return to main page
OFFICIAL DEFINITION OF "FLEXIBLE"
Here is an illustration of the
official "1 inch bend" flexibility test used for commercial junk mail
shippers. For envelopes longer than ten inches, it has to bend
two inches (and flex back). Note that you bend the shorter side. This is the dividing line between a "flat" and a
IS IT A LETTER -> FLAT -> SMALL PKG ?
How the rules are supposed to work:
The USPS tells junk mailers that all conditions must not be fulfilled:
- If you
violate a single condition for letters, you are kicked up to
flats. Over 6 1/8, over 11 1/2 inches, over 1/4" thick.
If you violate a single condition for flats, you are kicked up to small
parcels. Over 12", over 15", over 3/4" thick.
But your item does not have to fulfill all conditions of the more expensive category.
[begin quote] Note: To be considered a flat, a mailpiece must exceed only
one of the dimension minimums
but be within all flat
maximums; otherwise, it is
Minimum thickness is .007” [about three sheets of paper = 1 sheet inside an envelope]
height is 3.5”.[end quote]
--"Quick Reference Guide" at https://www.usps.com/business/every-door-direct-mail.htm
Unfortunately, when all conditions of
some mail type are not fulfilled, then the item will not look typical
most of the things in that category, and users
have written me to say they got into trouble. Bottom line: make
it look like what it is and pay for that. Paying for a more
expensive service can make the situation worse.
MY LETTER HAS MORE THINGS IN IT, I'LL PAY MORE TO SEND IT
Bad idea. If it looks like a letter, mail it with letter postage. Here's the story.
You are a seller on eBay of flat guitar picks, or you are a garden club
seed trader. The guitar picks or the seeds (in their own little
envelope inside) are easy to mail in an ordinary envelope, any first
class envelope, business size or otherwise. My personal advice is just mail it. But what if it is a little bit stiff?
Maybe it's too stiff. You don't think it's over 1/4" t hick, but
what if someone else does? What if someone says you can't mail
merchandise in a letter? (Untrue. Companies mail free samples,
you can send cash -- no compensation if lost, not a good idea, but
perfectly legal.) You decide to play it safe and pay more than a
Now the fun begins.
You pay more to send your letter as a flat. The letter with "1st class flat" postage arrives but it meets none
of the conditions for a flat. The first postal clerk returns it
to sender. Your second white, letter-sized envelope of
guitar picks or little seed envelopes is actually lumpy enough
to be a flat so you go to the post office to mail it that way.
The second postal clerk refuses to sell you the higher postage for a
flat because your little white envelope doesn't look like a
flat. Is he right? It looks like a white
letter envelope, but that is irrelevant if over 1/4"
thick, as far as postal regulations are concerned. Still thinking
money settles everything, the third time around you mail at the even
higher parcel rate. When it arrives, the third postal clerk says
your envelope meets none of the requirements for a parcel (correct!)
and charges Priority Mail rates to deliver it. Moral: use white for letters, manila for flats, boxy shapes for parcels, and regulations be damned.
writing because the USPS has been overcharging (stealing from ) many
customers who are using padded mailers that meet the Large Envelope
(Flats) requirements. [JIN: over 1/4" thick so it can't be a
letter, but not over 3/4" and still not too lumpy or too inflexible to run
through their scanners, so it does not have to be a parcel.] It seems
that about 50% (!) of them are
thinking and saying, "All padded mailers must go at parcel rate.
This has been an ongoing battle I have waged for several years now, but
the USPS is just too big to get everyone, everywhere properly trained."
had several flat eBay items I've ordered make it clear to my P.O. but
get kicked back to sender because of this; the seller used "First Class
Parcel" but then mailed a thin, flat item <3/4" and it gets bounced
back or, worse, charged postage [at the] Priority Mail rate."
The eBay seller should have forced
their own PO to accept the flat as a flat, but, once s/he lied
(once s/he took the first tiny step away from reality) and classed it
as a Small Parcel (by generously
paying more), then clearly the item could not legally be a Small Parcel (too
skinny, really a flat) so it must be
another class of package. Priority
Mail is the next logical possibility, and they went for it.
The Franz Kafka Rule of Bureaucracy
Management: never accept a lie, because he who once steps away
from reality will never return.
But you can return to main page
rev 2017Jan3, 2018Jan24