Enclose small styrofoam cube in your letters to qualify for parcel-rate discounts on confirmed delivery service

The Indiana Election Division sends its notices out with a small styrofoam cube in the envelope; the cube increases the envelope's thickness to 3/4", so it qualifies for discounted parcel-rate shipping.

The Styrofoam cube enclosed in this envelope is being included by the sender to meet a United States Postal Service regulation. This regulation requires a first class letter or flat using the Delivery or Signature Confirmation service to become a parcel and that it "is in a box or, if not in a box, is more than 3/4 of an inch thick at its thickest point." The cube has no other purpose and may be disposed of upon opening this correspondence.


  1. great idea! With all the money the government saved by screwing the USPS over, they can then afford to bail them out!

  2. The folks from Burning Man do the same thing when they send out tickets, only they include a Red Hot jawbreaker candy instead of a styrofoam cube.

    1. THAT’S why the candy is in there? I don’t like cinnamon candy so I never eat it, but I always wondered why the heck they bothered to throw one in everytime.

  3. What muppet decided to make it cheaper to send more?

    If you put an elephant in the letter does it qualify for free delivery?

  4. Yeah, a friend of mine buys beads on line, and they often arrive postage due.  The postmaster told her it was because the packages were too thin.  Of course that depends on how the beads have settled in the plastic pouch during shipping…

  5. Aaaaaaaaaand this is why the post office will be on the chopping block when “austerity” hits, for better or worse.

    1. Well, it’s emblematic of the conflicting imperatives, whereby the rates are set not only to meet costs and maximize revenue, but also to serve a public good and to placate those interests lobbying Congress about their shipping costs (interests that include the public good categories like magazine publishers, public nuisances like catalog spammers, and all sorts of others).

      It’s also always worth reminding people who complain about the post office’s bottom line that the post office is required by law to pre-fund its pensions in an extraordinarily expensive manner that is not required of other employers.

    2. I have a friend who is a US postal employee, and to hear him tell it, it’s happening now. All the street-corner drop boxes are being removed. Home mail delivery on a 3-day a week schedule (MWF) is being considered.

        1. > mdhatter03
          > What would be wrong with mail delivery on 3 of 7 days?

          If your birthday falls on one of the other 4?

  6. Isn’t shocking that the USPS has an illogical policy like this and FedEx/UPS don’t?  I’m sure this rule makes perfect sense to some bureaucrat somewhere.

    1. Not really, because FedEx/UPS charges much higher rates which include delivery confirmation, whether you make use of it (signature required?) or not.

  7. The current Obama plan does eliminate Saturday service, but doesn’t go down to three days a week. Congress has saved Saturday service in the past and isn’t interested in losing it.

    As for the question of what is wrong with 3 days of service, the answer in my mind is now is not the time. So many jobs would be lost or cut to part time, it would be a large hit to a bad economy.

    1. Besides, if we don’t have Saturday delivery, we’ll be no better than Canadians! (Seriously, although in general Canada has more services, they don’t have Saturday mail delivery, which always annoyed me in the five years I lived there, granted before music and books could be obtained digitally)

  8. When the Burning Man Org send out the tickets, they include a piece of ‘Atomic Fireball’ candy to achieve the thickness required for Signature Confirmation service.

  9. It’s the complete opposite in the UK. If your envelope is too thick you have to shell out for a “large” stamp which costs more than a normal one. And if you use a normal stamp, the recipient ends up with a whacking bill to pay before they’re allowed to get their mail.

  10. I’m not at all a libertarian, but I’d be fine with starting to phase out the USPS as a catch-all service.  The non-package delivery is virtually all junk mail.  The USPS can keep the package service running and compete with the other carriers.  Letter mail can be treated as small packages and be mailed out at drop-boxes belonging to what ever company you choose. 

    1. So you subscribe to no magazines? I don’t like the Pennysaver, credit card applications, either, but it is an overstatement to say that non-package delivery is  “virtually all junk mail”…

      1. Not to mention bills, and political newsletters and entreaties (which are also often junk mail, but of a less objectionable sort).

        1. Not to mention bills, and political newsletters and entreaties (which are also often junk mail, but of a less objectionable sort).

          I suggest phasing out over a decade. There’s really no excuse for mailing paper bills anymore, certainly not in 2021. If you register to vote, your e-mail address is already available for electoral mailings. If you’ve got a legitimate political issue to push, you go door-to-door or stand at the grocery store with a clipboard, which is what people already do. Bulk mailings are an enormous waste of resources. You want to mail something to a million people, pay UPS to make the deliveries.

          1. Other forms of correspondence that are not junk mail, such as official documents, wedding invites, personal communications &c., should have a nominal special dispensation rate, just like a stamp is today.

            They could also have a value-added surcharge for your mail to be sent anachronistically, i.e. hand-cancelled and hand-delivered by a postman, just like the old days.

            (And yes: government sponsored paper spam has GOT TO GO.)

          2. Not everyone has a computer or knows how to use one.  Not everyone has access to the internet or e-mail. 

            By weight, probably 85% of my mail is junk — ads, unsolicited catalogs, credit card applications and the like.  I’d be fine raising the rates on junk mail or let UPS deliver it.

          3. Yes, that’s why he referred to a 10-year phasing-out – in 10 years there may be people around who still don’t know how to use a computer, but not enough to care about from a business perspective (one can argue the government should still care about them, of course, but providing full USPS service that 99%+ of the population won’t use is not the way to care about them).

  11. This is actually an old & obscure regulation that has been misinterpreted by local post offices. I worked in a shipping department and ship a small handful of packages regularly every few weeks so I have researched this.  And it has been so pervasive in the past few months—from my discussions with others who ship on Etsy & eBay—that it seems that many local post offices are enforcing this rule that it might be connected to looming post office cuts.  Meaning, workers are trying to squeeze every dime out of every customer to the point it drives you nuts.

    Here is the deal; for packages there are basically three options:
    Parcel Post: Low cost but slow & can be used for most any package.
    First Class Parcel Post: Low cost but fast for items less than 13 ounces.
    Priority Mail: Basically this is the “flat rate” for anything 13 ounces and higher.

    So basically, what is happening in cases like this are local postal inspectors are claiming the “less than 3/4 rule” for packages that should go First Class Parcel Post in an attempt to bump things up to Priority Mail.

    The rules from the U.S. Postal Service is clear that delivery or signature confirmation can be used on “First Class Parcel Post” packages, but local inspectors are pulling out the 3/4 rule to just squeeze more money out of folks.

    This is not an old thing.  This arbitrary juggling of rules to force folks who want to send via “First Class Parcel Post” with delivery confirmation is definitely a new thing.  It’s happened to me when I ship at the local post office, and got so bad I was shouting at a clerk—something I really have never done—to say they are breaking U.S.P.S. rules.  They claimed I was trying to rip off the system (!!!) and that my packages would be sent but with postage due if I attempted to just mail them on my own via the automated postal center machine.  I pointed out the automated postal center machine never warns me of such a rule and I have mailed dozens—if not hundreds—of items this way without issue.  They still gave me crap.

    Moral of my story?  I now strictly use the automated postal machine to ship.  I have never had any items returned and never ever had any postage due.

    This 3/4 rule is not so much bureaucracy but a sign of highly incompetent management on a local level that is just arising because of the threat of closures and layoffs.

    Someone needs to reform the U.S. Postal Service and stop this nonsense.  Rogue postal clerks abusing customers like this and breaking U.S.P.S. rules won’t win them any friends.

  12. My understanding was the the 3/4″ rule has to do with the machines they use to sort the mail. 

    I am a big fan of the USPS.  In my spare time I run a very small business selling relatively inexpensive small products.  I have saved so much money shipping by USPS First Class, and have had only 1 problem out of over 3,000 shipments.  My local Postal Clerks have on numerous occasions made recommendations to me that have probably saved hundreds if not a thousand dollars.

    I recently shipped a padded envelope from North Carolina to Guam for under $2.  That should not even be possible.

    I recognize that it is fraught with problems, but overall I would say that the USPS is a tremendous asset to the small entrepeneur.  I flat-out adore it.

  13. There are a few of us folks out here who make our living mailing things. I have an online business and mail everyday. My small flat items now get enough bubble wrap to become 3/4″ thick. It’s not a ‘green’ solution, but it’s my way around these rules. 
    I don’t want to see the USPS close offices or cut back delivery days, but I also see a lot of waste in the system. 

    1. If you had a cheaper alternative, would you use it?  Let’s say the USPS were privatized, and also that the company were run more efficiently, you might see a drop in your postage rates…

      1. Can anyone point out a single example of privatisation undeniably reducing costs to the end user, without having to severely cut quality to do so?

  14. we get tons of things exactly like that from courts and i’ve always wondered why. this made my day.

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