General Question

Jeruba's avatar

"Must be postmarked by midnight on Nov. 26th": does anyone really check?

Asked by Jeruba (41894 points ) November 26th, 2010

If you’ve ever worked for a company that sets deadlines like this—for changes of insurance benefits, enrollment in programs, contest entries, etc.—tell me: does someone actually look at the envelopes and read the postmarks?

Or is there just a received-by date set, allowing enough leeway so that the nominal deadline will have been met?

And is “received by” defined as “in the door” or as “posted by a clerk in some department a long, long way from the mail room”?

In the latter case, are the envelopes of late arrivals checked, to cover the case of postal delays?

Who gets the benefit of the doubt?

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5 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

Someone actually does check. Particularly for things like insurance benefits so you don’t cost us more money. Where I work, we stamp things in, but for some activities, the postmarked date is key.

Received by dates make people think they need to send things certified or registered mail as the mailer typically can’t control the date something was received. That’s why the postmark is the designated “time stamp” for many articles (the mailer can control the time).

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks, @Kayak8.

Clarification: The part about “received by” meant internally. That is, I’m not asking if a received-by date is announced to the customer—the question specifies postmark date. I was asking if, when a postmark date is set, the company internally translates this into a received-by date rather than having someone look at every envelope.

If they do look at every envelope, do they save the envelopes? do they scan them? do they transcribe the date onto the contents? what if they can’t read the postmark?

BarnacleBill's avatar

I would venture a guess that postmarked by November 26th guarantees delivery by 12/1. Anything that arrives after 12/1 will have the postmark checked.

Kayak8's avatar

@Jeruba A real human looks at it where I work. In some cases, postmarks get blurred and it takes a human to decipher.

The biggest challenge is people who work someplace with a postal meter setting the date back to capture the right date on the postmark.

lillycoyote's avatar

Yes they do check. When some entity’s or organization’s rules or policies state that something “must be postmarked by” a certain date, they mean it and if the postmark is even day late, you’re done, disqualified, no longer eligible for and out of it, whatever “it” was. I’ve mailed things that require a postmark by a certain date, and if I’ve put it off to the last minute, as I tend to do, if I’m mailing it on that date, I take it to the post office, up to the counter and ask the clerk to hand stamp the postmark so I know and witness with my own eyes that the letter was postmarked with that day’s date.

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