How flexible are the USPS's postcard size guidelines?
June 30, 2006 8:45 AM   Subscribe

How flexible are the Postal Service's postcard size guidelines?

We just finished up our wedding invitations, and we only now noticed that the response postcards are a half-inch shorter than the minimum. (The USPS says postcards have to be 5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall minimum. Ours are 4.5 x 4.) We'd rather not have to reprint everything. A little research has yielded even more confusion, as some people (one post office clerk, the guy on the other end of 800.ASK.USPS, and say it's not mailable, while others (three other post office clerks) say no problem, it'll still work with standard postcard postage ($.24).

This is really a three-parter: a) Will this postcard get mailed with $.24 in postage? b) If not, will it get mailed with first-class postage ($.39)? c) If not, what will happen to it?
posted by sandor to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
I think the $.39 postage would be the way to go... but I would check with the manager of the local post office. It's worth the extra postage to be confident about it.
posted by kdern at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2006

A) It honestly depends on the capriciousness of the staff at each post office that receives a card. The reason for the height guideline is so that the cards can be be sent through electronic sorter -- shorter cards may not register, so they'll be sorted by hand.

My office has had BRCs (Business Reply Cards, like the subscription cards in magazines) rejected by the local postmaster because they didn't match size guidelines, among other things.

B) I don't think a more expensive stamp will push it through, but it's worth asking. Mail in non-standard sized envelopes is subject to a surcharge ($0.16, IIRC) so it might work.

C) I'm pretty sure rejected postcards just get thrown out, rather than returned. Ask your PO.
posted by me3dia at 8:54 AM on June 30, 2006

One solution may be to include an envelope to mail the response card back in.
posted by me3dia at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2006

Could you do a test- mail one to yourself?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:59 AM on June 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

ThePinkSuperhero, the problem might not be that easy to identify, though, if me3dia's right that each post office is going to have their own level of concern about the height requirements. One might make it to your friend across the street, while the one you send to the next state will fail.
posted by odinsdream at 9:02 AM on June 30, 2006

Update: Just asked the mailman. He was pretty confident that they'd be delivered, and even asked for my name and address to make sure he'd look out for them. He says he sees stuff go through that's even smaller.

We've considered the envelopes, but just don't want to have to deal with it. Our main envelopes are strangely shaped, so we'd likely have to fold whatever return envelopes we get in half to make them fit. If we can at all avoid that option, we'd like to.

The post office really just throws mail out if it doesn't meet their guidelines?
posted by sandor at 9:04 AM on June 30, 2006

I once had the brilliant idea of handing out self addressed stamped business cards (business card sized.) To test the concept, I mailed several of them. They all arrived, but they had been placed in plastic envelopes. Figured that would get old for the local post office, so I abandoned the idea.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:10 AM on June 30, 2006

The post office really just throws mail out if it doesn't meet their guidelines?

Probably not, actually. But postcards do seem to have different rules than enveloped mail.
posted by me3dia at 9:43 AM on June 30, 2006

C) I'm pretty sure rejected postcards just get thrown out, rather than returned. Ask your PO.

This is simply not true. Undeliverable postcards are returned to sender. Unless the post office is unable to return something (i.e. it doesn't have a return address), then you will get it back.
posted by richardhay at 10:44 AM on June 30, 2006

i do a lot of odd-sized cards for my clients. for the formal things - wedding and party invitations, special notices that aren't going to more than a few hundred - i always tell them to use first class postage, in stamp form, and go and get them hand-canceled at their branch post office. much safer - especially for unorthodox sizes. and you'll find the staff more responsive and friendlier and more likely to allow a slightly larger or smaller card, too, especially if you go when there's no line and it's not just before the end of their shift.
posted by luriete at 10:46 AM on June 30, 2006

The PO does NOT throw 1st class mail out for not meeting guidelines - it will either return to sender or forward with postage due. It's STANDARD mail (read junk mail) that gets tossed.

I work for a direct mailer, and the PO seems to be most concerned with the ratio listed under their Large postcard specs. And it is true that it depends on who handles the mail in the PO - there are some workers who consider it their personal kingdom and will throw his/her weight around every chance they get. Others couldn't care less.

I think you'll be okay.
posted by DandyRandy at 1:04 PM on June 30, 2006

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