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Thread: Return to Sender

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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Return to Sender

    I sent a letter to my correspodent in Pennsylvania (you know who you are!) and some days later I got it back with a lablel over the addresss, "return to sender insufficient address unable to forward." The address I used was the same one I have written to many times before, laid out in the same way with the same handwriting. Can the US Postal Service no longer read cursive? I pride myself on my handwriting - not its beauty, it doesn't have much of that, but its legibility.

    Should I use block capitals in future?
    Last edited by Deb; June 18th, 2019 at 09:27 AM.
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    Senior Member migo984's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    I had 2 letters returned to me, both sent to Pennsylvania addresses. There’s surely something wrong at the delivery office there.......

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    The Postal Service here relies heavily on the zip code, which the system scans.

    Could it have gone to the wrong zip code and been returned from there? This has happened to me when I inadvertently wrote the wrong zip code on an envelope and dropped it in the mailbox.

    Perhaps a substitute carrier didn't spend enough time looking at the envelope to discern who the the letter should go to.

    Why would that happen? Mail carriers are under increasing pressure to deliver more and more mail as quickly as possible.

    The device mail carriers use to input delivery on trackable packages and letters also tracks the carriers themselves.

    Carriers who take [what in management's opinion is] "too much time" to complete their route are counseled, and in some cases, supervisors go with them on their routes. Supervisors also watch from cars.
    Last edited by BlkWhiteFilmPix; June 18th, 2019 at 09:25 AM.
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    I hate that abuse of workers. We see far too much of it these days with the delivery compannies and Amazon. It seems as though in Pennsylvania they're taking it to a level where deliverable mail is not delivered. I used the correct zipcode, same as always. Really there was nothing at all wrong with the address.
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    Senior Member BlkWhiteFilmPix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    That's why I don't buy anything from Amazon unless there's nowhere else to get it.

    While one would hope all postal workers can read cursive, it could be that a temporary worker who cannot may have sent it back.

    The Post Office has a consumer advocate:

    United States Postal Service
    Office of the Consumer Advocate
    475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20260-2200
    Last edited by BlkWhiteFilmPix; June 18th, 2019 at 11:50 AM.
    Bob

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    Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after five hundred years, which our own tweets won't likely be - Walter Isaacson, in Leonardo Da Vinci

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    Senior Member AzJon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by BlkWhiteFilmPix View Post
    The Postal Service here relies heavily on the zip code, which the system scans.

    Could it have gone to the wrong zip code and been returned from there? This has happened to me when I inadvertently wrote the wrong zip code on an envelope and dropped it in the mailbox.
    The system does a scan, but hard to read scans are sent through to actual humans whose job it is to get a closest guess in the system to match.

    If you ever use their self-serve package label machine, you can get an idea of how this works. When you type in the address it will search possible addresses to send it to and offer them as pop-up options. Someone is essentially sent images of the scanned letters and they have to workout the address and where it needs to get to approximately.

    All that said, I pretty much never address letters or packages in cursive. There is a very good chance that it will end up in the hands of someone that never learned cursive and, if they did, may not have used it in decades either through not writing things down or simply using the tech that virtually everyone has at their fingertips.

    Also, any given USPS mail center is only going to have a few managers (if even more than one). My dad was a manager for 5 years in a town of 65,000. He was the only manager. He hated doing the job so much because of how time consuming it was, he went back to being a carrier.

    USPS is not going to pay a manager to go out and spy on their workers or do ride-alongs when that worker makes less money than the manager.

    Edit: Deb, it is likely that a worker couldn't read the address and simply didn't care enough to figure it out, so they send it back. USPS letter carriers, for all the love I have for them, are not always the brightest in the bunch.
    Last edited by AzJon; June 18th, 2019 at 12:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Thank you. Yes, I tend to avoid Amazon now, too.
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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by BlkWhiteFilmPix View Post
    The Postal Service here relies heavily on the zip code, which the system scans.

    Could it have gone to the wrong zip code and been returned from there? This has happened to me when I inadvertently wrote the wrong zip code on an envelope and dropped it in the mailbox.
    The system does a scan, but hard to read scans are sent through to actual humans whose job it is to get a closest guess in the system to match.

    If you ever use their self-serve package label machine, you can get an idea of how this works. When you type in the address it will search possible addresses to send it to and offer them as pop-up options. Someone is essentially sent images of the scanned letters and they have to workout the address and where it needs to get to approximately.

    All that said, I pretty much never address letters or packages in cursive. There is a very good chance that it will end up in the hands of someone that never learned cursive and, if they did, may not have used it in decades either through not writing things down or simply using the tech that virtually everyone has at their fingertips.

    Also, any given USPS mail center is only going to have a few managers (if even more than one). My dad was a manager for 5 years in a town of 65,000. He was the only manager. He hated doing the job so much because of how time consuming it was, he went back to being a carrier.

    USPS is not going to pay a manager to go out and spy on their workers or do ride-alongs when that worker makes less money than the manager.

    Edit: Deb, it is likely that a worker couldn't read the address and simply didn't care enough to figure it out, so they send it back. USPS letter carriers, for all the love I have for them, are not always the brightest in the bunch.
    Yes, I think that must be what happened. It's the first time, though. and I've been sending letters to the US addressed in cursive for quite a while. Sign of the times. I'll have to do block caps in future.
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by Deb View Post
    I sent a letter to my correspodent in Pennsylvania (you know who you are!) and some days later I got it back with a lablel over the addresss, "return to sender insufficient address unable to forward." The address I used was the same one I have written to many times before, laid out in the same way with the same handwriting. Can the US Postal Service no longer read cursive? I pride myself on my handwriting - not its beauty, it doesn't have much of that, but its legibility.

    Should I use block capitals in future?
    That's interesting. I sent him a letter (the City begins with a "C" in Pennsylvania?) on May 10th and received it back a week later with a "Return to Sender" stamped on it. After double checking that the address and zip code were correct, I just assumed he was mad at me for not writing more often. And I used fairly neat printing on my address to him. If I recall, he was also signed up for the Mystery Ink #25 packet but that went astray and I don't think he ever received it.

    All the Best.
    Last edited by junglejim; June 18th, 2019 at 12:24 PM. Reason: spelling
    "What are moon-letters?" asked the hobbit full of excitement. He loved maps, as I have told you before; and he also loved runes and letters, and cunning handwriting, though when he wrote himself it was a bit thin and spidery.

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    So, if these are all going to the same person... and not to intentionally be morbid, but has anyone reached out another way? Is the recipient ok?

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    So, if these are all going to the same person... and not to intentionally be morbid, but has anyone reached out another way? Is the recipient ok?
    Yes. He's fine!
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    So, if these are all going to the same person... and not to intentionally be morbid, but has anyone reached out another way? Is the recipient ok?
    Yep, he PM'd me to let me know he was fine. Here is what he wrote about the returned letters: "I expect this is another unfortunate result of the move to character recognition (or attempted recognition!) by scanning machinery, and no human involvement."

    Sort of reminds me of the horrible Captcha algorithms used to try to defeat spammers. Really, I checked off all the pictures that show bridges, then stoplights, then business fronts, but it still won't let me in...
    "What are moon-letters?" asked the hobbit full of excitement. He loved maps, as I have told you before; and he also loved runes and letters, and cunning handwriting, though when he wrote himself it was a bit thin and spidery.

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Phew. Glad to hear they are ok!

    I know want to address an envelope to a penpal in Ohio using an absurd script and see what happens.

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    A lot of older books, including rare ones and classics, are available for free online in various digital formats. They've invariably been scanned from real books by OCR software, and the results are inevitably peppered with garbled, nonsensical assemblages of characters. The AI that people worry will supplant humans is still pretty stupid.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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    Senior Member FredRydr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Here's the lowdown:

    Deb's envelope was just a street number screwup, and the postal scanning equipment couldn't make up for that. My rural road is six miles/ten kilometers long, is partially "North" and partially "South," and is also shared between two different towns' post offices, so the street number is important. There are some in my local post office who know my surname and could have directed the envelope to my address, but I cannot rely upon them as personnel changes. Limited human observation of mail in that post office is such that even local-only mail is diverted to either of two big regional distribution centers for automatic sorting and code imprinting by scanning machinery there.

    Note that just like the last three characters in UK and Canadian postcodes, adding the extra four digits for an American nine-digit zipcode directs the machinery to sort a letter into a specific postal delivery route (i.e., to my road's postlady who would likely have recognized my surname). For American nine-digit zipcodes, you can get them here: https://tools.usps.com/zip-code-lookup.htm?byaddress You only have to enter the street (and apartment if any), with either 5-digit zipcode or city/state.

    The reference to Mystery Ink No. 25 that wasn't delivered was a packet that according to USPS tracking, bounced around post offices in the sender's Denver area for a few days and never left. I bet like others, the vial opened and leaked its contents and was tossed into a bin. I had started a missing mail search, but then began the annoying auto-generated USPS emails asking for the same information I'd already provided, so I stopped it. It was robo-bureaucracy! Had the parcel contained something valuable, I would have persisted.

    This was the first I learned of junglejim's returned envelope, which is why our correspondence had paused. I'd have to see the the face of his returned envelope to understand. A coincidence with the other two, I hope.

    The American USPS now has a program that creates a black & white image of every piece of mail entering the system and offers a composite to participating addressees each morning called "Informed Delivery Daily Digest." Each daily email subject line reads: COMING TO YOUR MAILBOX SOON. Kinda creepy, though I suppose it's a natural side benefit of postal scanning technology of these modern postal systems. (I can only imagine the shenanigans governments are up to using this data outside postal purposes.) But images of returned envelopes don't make it to the addressee, for obvious reasons.

    My recommendation is that for mail sent to and within the American postal system, use the nine-digit code and write the code clearly so that postal machinery can better scan it and in turn imprint the correct bar code on the envelope. It's a concession to digital life, and beautiful cursive handwriting with a fountain pen will not be able to circumvent it.

    Here's the photo the USPS has on their webpage for how to address an envelope, which conflicts with its advice to use the nine-digit zip code!
    https://www.usps.com/ship/letters.htm
    Last edited by FredRydr; June 19th, 2019 at 10:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Return to Sender


    Here's a twist on post being returned to sender.

    Occasionally I receive a very cool postcard that I'd like to share. Postcards are just a sandwich of layers of paper, emulsion and coating, so I peel the back off, spray with photo-mounting glue (from when I had a darkroom), apply to card stock, trim it on a paper-cutter and stamp the back with my "Postcard" rubber stamp. Done. I apply postage, address the recycled card to a pen friend and drop it in the mail. But a card came back to me the next day, with not a clue of my address written anywhere on it!

    The United States Postal Service (USPS) often applies an orange luminescent bar code on the front of postcards, and they're hard to catch if on a dark image. If that barcode remains on the front, the card returns regardless of the written address on the back! On the other hand, the last time I missed an orange barcode on a recycled card addressed to the UK (with international postage), it was headed back to my local post office, but this time a human must have intervened and rerouted it to outgoing international mail. I bet they covered the barcode with that grey tape. Hey, at $1.15 postage for a postcard, I should get personal service!
    Last edited by FredRydr; October 15th, 2019 at 08:10 PM.

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    FPG Donor ♕ Chrissy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Methylated spirits will remove the orange luminescent barcode. Or you could stick some Washi tape over it yourself.
    Regards, Chrissy | My Blog: inkyfountainpens

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    Default Re: Return to Sender

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrissy View Post
    Methylated spirits will remove the orange luminescent barcode....
    Thank you! That worked.

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