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Topic: Media mail must be brought to post office open!?

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Subject: Media mail must be brought to post office open!?
Date Posted: 1/31/2009 5:49 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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I went to the local post office today (in Dorado, PR) for the first time since starting to send PBS books.  Normally, I send them from the post office at Isabela, PR (where I work) as it's easy to do during lunch time.  I have had no problems whatsoever with the staff at Isabela...

However...  today, I brought a prepackaged book to send out and the label said "Media Mail".  I hadn't printed the postage as I thought it might be close enough to use first class on it.  Anyways, the woman at the desk told me that I had to prove it was a book and that the rules said that I had to bring it to the post office with one end open so they know it's a book.  Now this is the first time I've heard this, and I've sent like 20 or so books already!  I told her "It's a book, and if you guys need to open it for postal inspection that is your right, but the USPS site doesn't say anything about keeping the package open to prove the contents"  She repeated "those are the rules".  Sooo... I said "Please show me where in the regulations it says this."  She took about 20 minutes searching and never quite did find it...  I was getting annoyed, so I said "Let's just weigh the damn thing, and please tell me how much it would be first class."...

Net result, I paid $0.12 more, and sent it first class.  And she still didn't have the regulation/rule to back herself up.  She said she'd have it ready next time we go there...  Yeah, like I'm gonna mail books at that post office again.  jeez.

Can one of our friendly postal employees / postmasters please let me know if that is really in the regulations?  I do realize the post office has the right to open it to inspect the contents, but I've never heard of them PRE-inspecting as a prerequisite to sending.

Date Posted: 1/31/2009 8:50 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2009
Posts: 189
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I've found that different post offices have different "regulations".  My guess is that some are more strict than others.  One place will often take a razerblade to slice my package, check for a book, and then tape it back up.  It seems like they wouldn't want to spend the extra time inspecting..... but......  I've even experienced different things depending on the person waiting on me.  Some are very very strict, while others will let the package be sent, assuming that it may be inspected later down the line.  I once received a softball mitt via media mail.......  Not sure quite how that one slipped through........  must not have been a strict post office:)

Date Posted: 1/31/2009 10:24 PM ET
Member Since: 1/28/2009
Posts: 3
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I found this

Postal Inspection

Media Mail is not sealed against postal inspection. Regardless of physical closure, the mailing of articles at Media Mail prices constitutes consent by the mailer to postal inspection of the contents. "

from here:  http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/173.htm

sounds like they can inspect it if they care too - but i dont see where it says it has to be left open!

Date Posted: 1/31/2009 10:32 PM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2008
Posts: 2,007
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If I'm not mistaken (and would some kind postal person please correct me if I am) it's a violation of postal regulations to mail anything that isn't sealed.

A long time ago I helped a friend setup a commercial mail processing company, and worked at it for about a year.  I got very familiar with the DMM (Domestic Mail Manual) back then, but a lot has changed since then so I don't even pretend to be any kind of expert on this stuff nowadays. 

Date Posted: 1/31/2009 10:38 PM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2007
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Last Edited on: 6/5/11 1:03 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 1/31/2009 11:05 PM ET
Member Since: 9/11/2005
Posts: 905
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It is NOT true that they have to be brought to the PO open.  For quite awhile that was the policy here in Lincoln, with signs at all of the PO's.  I sent an email to the USPS bosses in Washington complaining about this since it isn't in the regulations.  I got a phone call back from the head guy (a regional postal inspector or something) and ultimately this was rescinded here in Lincoln and I got another call of apoplogy from the head guy here, too.  It's true that they have the right to open anything that looks suxspicious, and some people do send stuff that doesn't qualify  (and they shoulld be caught and made to pay the maximum, I think!)  but there is NO REGULATION that says you have to bring it to the PO open!!  I've now sent out >4000 (!!) books, many of them first class, but many Media, and I no longer have any problem here or in Omaha where I ship stuff sometimes.

Date Posted: 2/1/2009 12:58 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2008
Posts: 66
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I mail books every week and have never had a problem with taking them sealed to the Post Office.   I think this may be something that varies from place to place, and PO to PO ... although it seems the rules should be uniform everywhere.

Date Posted: 2/1/2009 1:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,136
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If you bring them to the post office unsealed, do they have to use their own tape to seal them?  I guess if you're shipping 20 books you can save on tape by bringing them all unsealed!!  Seriously, are you supposed to bring along a roll of shipping tape and a pair of scissors, and hold up the whole line while you seal your packages shut?

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 2/1/2009 4:19 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Ha!  There is a sign at my local post office asking that packages not be brought to the counter unless they are sealed.  The one media mail stamp says "subject to inspection" but I figure it's their job to reseal all my book-shaped parcels if they decide to check.  I know the P.O. people very well (I go there almost every day to pick up and drop off mail for work, besides my book mailings) so they know I ship almost nothing but books.

A few years back in another city, I started selling books on Amazon.  I'd use padded mailers, and I would leave them open until I got to the counter so they could see it was a book.  The P.O. workers so obviously didn't care, that I stopped doing that and was never questioned about using media mail. 

Date Posted: 2/2/2009 12:45 AM ET
Member Since: 12/20/2008
Posts: 1,417
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This is the funniest, funniest FUNNIEST thread I've ever read!

I'm laughing because I posted about a week ago about a Postal worker REFUSING to sell me postage for my media mail until after the envelops were completed. (Normally, the other worker would sell me an envelope, weigh the book & envelope, and put the postage on the envelope. After paying, I would step aside, address the package and seal the envelope, and leave the package on the counter for them.

She swore that the envelope must be sealed/addressed before she could sell me postage.

SO, I think it's too funny that they gave you a hard time about it being sealed.

Not laughing at you. Just the irony of the USPS!



Date Posted: 2/2/2009 9:48 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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Hehe, yeah, if we weren't in such a rush to get to a library book sale, I would have given her a much harder time.  I was in a bit of a fighting mood at the time.  It's not like it was some odd-sized package either, it was a mass-market paperback wrapped in paper and taped.  The size is very obviously book, nothing at all suspicious about it.  But she was being overzealous about a rule that didn't exist.  She spent about 20 minutes searching for it before she came back too.  Some people are just out of it.

Date Posted: 2/2/2009 11:45 AM ET
Member Since: 11/21/2008
Posts: 232
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About 2 months ago I sent a small gift book to a friend and the PO clerk gave me a really hard time about it, refusing to believe it was a book. I told her to go ahead and open it, but then she'd have to buy me new wrapping paper etc, so she said, "I'll let it go this time..."  I repeated that she was welcome to open up the package and inspect it, but she refused. Okaaay.

Then last week, I brought in two identical  (same exact book, same exact packaging) media maiings on two different days -- same clerk. First day, no problem. Second day, she tells me it's too small to be a book 'according to regulations".

I asked her why those regulations didn't apply yesterday.


"Well, maybe THAT clerk didn't know those regulations. " She sniffs.


"Really. YOU were that clerk."


"Oh. Then I guess it's okay."


Yeah, I guess you are the supreme postal regulations ruler of the universe, lady.


It's the inconsistency that drives me crazy.

Date Posted: 2/2/2009 2:34 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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Thankfully not all postal employees make up their own rules, but it does seem that some are prone to.  I'm still considering exactly how to contact the postmaster here to let him/her know that a training refresher might be in order as the staff is insisting on rules that aren't posted on the web, and couldn't be found in their handbook.  But they don't answer the phone at the post office, so phoning is out...  I guess a letter could work...

Date Posted: 2/2/2009 5:10 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 71
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I guess I'm very lucky to have an easy going post office.  I live in such a small town that my post office only has one full time employee who works 6 days a week and we know each other on a first name basis.  Every time I go in to mail my books and any other packages she says thank you for the business.  She told me one time that on some days I am the only customer who mailed a package that day!!  Needless to say she never gives me a hard time about the packages I mail.

I guess that is one reason to be thankful for a very small town.



Connie C. (Cade) - ,
Date Posted: 2/2/2009 7:22 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2006
Posts: 24
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As I read these threads I find it interesting but also sad that my fellow Postal employees can make us look so bad.

First, you ARE NOT required to bring your package open to the counter. As a matter of fact, it should be sealed and ready to go. Second, even through it says that the contents are subject to inspection, clerks CAN NOT be the ones opening and inspecting the packages. The only people who can do that are managers. Now, a clerk can take a package to a manager AFTER it has been posted and tell him/her that they are not sure the package contains media mail. Then, if the manager wants to they can open and inspect the contents. If you take a package to a counter and request media and when asked you say it is a book, video, whatever and it is eligible for media, they are not to question you anymore. They are to apply the postage. They are not to harass you, etc... If they have doubts, they are to do what I said above after the transaction is complete. If you ever have a problem I recommend you call 1-800-275-8777 and complain. The clerks need to be educated and the only way to correct these situations is to report them.

Date Posted: 2/3/2009 7:15 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 1
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I guess I'm blessed.  My local PO is wonderful, and the employees, helpful.  They are fasinated at the number of books being swapped thru the mail, and always have a chat about it when I go in.  I'm always offered the best deal on postage, and never have I been inspected.  I do enjoy when they give me the schpiel on "liquid, fragile, hazardous material", which is often changed to "tear-jerker, heart-breaker, murder/mayhem" for my benefit!

Date Posted: 2/3/2009 4:51 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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They did it again today, same post office.  This time it was a different clerk, and he told me "she told you two days ago, it needs to be open!"...  I told him "and she never did find the regulation that said that"... and HE went and searched for the regs for 20 minutes before giving up and sending it media mail "this time".  Buncha twits.  If I wasn't in such a hurry to get somewhere else before THEY closed, I would have gotten in line right then to talk to the postmaster, who was in.  When I get a chance very soon, I will be writing him a nice letter to inform him of the troubles his employees are causing me.  They need some retraining, obviously... 

And both clerks need to learn to say "hmmm, sorry, I can't find that regulation, I guess it doesn't matter" or "Ooops, I was wrong".  As it was, they seriously inconvenienced everyone in line because they wanted to make up rules.  I mean,  if the packages were odd-sized or something, I could at least understand.  But no.. both times were well-wrapped mass-market paperbacks...  Very obviously a book-sized package, but they seem to think that it's something else and want it proven?  Bah.  Get your manager to inspect and reseal it after I leave.

On a positive note, on the way to the next place I was going (the water utility), I passed the post office in the neighboring town.  Muhahaha.  So now I have another post office to try if I'm near home rather than work and need to deliver.

Date Posted: 2/5/2009 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Sorry for your hassle Gavin, but that is so funny.  Any village idiot should be able to identify a mmpb wrapped in two sheets of paper.  All they have to do is flex it slightly, if it feels like a book and looks like a book . . . it's probably a book!  The USPS reserves the right to inspect media mail, but you don't have to bring your books in unsealed.  It's amazing how often this reg is misinterpreted tho. 

But do have fun with it, just keep asking to see the regulation!  Maybe they will buy a clue and ask a superviser that can tell them how misinformed they are!

Date Posted: 2/5/2009 7:53 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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Yes, it's rather funny, even if they do drive me nuts in the process. :)  Thankfully, I only use that post office if I mail on the weekends (well, and to receive my mail too, but they've been not too bad there mostly)...

But yeah, I'll keep pestering them until they get it right, or until I have time to go sit with the postmaster for a couple minutes and relay my concerns as to his staff's training on the matter...

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 10/12/2008
Posts: 350
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I have been mailing books for years from 2 places and I have never been asked to bring it opened. I was told it may be opened on its way. There are no signs anywhere about such regulation. But as I understand the workers find a lot of odd stuff in the media mail. Last time I was told by a friend who works there that they pulled out cloths and shoes food... well you name it. And at Christmas time it gets a lot worse.
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 10:02 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
Posts: 11,733
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Gavin, they can search all day long and they won't find a regulation that says the package needs to be open because it doesn't exist.  I'd politely tell them that until they can find that regulation and show it to you, you're going to continue to bring your packages to the counter sealed. 

Next time, I'd definitely ask to speak to the postmaster about the matter because the counter clerks don't need to be hassling  you like that every time.  If they clerks suspect you're violating the MM regs, they can always have your packages inspected but they don't need to be wasting your time looking for a regulation that does not exist.

Date Posted: 2/11/2009 8:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/19/2007
Posts: 4,452
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I checked with my PO on this once and they said: 

1.  Media Mail can be opened by any postal employee for inspection;

2.  Our particular PO had a problem at one time with people trying to send stuff MM that really wasn't so at that time they required that all MM packages be brought unsealed so they could be inspected.  They no longer have this requirement.  It's possible that that particular Postal Station is having problems, and that's why they're requiring that it be brought in opened.


Date Posted: 2/11/2009 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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Well, unless they can show me the rule in the postal regulations (written), I'm not going to oblige.  It's ridiculous to expect me to seal the packages at the post office, especially when I can just toss them into a post box with sufficient prepaid online postage and they have to accept it.

Also, I'm not sure your #1 is technically accurate.  I wouldn't be surprised if it has to be the manager or postmaster, not just "any postal employee".

While I can understand they are trying to restrict media mail to actual media mail, in BOTH cases they've done this to me, it was very obviously a mass media paperback book in the PBS wrapper.  What else could it be that doesn't apply to media mail rates?  It's a pack of paper with a binding... a book.  If I brought in a big box full of books, their request is far more sensible, but even then, they have no right to refuse to ship it on suspicion it's not books.  They do have the right to do an official postal inspection, of course, but that is NOT done at the counter (as has been stated previously by someone else more in the know than I am).

Thankfully, I almost never use my home post office.  The one at work has NEVER given me issues, and has been more than helpful.  Once I had a book set for media mail on the label (not preprinted postage), and it was cheaper first-class and the clerk actually told me rather than silently charge more for what I'd specifically asked for.  He just black-markered the "MEDIA MAIL", and stamped it first class... saved me like $0.15, but whatever, it's the thought that counts.

Date Posted: 2/11/2009 11:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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I think the postage break is 7 oz.  Under is cheaper first class, and over is cheaper media mail.

Date Posted: 2/12/2009 8:40 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 667
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Sounds about right.  As I don't have a good scale yet, I usually pay postage at the post office if I doubt the PBS weight.  I think the book in question was around 6oz, and PBS said 10oz or something like that.  I do have a crappy kitchen scale (not digital) that will get me fairly close, but I can only do that AFTER I tape up the whole package if I want a real measurement, and if I prepaid postage, then I can't change it once it's taped...  I'll figure it all out eventually.

Anyways, it's good to see that it's not ALL postal workers that are twits that like to make up their own rules.   I hope that those are the distinct minority.  They certainly try to make a bad name for all of the good postal workers out there (some of whom are PBS'ers too!) :)