a guest post by a postie
That time of year is coming round again. The time that reminds me of The Cleansing of the Temple. Yes, I'm on about Christmas, and since I work for Her Majness's Mail I thought I would pass on a few tips on how to get your cards from your local shop to your family's, friends' and enemies-you-pretend-to-likes' mantlepieces with the minimum of time and damage. Much of this also applies to mailing stuff in general.
First, do be sensible about the size and shape of what you send. If you send an enormous card with a normal first- or second-class stamp your recipient is likely to have to pay the the price difference for a large letter or packet, plus a quid handling charge.
Similar charges apply to odd shapes eg triangles.
In my place collection mail from post boxes is dumped into a hopper at one end of an IMP (Integrated Mail Processor) and stuff like packets and Large Letters are ejected at various points along the way to ordinary letters/cards being sorted by the machine.
For the machine to sort the letters certain criteria must be met eg
1) The colour of the envelope is important. I kid you not. If the machine cannot determine the address its picture is sent along a wire to one of a few centres in the country and a human at the other end reads this and types in the postcode on a keyboard. The machine prints an identifying code and the postcode on the envelope (in the form of bar codes) which is shunted off to one side for re-feeding into the IMP at a later time.
Why is the colour important? Well at my place the bar codes are printed in red ink and if the envelope is red then the machine often cannot tell the difference between the shades. Also, dark coloured envelopes can cause problems, probably due to lack of contrast.
Stuff that can't be sorted by machine for any reason is sent for manual sorting.
2) If you use a printer eg for address labels, FFS don't use fancy fonts. The machines can't read them.
3) Handwriting. I know mine is shite but I now know enough to be very careful about writing out the postcode. LA (Lancaster) postcodes can be read as CA (Carlisle) and vice versa. There are plenty of other examples I could go into but I can't be arsed and if you bloody well do as you're told the problem shouldn't arise again anyway.
4) If you've written Dave and Sue's names on the envelope but can't find their address FFS keep it separate from the other envelopes. Otherwise it'll get dropped into the post box along with the stuff that *is* addressed. At the end of each shift at Christmas every manual sorter's worktop has a small mountain of stuff with names only on it. Dave and Sue won't get their card and will hate you until the end of eternity and will burn your effigy alongside the yule log every year.
5)Please be aware that "High Street" as the last line of an address is not very helpful. You might mean the High Street in your charming little hamlet but the stuff from the post box there gets dumped into the hopper mentioned above along with letters from post boxes covering a hundred square miles. There will be plenty of other "High Streets" in that area. And lots more in the rest of the country.
This is why post codes are important. A post code covers 60 to 100 addresses (depending on who you ask) and a house or flat number followed by the post code is really all we need to get the letter to the right address.
6) Redirections/Moved Away/Deceased/Return to Sender etc.
If the addressee has moved and you write or stick the new address on the envelope and put it in a post box, it will be redirected free of charge. It's all part of the service.
If you want to return a letter unopened write "Return to Sender" or "RTS" on it and put it in a post box. It will be returned free of charge. It's all part of the service.
If you start writing messages to the sender on the envelope don't be surprised if we send it back to you with a note saying there is not enough postage. Stick your own stamp on it. If you want to have intercourse with somebody you're going to have to pay for it. It's what it's what postal services are about, after all.
Royal Mail has an official redirections service. You have to pay for it, of course. At your "old" delivery office a note is put in the pigeon hole for your old address. Anything arriving for you is marked as first class and put back into the system. This saves the letters going to your old address and the new people there only dealing with it when they can be bothered. Or opening them for purposes of blackmail.
One Christmas I got a card delivered to my address but with someone else's name on it. I wrote "Not at this address" on it and posted it. A few days later it came back. I wrote "Still not at this address" on it and posted it again. A few more days later it arrived a third time. I wrote "Still still not at this address" on it. This time it worked. Probably a sociology student in a seasonal job.
NOTE TO POSTIES. When you put the red sticker on an envelope giving the reason for non-delivery please do not, I repeat DO NOT stick it over the return address. Thank you.
Are a pain in the arse. Either the letter is folded so that it is smaller than the envelope so that it slides around to the bottom and the town or postcode can't be seen by the machine and it has to be sent to manual.
It fits well but the address runs off the bottom of the window and is hidden by the paper part of the envelope. Recalibrating printers should sort this out. A certain local authority is particularly staffed by halfwits in this respect. The usual recourse is to pick away at the bottom of the window until one can see the full address. This, however takes time. Fuck what the envelope looks like after that.
8)Letters to Santa.
One colleague once remarked that all letters to Santa should be marked "Deceased. Return to Sender." He was also famous for his hatred of small children. But I digress.
If it's addressed to Santa in Lapland/ North Pole and has the correct postage it will be sent to Finland, where Lapland is located (or some of it, anyway.) I suppose they will get a reply from there. We do have some sort of arrangement. Unless the Laps just burn them to keep warm.
If the letter has only domestic postage and the address is written in Welsh then it goes to Cardiff. I don't know what happens to Welsh language letters addressed to Lapland with the correct postage. Perhaps there are Welsh-speaking reindeer herders.
Other letters to Santa with only domestic postage go to Belfast for reasons which I can't be arsed to find out.
Here are a few URLs which you might find useful.
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