Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up a book a friend sent me. He sent the package by media mail, but the USPS delivered it postage due. The USPS had opened the package and inspected its contents to confirm eligibility for media mail rates. Additional first-class postage was due for a one-page letter my friend had enclosed with the book.
I paid the fifty cents due for the enclosed letter, and I received the package. It was stamped “Opened for inspection by USPS” and contained a slip explaining why extra postage was due.
The inspection didn’t surprise to me. Whenever I’ve sent a book by media mail, postal workers have always explained that media mail is subject to inspection. What was (or has been) a surprise to me was the postage due on the enclosed letter. This has been a recurring issue for me. In my experience the rule for enclosed personal messages in media mail has been applied inconsistently.
I have a PO box, and in my case, media mail that was sent to me was delivered to me postage due. I received a pick-up slip and had to pay additional postage. I’ve read differing accounts from other people of what might happen. One Amazon sellers reports that a USPS worker told her the package would be delivered postage due. Another Amazon seller reports that the package was returned with additional postage due.
The standards for enclosures and attachments in noncommercial media mail are found in DMM 173.6.0. The standards for commercial mail are found in DMM 273.6.0.
In my case, I believe that the USPS inspector erred in his or her determination that the enclosed letter required additional postage. As of November 2018, it looks like these are the standards for enclosed letters (DMMM 173.6.4):
Incidental First-Class Mail matter may be enclosed in or attached to any Media Mail or Library Mail piece without payment of First-Class Mail postage. An incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure must be matter that, if mailed separately, would require First-Class Mail postage, is closely associated with but secondary to the host piece, and is prepared so as not to interfere with postal processing. An incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure may be a bill for the product or publication, a statement of account for past products or publications, or a personal message or greeting included with a product, publication, or parcel. Postage at the Media Mail or Library Mail price for the host piece is based on the combined weight of the host piece and the incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure.
If you look at the standards linked above, you’ll also see that there are rules regarding enclosed invoices and written markings on qualifying materials.
The parts that look relevant for my purposes are:
In my case, the letter was a personal greeting to accompany the book. In the letter, my friend said hello and explained how he had found the book at used book sale. This seems to meet all the criteria explained above, and postage was paid based on the combined total weight of the host piece (the book) and the incidental letter. In my reading of the rules, no additional postage would be due.
I paid it anyway, because it was only fifty cents, I didn’t have the rules in front of me, and I’m not a crank who enjoys making scenes at the post office. But I am interested in what USPS rules do and don’t allow, hence this blog post.
Perhaps you enjoy sending personal emails or have an old fax machine you could dust off. I suggested to my friend that he try the placing the following boldfaced text at the top of his next first-class media mail enclosure:
“This incidental enclosure is a personal message or greeting closely associated with but secondary to the host piece, and it has been prepared so as not to interfere with postal processing. Media mail postage has been paid based on the combined weight of the host piece and this incidental enclosure. It should meet all criteria described in DMM 173.6.4, which describes when incidental first-class mail matter may be enclosed within media mail without payment of first-class postage. Thank you for your hard work and may the Force be with you.”
I’m interested in hearing whether others have had similar experiences. What happened? How have postal workers explained the rules to you?
Snow is falling again. It’s right around freezing and doesn’t seem to want to stick. I sectioned up a bunch of firewood this morning so I have plenty in reserve for the next week or two.
Back in Iowa ten years ago I had a chainsaw — never used it. I think I may have had two chainsaws. But I would just buy firewood from friends or whoever. I never learned how to use a chainsaw properly.
Now I know better. Somewhat. It’s been a learning experience. I dulled the chain pretty quickly due to my carelessness — oops, I forgot to add chain lubricant, oops, I chainsawed a rock — but the good news is I’m more on top of my chainsaw maintenance game now than ever before.
YouTube is pretty cool; it taught me how to sharpen a chainsaw properly. The first video was a Russian guy being like, “A tree fell down in my yard; let’s do a chainsaw tutorial. File kit ready, set, sharpen!” Then there was a dude filming his dad sharpening a chainsaw, not as good as the first video but still a couple handy pointers. And finally an ADHD Canadian lumberjack dude with lots of fully explained asides: “Who’s calling? Hold on, I have to get this — it could be the cable company.”
My folks are in town for the weekend and it’s good to see them. It’s good to be like, “Hey, would you like to hold the baby?” And then I can, well, I guess what I probably should have done was take a shower.
Hey man. Greetings from a Trader Joe’s parking lot in Phoenix, where I’m hanging out in the back of the family SUV with my overtired seven-month-old son while Mandy shops for dinner. Max got his flat-head-fixer-upper helmet today, and we’re enjoying the blazing-but-not-brutally hot upper 90s Phoenix temps. Public comments on the scoping phase for Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears’ new management plans are due soon, and I knocked out a rough draft of those earlier today while Max was sleeping, so, you know, civics, I guess.
Good morning, Flink! It’s 5:41 am and the sun is just about to rise because this is Arizona and Arizona knows that Daylight Savings Time is for chump states. Arizona is a Benjamin Franklin state, early to bed and early to rise, especially for light-sensitive babies!
Did you know: in June the sun will never set any later than 7:49 pm … but the sky will begin to get light at 3:22 am! I mean, I’m being dramatic here, 3:22 am is Arizona’s earliest astronomical twilight, which begins in the morning when the sun is 18° below the horizon. I guess if I really want to be fair I should tell you that astronomical twilight ends after sunset at 9:38 pm on the solstice.
Well, that concludes today’s installment of Arizona star talk; thank you for listening to me bitch about the movements of the sun and earth.
The power is out. I was sitting at my desk, getting stuff done, and then: Beeeeeoooowooprt. Everything electronic was dead and I was like, “Okay, now what?” Well, now I’ll write to Flink and complain about the frequency of power outages in general and also the inconvenience of this outage specifically.
I vividly recall your last email to me, which included the following request (quoted verbatim from memory): “Mike, in your next letter, please be sure to complain at great lenth about minor inconveniences over which you have no control.”
And I thought, man that’s a tall order, but anything for Flink. He is a true friend and if he wants to read about the fact that sometimes it is too windy and sometimes when the honey in the cupboard is too old it crystallizes and won’t pour smoothly and sometimes — oh my, I can’t think of anything else to complain about; I am sorry, I must have deeply disappointed you here.
I had hoped the power would be back on by now so I could be like, “Complaining works again!” but nope, guess I gotta complain about how complaining doesn’t work.
Hey Jon —
Here’s a fun fact. PC World ranked the Zip Drive as both the 23rd best and 15th worst tech product of all time. It’s true! I fact checked the Wikipedia article. Knowledge is power and now you know.
The 23rd most powerful person on Earth