USPS Sunday pickup times
February 5, 2006 2:55 PM   Subscribe

What happens to a piece of mail after it is deposited in a USPS mailbox that lists a Sunday pickup time?

Often I will go to the trouble to put something in the mail by Sunday at 1:30 p.m., in the USPS mailbox with that pickup time not far from my house. I have hoped that such an item would get to its destination more quickly than if I waited until Monday to mail it.

But it occurred to me that, quite possibly, no processing is done to that mail until Monday --- and that the mail from that box may just get taken somewhere to sit in a bin until the Post Office opens up on Monday morning. If that is the case, then the mail I dropped in the box on Sunday would probably not get to its destination any more quickly than something mailed on Monday morning.

Do any of you have knowledge about this? Does my item get there any more quickly if I mail it by Sunday at 1:30 p.m., instead of Monday morning? In case it is relevant, most Monday pickups are in the afternoon, around 2 or 3 p.m.
posted by jayder to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
This is just some possibly meaningless anecdotal evidence, but I think some mail processing does go on on Sunday. I say this because I once dropped something in the mail at Chicago's main post office on a Saturday after 5, and was shocked to hear that it had arrived at its Minneapolis destination by the following Monday.
posted by epugachev at 3:13 PM on February 5, 2006

If they are picking it up on a Sunday, I'd guess that they need to have it postmarked on a Sunday, so it must be going somewhere and getting processed I would imagine.

When I lived in Orlando, there was a large postal facility by the airport that was open 24/7/365.
I can't remember if the service counter was manned all the time, but they did have self service machines, and you could see and hear people in the back working no matter when you went in there. It was basically the only postal center available to me because of the screwy hours I was working.

You don't say where you live, but I'd guess it's near or in a very large metropolitan area.

You could send yourself a letter on a Sunday and see when it's postmarked and when you receive it too. :)
posted by whoda at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2006

Best answer: Your piece of mail will be retrieved from the box sometime around the posted time, and will be processed during the Sunday night shift at the local sorting facility. It will be delivered to the next step in the outbound delivery sequence when the truck from the sorting facility goes to pick up Monday morning's inbound mail. Depending on how many daily deliveries to the destination sorting facility and post office there are, your mail may get there a day early, it may not. Usually it will. (Mail to Alaska is a whole other story.) (Not a USPS employee, but I was curious and asked one day.)
posted by jlkr at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2006

From what I understand there is most definitely mail processing occuring on Sundays -- it's just the deliveries, customer service counters, etc that are closed.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:46 PM on February 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for these helpful answers.

Yes, whoda, where I live there is also an Airport Postal Facility that is open 24 hours, but Monday through Saturday the last pickups are 8 p.m. So, although there are people working there 24 hours a day, and the counters are open 24 hours a day, it appears that if you drop something off after eight p.m., it sits there until the next day.
posted by jayder at 5:36 PM on February 5, 2006

Even if there wasn't mail processing happening on Sundays, I would expect that mail picked up on Sunday would be processed first thing Monday morning and leave the processing plant on the first truck out, while mail picked up from a mailbox on Monday would probably be processed in the evening.
posted by winston at 6:28 PM on February 5, 2006

This doesn't answer your question about Sunday pickup, but a little background information might be helpful.

In my medium size town, no mail is cancelled on Sunday. I was told years ago that no mail was cancelled anywhere on Sunday, but that was years ago and that may have changed in larger cities. Our processing and distribution center operates 24/7, but most of the mail is incoming from other cities.

In general, mail is dispatched from our center to the local stations once per day, except on Sundays. Mail processing starts at about 3:00 PM and continues throughout the night, with the last dispatch at 6:00 AM. Mail goes out to the smaller towns in our area at 4:30 or 5:00 every day. Dispatches to other citis occur several times a day because we have to use commercial airlines and space is limited.

I suspect that the reason for Sunday pickup is to make sure that the pickup boxes don't get too full. I'll ask around when I get to work to see if that mail is actually cancelled and entered into the mail stream.
posted by faceonmars at 9:22 AM on February 6, 2006

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