This is a story about Mother’s Day… sort of.
My wife Helaine, herself a mother, bought a nice gift for my mom, wrapped it and took the package (really a padded envelope) to our local Post Office where one of the clerks weighed it and affixed the postage. She didn’t mail it.
Helaine planned on mailing the gift when my folks returned from a vacation. That turned out to be Tuesday of last week, when she drove the envelope to the Post Office and dropped it in the box in the parking lot.
It was delivered the next day… back to us, with the sticker you see. Packages over 13 ounces, when mailed using stamps, must be physically presented to a clerk at the Post Office. Period. End of story.
It’s for security, the sticker said. In this post 9/11 world we’re not supposed to question security – but I will.
Here in Connecticut, more than most places, we understand what postal security means. This is where Ottilie Lundgren died. She was poisoned by anthrax that probably passed through the huge Wallingford mail distribution center where three million anthrax spores were later found and removed.
But if the Postal Service is worried about security, why in heaven’s name would they have my carrier bring it back to my house? If it was dangerous, it’s doubtful it would have the proper return address anyway. As I remember, the 2001 anthrax letters all had phony return addresses. The same was true when the Unabomber’s package exploded at Yale, less than a mile from where I’m writing this.
The whole process makes no sense to me. In fact, I’m so confused why the Postal Service is doing this, I asked them to comment.
The rule actually predates 9/11, going back to the mid-90s. The weight limit, recently lowered to 13-ounces, complies with the weight limits for Priority Mail.
In an email response response, Doug Bem from the US Postal Inspection Service included this all purpose line:
I am not denying that.
All I’m asking is, why send it back to me? It’s either worrisome, and should be treated that way, or it’s not and can go to my mom’s house.
To a certain extent the Postal Service has their hands tied. They can’t open my mail to check what’s inside.
So instead, they declare a one size fits all rule which treats all 13 ounce stamped packages as suspicious… and then they just wash their hands of them and drop them off at your house.
If 13-ounce packages pose a threat, dispose of them. If not, deliver them.
If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.