Snail Mail for Millenials

It has come to my attention that we failed our children in at least one life lesson: how to use the United States Postal Service (USPS or “snail mail”).  There is ample evidence that we did not cover this life skill and I thought you might be in the same boat.  I believe this applies to Millenials and any younger generation such as Post Millenial or Gen Z. Share this with your children if you feel they might benefit.  There will be a test later.

The USPS is an independent agency of the federal government.  It moves paper and packages from your house to mine.  It’s pretty efficient and cost effective especially when you consider what its customers ask of it sometimes.  However, for many people, going to the post office personally can be challenging–like spending Thanksgiving night with your parents.

Despite current technologies, there will be a need for this service for the foreseeable future.  So buckle down and learn how to use it.  Stop calling your mother while she is in the cemetery to ask “how do I send this phone back again?  I’m at the post office and the lady says she can’t help me.  I have the phone right here in my hand.  What’s the problem?”

Sorry, I wandered a little bit there.  When you need to send mail out–like a birthday card to your father or a wedding invitation — you’ll need envelopes, addresses and stamps.  An envelope needs to be addressed to the desired recipient.  Put this in the middle of the envelope when it is in landscape format.  Usually you want the back flap on top but it doesn’t really matter.

There should be 3 lines: the first is the person’s name (first AND last is helpful).  The 2nd is the street address and the 3rd is City State Zip.  It’s a little like sharing on Facebook–you have to find the person by name with whom you want to share that crazy link.   This information should be clearly written to be legible by your most elderly aunt.  The print should be in contrast to the envelope (white envelope: blue or black ink creates contrast).  Avoid using gold ink on a gold envelope for example.

You MUST add postage.  One Forever stamp per envelope is generally sufficient.  Put the stamp in the upper right hand corner without obliterating any portion of the TO address.

Now there are “Forever” stamps.  You can use it Forever, I guess.  Currently they cost 50 cents each.  It will not go down.  You can pay 50 cents for a stamp today and use it a year or two from now when the cost of a stamp is 55 cents.  As millenials, you will not have that precious experience of looking across the table at a friend and saying “Remember when we stamps were 6 cents?” while smiling fondly and shaking your head.  You’ll never know how much it cost to send that envelope because the stamp won’t tell you.  Back in the olden days, looking at the stamp could tell you quite a story:Yes, this was in my lifetime thank you very much.

A third item on an envelope is the return address found in the upper left corner.  Contrary to popular opinion, a return address is not mandatory but is quite helpful if you haven’t followed USPS guidelines to the T.  The return address is your name, street address and city state zip.  You’ll get the envelope back if you fail one of the postal guidelines. 

The USPS has a great deal in common with the TSA in that the rules change regularly and you never quite know what new thing will be disallowed (and it’s always something new that you CAN’T do–never something new that you CAN do).  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Then you have to put the letter in a mailbox or give it to the person manning the desk at the post office, which is NOT open and available to you 24/7.

That’s what these blue boxes are for–you can drop your letters in these to mail them OR  use your own mailbox.  It helps to put the little flag up to let the carrier know there’s something in there to be picked up.  It’s also a good way for you to tell if your own mail has been delivered yet since the postman will put the flag back down after he picks up your mail.

Mailing packages follow similar guidelines.  You need postage, an address and a properly sealed package.  You may re-use boxes you might already have if you scribble out any barcodes and do your best to remove any labeling that might cause confusion.

Seal it up really well –the kind of sealing up that makes people nuts when they try to open it.  The USPS designed the rules that way.  Usually you put the name and address on the top of the box–I like to use a clean sheet of paper so it stands out.

Then you’re probably going to have to take the package to the post office to pay the postage and have them put it on their trucks.  This can be tricky sometimes as postal hours can be a little finicky


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