Tricking the post office?
October 7, 2006 12:07 PM   Subscribe

When addressing a letter, if I was to intentionally switch the destination and return address and then drop it into a mailbox without a stamp, would it get to where I originally wanted it to go?

Obviously it's not worth the hassle to save the price of a stamp but I'm just curious if the post office would be legally obliged to return to sender. And if so, would this just work locally or could you do it cross country?
posted by gfrobe to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They could deliver it right back to you, postage due.
posted by smackfu at 12:15 PM on October 7, 2006

My mother, a former postmaster in Canada, suggests that with automatic sorting, it would get to its addressed destination - that is, the person who sent it in the first place in this scenario - somewhere around 50% of the time. It would get sent to the return address the other 50% of the time, but likely with significant delays.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:22 PM on October 7, 2006


Doing this w/intent is a felony in the US, I believe. Some years ago a Congressman pointed out this possibility, and the USPS got so upset he had to apologize.
posted by jamjam at 1:35 PM on October 7, 2006

A friend of mine sent me a letter (Alberta to Ontario) this way a few years ago, so yes, this could work.
posted by heatherann at 1:37 PM on October 7, 2006

I thought of this when I was 6 but have yet to try it.

Interesting aside on the topic of your title: a few years ago a Canadian magazine (mighta been Geist) decided to try something: they made their own stamps. And used them. And the post office didn't notice.
posted by dobbs at 2:15 PM on October 7, 2006

I know this was an important plot point for a Bollywood movie - this was the only way a couple could communicate with each other, as the parents didn't approve of their relationship.
posted by divabat at 2:22 PM on October 7, 2006

Yes, it works for local mail.

No, the postal service is not legally obliged to return to sender.
posted by tkolar at 3:19 PM on October 7, 2006

A friend of mine did this once - As I recall it took forever. I think he also purposely made the "to" address incorrect.
posted by jalexei at 5:05 PM on October 7, 2006

I used to send a lot of mail when I was a kid and I routinely would put a non-existent foreign address as the "To" address and the actual recipient's address as the "From" - I'd attach proper postage for the foreign destination, so I was paying for the privilege, but I always thought it might be neat for my recipient to get a letter that had been halfway around the world and back. Maybe in our current day-and-age the gov might not be as tolerant of falsifying the mail, but it worked, and was cool, in the mid-80s.
posted by maniactown at 5:13 PM on October 7, 2006

I've done this when I was younger. It worked for local mail, but trying to even send it to the next town, it would be delivered to the "To" address with postage due - meaning it came back to me.
posted by Iamtherealme at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2006

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