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Topic: How rough is the USPS when they check media mail?

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Subject: How rough is the USPS when they check media mail?
Date Posted: 2/16/2010 2:29 PM ET
Member Since: 12/31/2009
Posts: 3
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I'm not sure I'm posting this in the right forum, but since it has to do with the post office....

Because the nearest PO is about 10 miles away, I prefer to ship by paying for postage online and having the carrier pick it up. Media Mail can take time to reach its destination, and God knows how they handle those packages, so I try to put some effort into wrapping the books I ship. I typically wrap a book in plastic, and then wrap it with the printed wrappers. Then I use quite a bit of packing tape to ensure that it doesn't come apart easily, especially at the seams. I also try to keep the corners rounded so they don't get caught in any sorting machines... I suspect this is how many people do it. I try to wrap books so that they are protected both from water damage as well as structural damage. Kids in my neighborhood have pulled down the lid on my mailbox before, resulting in completely soaked mail, and this is why I sometimes instinctively go overboard with wrapping tape... Some books I've sent out you could drown the package in a bucket of water and the book would be fine.

However, I've read here on the forums about the USPS "checking" media mail, and how it's becoming more common. This worries me somewhat; while I've not seen any opened media mail thus far, I have some experience with receiving packages from abroad that Customs opened up to double-check their contents. In those cases, the fashion in which those packages were bandaged up again could be best described as "half-assed."

Considering how compact I try to make my media mail packages, they're not exactly "designed" to be torn open and resealed. I don't know how careful postal workers are when they check media mail, but in my mind's eye I can see them ripping one open with scissors and cutting into the book as they do so - and then closing it, somewhat, with tape.

If anyone has personal experience with receiving (or having sent) media mail that was opened by the post office, I'd appreciate any advice you might have. I know how to protect a book against water or sloppy handling, but I'm not sure how to go about protecting it against the USPS.

Date Posted: 2/16/2010 4:38 PM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2005
Posts: 209
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My experience has been with opening and inspecting packages.  Firstly, if the contents are obviously a book it's not going to be opened.  A lot of times you can tell by shape, weight, feel, etc.  The PO is looking for "suspicious" packages marked Media Mail, not ones that obviously are.  Based on your description of how you wrap your books I would be surprized if they were ever inspected.

Considering how many postal employees who may be in a position to inspect a package, you have that many chances of someone messing up the repackaging.  I was always very careful, everyone I worked with was careful, I'm sure almost all employees who do this are careful but there obviously can be exceptions.

The risk from automated equipment is far greater.  Keep in mind that if a package is opened for inspection it will be marked on the outside in bold lettering that it has been inspected and there will be a form letter inside advising the addressee that it has been inspected.  I've seen packages that have been put back together after having a bad experience with a sorting machine that leave a lot to be desired.

BTW, Media Mail packages are handled no differently then others, Postal employees don't go through a mental process that says, "Ah Media Mail, I can beat the heck out of this one!"  :)

Date Posted: 2/17/2010 11:32 AM ET
Member Since: 4/7/2008
Posts: 15,690
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That's what I thought too, Steve (that if a package was obviously a book, they wouldn't want to inspect it.) But it's good to have confirmation from somebody who knows. ;)

Date Posted: 2/18/2010 12:57 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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To the best of my knowledge, none of the hundreds I've sent or received have been inspected.  I know it happens tho, and the package repairs are a mixed bag.  As Steve mentions (and supported by rumor) most are adequately re-sealed, but I have heard of sloppy, half-@ss re-sealing.

And then there's Wisconsin  which appears to be inventing it's own Media Mail rules...



Last Edited on: 2/18/10 12:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 2/19/2010 4:33 PM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2005
Posts: 209
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Yeah, I don't understand the story in Wisconsin but if I lived there (as a customer only, not an employee) I would be working my way up the chain of command until it was changed. 

Date Posted: 2/20/2010 10:21 PM ET
Member Since: 1/20/2010
Posts: 1
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I'm a new member, just 2 weeks, and have mailed nearly 50 books and audio books.  So far, I've received comments from 2 recipients that that packaging was torn open.  I used 10 x 13 manila/catalog envelopes.  One recipient's CDs were missing, just the cover packaging and instruction sheet remained.  the 2nd recipient's CDs and book were intact but the package was rubber banded.

 

Here's my questions:

1.  Media mail has strict rule about any personal correspondence not being allowed at this rate -- is the instruction sheet I include considered that, and so negates the media mail?  I've read from various organizations that I order from (non-profits), that they've had such bad troubles with media mail rate that they refuse to use it any more. 

 

2. I don't understand but would like to, is a book loose in an envelope too large for it a problem?  should packaging be tight, in other words? 

 

I still have about 26 deliveries to hear back from over the next few weeks.  I hope these were isolated incidences. 

Date Posted: 2/21/2010 12:44 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 9,916
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I don't understand but would like to, is a book loose in an envelope too large for it a problem?  should packaging be tight, in other words?

Yes, this can be a huge problem. It really is best to make the packaging tight around the contents. I use scissors and just cut the envelopes open along the sides so that I can fold them better around the contents.

It is also a good idea to make sure that you wrap the tape around your package in all three dimensions (length, width, and height). (On a single book, I don't do the width, just length and height). This way, even if it rips, it is not likely to be able to slide off.

What happens is that as the envelopes are handled, the contents shift around and can rip their way out of the package from the inside out. Also, the loose part of the envelope is easier to catch on equipment and rip that way. Also, as other mail / boxes / heavy envelopes pile on top of yours in bins, that can rip the loose part of the packaging too.

I have received several empty wrappers where the contents have fallen out (loose wrappers, althoug one was also due to the use of scotch tape to seal it instead of packing tape).

Date Posted: 2/22/2010 10:33 PM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2005
Posts: 209
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To answer your first question, instruction sheets are allowed at no extra cost.  Here is the reference in the DMM (Domestic Mail Manual):

http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/173.htm#wp1060540

That's DMM 173.4.3d

Date Posted: 3/3/2010 2:17 PM ET
Member Since: 11/5/2009
Posts: 1,083
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However, I've read here on the forums about the USPS "checking" media mail, and how it's becoming more common.

If it is a single paperback book securely wrapped with lots of tape, I doubt that they will inspect it.  It is very easy to tell that a book is a book by it's feel (if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck).  I think when they inspect packages it's more likely when they are in a box or in a container where the contents don't "feel" like books.  I do a lot of business on E-Bay and many sellers send things like a blanket or a computer accessory in a box and mark it "Media Mail".  When that happens, I report them to E-Bay and to the local post office who will then notify their post office.  The post office is doing a fine job and having a hard time making money these days with so many on-line transactions taking their business away.  So, it really chaps me when people misuse the system like so many E-Bay sellers.  I would have been happy to have them inspect that package and send it back to the seller to make them send it properly.

Date Posted: 3/3/2010 2:21 PM ET
Member Since: 11/5/2009
Posts: 1,083
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2. I don't understand but would like to, is a book loose in an envelope too large for it a problem?  should packaging be tight, in other words?

Absolutely.  If you don't tape down the four corners, it's likely they will get stuck in a sorting machine and end up torn.  I use poly envelopes purchased on E-Bay and always tape the corners tightly around the books.  I have never had a problem with my shipments and I have sent out 30+ books in the last couple of months.  I even have received a few comments when the book was marked received about how great my packaging is.  I first wrap books in plastic and then put them in the poly envelope.  Wrapping books in plastic does two things.  First, it prevents the books from water damage and second, it keeps the books together if a package gets ripped so one or two don't tumble out and get lost.