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CaseyWVU10's avatar

How does the post office handle insufficient postage?

Asked by CaseyWVU10 (545 points ) December 16th, 2010

Was having this discussion with my dad today. What happens when you provide insufficient postage on a letter/card? I said they will return to sender, my dad says they will send and ask the recipient for the difference. What is usually the protocol in that case. Thoughts?

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13 Answers

casheroo's avatar

It gets returned to the sender.

AmWiser's avatar

In my area it depends on if a resident is home the postal person will ask if you want to pay the overdue postage. If the postal person cannot get to an addressee the letter is sent back to the sender and stamped postage due. I have had both scenario’s happen to me.

Seelix's avatar

I always thought it got returned to sender. I’ve heard of some people messing with the system by putting their own address on an envelope in the place of the recipient’s, and their intended recipient’s address in the place of the return address, so it’ll get to the right place for free.

WestRiverrat's avatar

They attempt to collect the postage due from the recipient and deliver the mail. If the recipient is unavailable or unwilling to pay the postage due, it gets returned to sender.

YARNLADY's avatar

Our carrier leaves an envelop for us to put the postage due and leave in the mailbox.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I don’t want to get anyone in trouble here but…
We live on a rural route. Many years ago (20? 25?) we left $10 in our mailbox for the carrier to take out any postage due that might be owed. We have never been asked for more money and they always deliver the mail whether it is short or not. Nice.
I love the USPS and the carriers that have to put up with our terrible road.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Seelix Wow, in a way, that’s kinda brilliant. Not that I’ll do it, but I am impressed at the ingenuity.

downtide's avatar

In the UK we would get a card from Royal Mail to say that there’s mail waiting to be collected at such-and-such an office. They won’t say why they couldn’t deliver it and they wouldn’t say who it’s from. We would have to go and collect it and we wouldn’t know what it was, or whether it’s important or not, unless we pay up.

Last year I wasted £2 on a christmas card from a relative I hardly even know.

perspicacious's avatar

Sometimes they return it to the sender. Sometimes they deliver it and say nothing. Sometimes they deliver it with the amount of insufficiency noted. I received a piece of mail last week that stated it was $.36 short. I put $.36 in an envelope and left it for the mailman. He took it.

perspicacious's avatar

@Seelix I remember in the 70s people doing that. Then they found out it is postal theft and a felony.

Seelix's avatar

@perspicacious – Come to think of it, I read about it in Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book ;)
I wasn’t suggesting anyone should do it, just using it as an example.

CaseyWVU10's avatar

Update: Its so timely but my friend sent a card with insufficient postage. She received the letter the next day with insufficient postage stamped and the difference written on the front. I guess it just depends on who happens to be sorting that day.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Prior to leaving his or her “station” each morning your letter carrier receives and signs for his “accountables”. These consist of his keys which can open the mail boxes on his route as well as the collection boxes and relay boxes. Then there’s the mail itself. Accountable mail consists of registered, certified, insured pieces or anything requiring a signature from the recipient. The postage due mail is lumped in with the accountables, though neither your carrier nor the addressee is required to sign for receipt. Your carrier has the option to simply pay the postage due and case the letter in with his regular mail or take the letter on “consignment” to collect the debt. If you have a decent relationship with your postman, he will often choose to “eat” the change due on a letter rather than bother with the hassle and delay involved with ringing and waiting. This is particularly true if he knows that you can be depended on to leave the postage due in the mailbox for him to recover the next day. People rarely appreciate that there can be crucial benefits from kindness to a mailman that they may rarely see. If your mailman has been your mailman for more than a year, he KNOWS more about you and your neighborhood than you would probably be willing to believe, and a $5 tip at Christmas (or home made cookies) is a good investment.

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