird about my Netflix...
posted by awegz at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2005

I would actually argue that the shorter they have to travel the more difference in makes. If you're in Philly and sending it to LA, they'll probably just throw it all in the same west-bound truck.

But, if you're in Philly and you're sending it to Newark, there's a chance that the letter dropped before noon will make it into this afternoon's truck bound for NJ instead of tomorrow morning's.

Also, I don't know how it works where you are, but I only get my mail once a day. Consequently, the letters are either going to get there the same day, or different days. It's not going to be a few hours' difference.
posted by Netzapper at 6:13 PM on December 29, 2005

But Netzapper, the few hours difference could make a difference if this is a Netflix thing -- the earlier it gets there, the earlier it gets processed, the more likely it'll go out that day and the sooner you get the next disc of season four of "21 Jumpstreet", or whatever it is you're Netflixing...
posted by awegz at 6:17 PM on December 29, 2005

But I'm also one of those people who pushes the "Close doors" button on the elevator thinking it actually does something.
posted by awegz at 6:18 PM on December 29, 2005

Wait, I just reread my comment and it makes no sense whatsoever -- glad you're thinking rationally Netzapper. I need to chill on the Netflix. Sorry folks.
posted by awegz at 6:27 PM on December 29, 2005

I would assume that NetFlix receives its mail once per day, like the rest of us. So barring such exigencies as full freight trucks, I doubt it would make much difference.

Interestingly, when I had a NetFlix subscription, they would mail out the next disk on the very day they received a returned DVD from you. Once Blockbuster started competing, they lowered their price, and started sitting on returned DVDs a few days before mailing their replacement (presumably to reduce the "churn" rate).

I found this rather frustrating, and switched to Blockbuster.
posted by curtm at 6:39 PM on December 29, 2005

I'm in Tampa, and I found that as long as I got my Netflix DVD to the mailbox at the post office by the last pick up (6:30pm) they would have it by the next morning (most of the time). The mail has been slow lately and its not quite working that way anymore. Plus I have found that Netflix is intentionally slowing down my DVDs. I have the 3 out at a time package and noticed that DVD turn around was slowing down. I dropped them an email and they told me that they slow people down that have heavy usage by 1) waiting till the next business day to ship your next DVD instead of the same day (sucks when the next business day is after a weekend or holiday weekend), 2) shipping your next DVD from a different warehouse other than your closest one. This has been happening to me and it sucks.
posted by CJB at 6:54 PM on December 29, 2005

How's about I restate the question in a different way ...

Does your local post office send shipments of mail to the regional sorting facility more than once a day? Is there just the evening truck, or is there also a midday truck? Therein lies the answer. I don't know but I'd love to.

Personally, I haul ass down the highway to the 24-7 postal facility when I really want that item to get going as fast as possible. Mainlining straight into in artery ... of course, the fact that the 30-minute-round-trip run is a blast in the late evening has nothing to do with it ...
posted by intermod at 7:32 PM on December 29, 2005

Does your local post office send shipments of mail to the regional sorting facility more than once a day?

Probably depends on how big each of those facilities is. Big city to big city probably sends several trucks a day, but a smaller facility on either end would probably reduce that number.
/total guess
posted by SuperNova at 7:50 PM on December 29, 2005

A few years ago I sent one envelope a day to someone, to hear that they got there in clumps of two or three. That and this question makes me want to figure this out, so I'm going to start a project to find out through rigorous controlled testing!

Expect an answer in 6-8 weeks.
posted by aubilenon at 7:53 PM on December 29, 2005

I don't know about Netflix, but I used to subscribe to Blockbuster Online. As soon as the post office scans the envelope with your DVD inside, that information gets sent to Blockbuster Online and they send out the next DVD in your queue in the knowledge that their DVD is en-route back to them. They started doing this in an attempt to eliminate turnaround time in waiting for DVD's, and it worked well for me in Missouri. I would mail a DVD in and generally could expect the next one to arrive in two days.
posted by lane73179 at 9:02 PM on December 29, 2005

I actually tested this out using my Netflix account. My post office has a 1pm and a 5pm pickup. If I make the 1pm pickup, I will get a DVD back one day faster than if I use the 5pm pickup on the same day. I've eliminated other variables and this is fairly consistent, even across a weekend.

This is from LA post office zip 90036 to Netflix's Santa Ana depot. I can't say for sure, but I suspect Netflix gets multiple mail deliveries per day. You may not get the same effect if you are mailing a smaller-volume business or individual.
posted by samh23 at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2005

I think the key here is that even the Post Office is not a 24/7 operation across the board (although certain parts obviously are). If you make the noon pickup, your mail gets to the sorting facility in time to be sorted and sent out that evening. If you put it in at 5pm, it's got a chance of getting held up until the next day's shipments resume. Or a perhaps greater chance of getting misdirected as postal workers rush to get home.

There used to be two or even three mail deliveries a day in some cities, and supposedly it was possible to send something out in the morning and have it delivered to its destination that same day (within the same city, anyway). I've heard this is still possible in Britain, or at least London.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on December 29, 2005

As other posters have noted, the answer depends on if your local post office (or DDU, Destination Delivery Unit in USPS terms) sends more than one truck per day to the ADC (Area Distribution Center) or SCF (Sectional Center Facility) that feeds it. You'll have to check with your local post office to find that out. If you're curious, you can follow these links to see what SCF or ADC serves your zip code.
posted by jmoreland at 5:19 AM on December 30, 2005

I have not noticed any speed-of-delivery difference, say, between a 11am and 6pm collection time at my home post office.

However, I have noticed a difference between my home post office and the one nearest my work in Seattle. It seems that mailing Netflix returns from my work post office frequently saves me 1 day. Kinda funny considering my home post office is closer to the Netflix distribution center. (I'm definitely going to check out jmoreland's SCF and ADC links.)

Picking a post office seems to be even more important for Gamefly returns. They've got a quick return system whereby some post offices will notify Gamefly of the game return. This can save up to 5 days on a return for me. Sadly, it's only happened one time out of three returns.
posted by Mike C. at 4:14 PM on December 30, 2005

Thank you intermod for restating the question. I have no idea how the whole postal system works, so I didn't know exactly how to phrase it.

CJB: I didn't know netflix did that. How unfair. So Blockbuster doesn't do this?

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences. It seems like now it would be nice if someone who works or have worked at a post office could clarify the inner workings of the US postal system for us. Demystify the whole thing.

aubilenon: when you finish your experiment, post the results!
posted by state fxn at 10:41 PM on December 30, 2005

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