Geoff’s wife tried to mail a padded envelope full of love to his mom for Mother’s Day, but the post office returned it to Geoff’s house the next day with the above label, which says the item could not be delivered due to “heightened security requirements.” That’s all well and good, but what Geoff wants to know is, if this envelope is potentially dangerous, why would you bring it to the person named on the return address?
By Geoff’s estimate (and ours), either it’s a huge flaw in their security plan, or the USPS doesn’t really believe in their own rules.
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:
“Unfortunately I won’t be able to get into the specifics of those security issues because someone who could misuse that information might be a reader of your blog; all I can say is that the issues still exist today.”
When he posted this story on his blog, it got picked up by a USPS-related website and he received several comments from possible postal service insiders. This morning, someone calling himself “VaguelyPostal” (which is a troubling name in itself) wrote:
I believe your basic concern is why if your wife’s package was considered suspicious or dangerous was it returned with the carrier as a regular piece of mail.
I agree, the explanations you are getting are not logical. But, to make it logical to you would require revealing information that would detract from postal security.
Being intentionally vague, I will tell you that your package was returned through normal delivery channels only because it violated the 13 oz. rule, not because it was deemed suspicious, dangerous, or hazardous. If the package had been classified as those latter categories it would not be entered into mailstream.
So the final, vague summary seems to be: if you get an item returned to your address for violating security rules, odds are high the USPS doesn’t really think it’s dangerous, but rules are rules and they can’t accept it.
If you don’t have a scale at home, an unopened can of soda weighs between 13 and 14 ounces, so you can use that as a rough guide.
“My 13-Ounce Dilemma” [GeoffFox.com]