The Sad Truth Is That You Can’t Return Postal Kiosk Stamps


The useless stamp.

You can’t take back stamps. This seems like it would be an obvious thing, but it actually isn’t. Dave was sending an Express Mail package across the country, and used a flat-rate envelope. He bought a regular Express Mail stamp at a post office kiosk, the Automated Postal Center. This combination meant that the envelope, which had needed to be in Seattle the next day, ended up returned to him like he hadn’t put postage on it at all.

I needed to get a flash drive to a friend who was in Seattle and leaving for Australia on a Tuesday, the drive had files that she was going to review on her 22 hour long flight. When I got to my local Brooklyn post office on Thursday the 24th, there was a massive line which wasn’t moving. Only one window was open and there were almost 20 people queued ahead of me. Against my better judgement, I decided to
use the Automated Postal Center (APC) machine. I grabbed an Express Mail envelope, put the flash drive in it, and bought a “stamp” for $18.95, the cheapest way I could get it to Washington by Monday the 28th, and thought nothing more of it.

Monday rolled around, my friend hadn’t received the package in the mail, and when my mail carrier arrived at about 4pm she brought me back my Express Mail envelope Return to Sender with a $9.05 postage
due sticker taped to it, hand written “not flat rate envelope”. At this point there was zero chance of me resending the drive by any means, in time for my friend to get it before her flight. I must admit
that I seldom send anything USPS and I was unable to make the distinction between a flat rate or non-flat rate envelope, this wasn’t self-evident, or explained. In either envelope the contents would be the same and weigh the same.

That Monday I got the package returned to me, I needed to express mail the drive to Australia. Very expensive. I normally would never try to do this USPS, but I already had a stamp-sticker for almost $19, and I figured this could help contribute to the cost of postage. This time there were 3 windows open, and the line moved much quicker, I was helped in 15 minutes, and told that they could not use my sticker stamp as postage. I was passed from window to window, and eventually the clerk went to check with her supervisor and came back saying that they couldn’t honor the stamp. If I wanted to I could call the station manager on the phone, but she
wouldn’t be in until Tuesday. I left and sent the package via a competing carrier, at a better rate. I tried for several days to get through on the phone to no avail.


Finally this morning, and when I asked to sell my stamp back, or trade it for other postage, I was asked, “why would we do that?” it was explained that I chose to use the APC machine and nobody at a window would ever refund of exchange the sticker-like stamp.

At this point I don’t doubt that the USPS will never refund my money, but it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable request to have my stamp converted into another form of postage that I can use within the postal system.

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