Thursday, May 19, 2005

Stamped or Metered?

For those of you who don't know, I subscribe to Netflix, an Internet movie rental service where for one flat fee, you can rent as many movies a month as you want and keep them as long as you want with no late fees, and the only catch is that you can only have a certain number out at a time. (How many depends on how much you're willing to pay; in my case, it's five at a time.)

They send you the movies in a fold-over envelope that, when opened, becomes the postage-paid return envelope. It's one of those standard ones that, in the corner, says, "No postage necessary if mailed in the United States," like the ones you get in all that junk mail you receive every day.

Completely unrelated to that is the fact that my mom used to work in an office where they had a postage meter. You can actually buy one yourself if you run a small business, and not have to worry about getting stamps at the post office.

Completely unrelated to that is the fact that every once in a blue moon, I still mail a letter to someone using an old-fashioned envelope and a stamp. These are usually bills, invitations, and the like, but on special occasions may even be something like letters to my congressmen.

Where am I going with this? Well, at the post office, there are always two mailboxes for outgoing mail. One is labelled "STAMPED" and the other is labelled "METERED." It's pretty obvious that old-fashioned letters I mail with a stamp go into the STAMPED box. Letters that my mom's old office, using the postage meter, mail go into the METERED box. But what about my Netflix returns? It's not really stamped, because there's no stamp. It's not really metered, because there's no meter. It's just "No postage necessary." I always drop them off at the post office because if someone sees me putting red Netflix envelopes in my mailbox every few days and raising the flag, they might get the wise idea that it would be a nifty source of free DVDs.

So when I go to the post office to drop them off, I'm always confused. I usually just pick one at random to drop them in. They've always made it back with no problem, but I get the weird feeling that they hate me when I put them in the wrong box. "Well, crap, he has screwed us yet again. Do I look like his personal mail sorter? I guess he thinks he's more important than all those other people in his his ZIP code. Like I have nothing but time to put up with this *#@$!. That's it, I've had enough, I'm going home to get my gun. I know where you live, because I'm the postman!

Fortunately, I haven't had any repercussions that dramatic yet, but still, I'm just odd enough that it worries me that someone at the post office may think I'm being dense by not putting my mail in the right box, and I'm really zany in that if I can make someone else's life a tiny bit better with little or no effort, I will endeavor to do so.

Since I work at night right now, I decided to go up to my local post office during the day to see if I could find out a little bit more information. I didn't want to tie up the lines for no reason at all (my local post office can be quite busy), so I tried to go when I thought that the lines may be real short (10:30am, in case anyone wants to know the "sweet spot") and wrote three letters to my two senators and my representative with my idea for Social Security that I wrote about a few weeks ago. I figured that maybe the prospect of earning $1.11 (37ยข x 3) would help make my stupid questions a little more palatable, and it makes me feel all warm and gooey that I'm making a half-hearted attempt to be a responsible citizen.

So off I went, letters in hand, to ask the pressing question, and maybe even learn something in the process. I timed the dead hours of the post office pretty well, there were only two people in front of me and no one came in behind me while I was there, so for those who might be concerned, I didn't waste any taxpayer money by tying up government workers who would have otherwise been occupied.

I talked to James, who was more than friendly and very helpful. I gave him my three letters to my congressmen, and started asking him questions. First up was the stamped vs. metered question. I asked away, and James told me--drumroll, please--that these envelopes belong in the metered mailbox. He said that these envelopes are still technically metered, even though the graphic isn't produced by a postage meter. I promptly apologized for all of the times I put the envelopes in the wrong box, and he said, "That's okay, sir, we sort them out." I assured him that I would put them in the correct box from now on, and he said, "Really, it's okay, we get paid to do this."

Paid to sort out mail? I wasn't shocked by this, but I thought they had machines to do this kind of thing. I asked about that, and he said no, at a branch office like this one, they sort all of the mail manually, no machines. Someone cracked a joke about if they got some of those machines, they wouldn't need James any longer. (I disagree; James was providing me a valuable service at the moment!) I mentioned that when I print out envelopes, I usually print them with barcodes on them from Microsoft Word, and asked if that really helps since they sort everything by hand. He said that if it's staying within my own ZIP code, it doesn't really, but that if it goes to another city, it spends considerably less time at the central post office in Atlanta, where they do have machines that automatically sort the mail. I also found out from the USPS Web site that businesses that bulk mail can get discounts for having these barcodes on their envelopes. I really was disappointed that they have no fancy cool machines to sort the mail at my local branch; I was seriously considering asking for a quick tour to see them working if they did.

While I was there, I asked one more question I sometimes wonder about. If I put a piece of mail in the post office mailbox instead of my street mailbox, does it get to its destination any faster? James said that no, all of the mail is sent out at the same time each day, whether it comes from someone's house or is dropped at the mailbox. Interesting.

So there you have it. Next time you send something back to a company in a postage-paid envelope by taking it to the post office, be sure to drop it in the METERED mailbox, not the STAMPED mailbox. They won't hate your guts if you put it in the wrong box, but it's just the right thing to do.

68 Comments:

At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I like your style and share quite a few of your views. Keep going!

 
At 11:16 AM, Blogger Stan said...

Ever look at the size difference in those drive up boxes? One of them is HUGE compared to the other.

 
At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of those unbelievable examples of how you can find exactly what you are looking for in the internet. I just put my Netflix in the "stamped" box this morning and was feeling uneasy about it, so I "Googled" on the topic and found this. Wow.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Haha, this is exactly the question I needed to be answered. Thankee :)

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am amazed that I just found your article. Thank you so much. On my way to work last week, I ran into the same problem with my NetFlix returns. I didn't know what to do, but I was late for work, so I chose "stamped." Well it just took 6 days for NetFlix to get my movie. So I decided to check whether I put my mail in the wrong box and apparently I did. I was so happy to find that other people were having the same problems that I was. Thanks!

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're all such freaks. Glad to see I'm not alone. It was so much easier for me to look this answer up on the internet than going up to my post office. Isn't it funny? Thanks for doing the footwork for me. I will definitely drop it off in the metered box now. Gotta love the internet.

 
At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Judson said...

haha, add me as another person looking for this exact answer, i was really just hoping for a metered vs stamped faq, but it's even netflix specific! i like your writing also.

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came back from dropping my netflix off at the post office and had exactly the same question. Found your blog by searching google. Thanks!

 
At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! It's great seeing a USEFUL blog for a change. Anyway, I've been sending my 'Flix rentals via STAMPED for YEARS. I guess I should have done this research sooner eh? METERED it is...from now on. Thanks again, and sorry for the excessive CAPS.

 
At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just googled this very question and tah-dah, here it is! I like your persistence and temerity.

 
At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Netflix should pay you! I am also a subscriber and do not like to put the envelopes in my mailbox! I make the drive across town biting my nails as to which box.... metered or stamped... stamped or metered! Aaahhh decisions!?!?

 
At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks. I'm on my way to the PO to send back my first Netflix disk, and this is exactly what I needed to know.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a bunch of freaks!! Look at all these crazy people who did what I just did.... googled to see which box to mail my netflix return in. Hmmmmm. So there are crazy people before me!

 
At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, if I had "Metered" mail, but there wasn't a mailbox labeled "Metered", I would just drop it into the "Stamped" mailbox or the one without any labels? What is the difference between "Stamped" and [NO LABEL] mailbox?

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>I just put my Netflix in the
>>"stamped" box this morning and
>>was feeling uneasy about it, so
>>I "Googled" on the topic and
>>found this. Wow.

Wow is right, I just did *exactly* the same thing!

 
At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe how many people had the same question. I also put my Netflix envelopes in the "stamped" box, afraid someone would step out from behind the wall and yell at me...hahahha. Thanks to Google and this blog, I have my question answered. Thank you very much!

 
At 4:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

super.. ive been doing it wrong for the last 2 years.. i hope the guys at the post office can forgive me now that I have learned I need to put Netflix envelopes in the metered box.

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger OAKside said...

I guess we could all go down and ask, but we didn't, we Google'd it! And you delivered. I have a feeling the guy was just being nice, the actual workers back there are secretly taking home your movie for a day or two if you put them in the 'Stamped' box. :D

 
At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Ray (a Netflix customer in Lawrenceville GA) said...

I just spent 15 fruitless minutes searching for this over at USPS.com!

Should've come here first. Thanks!

 
At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for clearing this up for me. I was just at the post office mailing of all things netflix videos. I took a shot in the dark and put them in the metered slot (lucky me) and then raced home to see if I could find and answer to this inconsistency.
Your answer was very complete. Thanks again. Jan.

 
At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Usually I mail my Netflix DVDs from my apartment complex (no choice there). Recently I took some to the P.O. thinking they might get back sooner. There I faced the unknown! People were driving up behind me so I had to choose a box. Today, I'm returning an empty ink cartridge for recycling. Now I know the correct answer, and I can confidently drop it in the metered mailbox thanks to you! Good going!

 
At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for posting this, I'm so glad I found it. I had the same problem you had and didn't have time to go in and ask.

 
At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I too am yet another Netflix internet freak wondering the exact same thing. Thanks.

 
At 2:32 PM, Anonymous jdubbsta said...

Problem solved! Thank you.

 
At 10:49 AM, OpenID brandnewglory said...

like basically everyone else that has commented, i have been worrying about this exact same thing everytime i go to the post office (which is at least 3 times a week because i LOVE netflix.) Thank you for getting this question answered for all of us!

 
At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so funny.. because I have the same sentiments as everyone replying: metered vs. stamped mailbox when returning those online rentals!

Amazing post ^_^

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Very helpful as I have a Netflix DVD sitting on my desk to be returned.

2.14.08

 
At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Wenis Martin said...

Thank you so much for this! I was actually in a different yet similar situation, where I had a stamped envelope and accidentally placed it in a mailbox that later was found to be metered. In my feeble defense, the labeled part was quite worn down by the elements and time by the time I got around to using that mailbox for the first time (and possibly, the only time). How many times did I use the word 'time' in that last sentence???

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger rocky said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks dude! I love your writing style. I'm also pleased that I found the answer to my question!

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE it! You made our day! You should be a journalist, seriously, you're hilarious. No one actually cares to ask these questions anymore. It's refreshing to see this level of concernedness and interest.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Skippus said...

Holy cow, I can't believe people are still reading this article. I didn't know it would be that popular. :-)

Honestly, I haven't kept this blog up in quite a while. I'll have to start posting again!

 
At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow I've been doing this wrong for 11 months until i saw someone put a netflix in the meter mailed slot today and then it finally clicked.

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are my hero! I actually went on Yahoo to get this question answered for me, and you not only gave me the answer in a very amusing way, but you also answered the OTHER question that I'd wondered about: the speed of posting at home vs. the post office. You are a good American, and it's nice to know that others share my madness. :D

 
At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Tammy said...

You're brilliant. My mother just presented the same conundrum to me--so, naturally I googled it.

Thank you a ton. You're very entertaining not to mention that you solved a problem I wasn't expecting to find an answer to without going to the postal office myself.

 
At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the internet. I had the same question after I deposited some books I just read (in a similary netflix rental fashion) into the metered mailbox. Mostly I did it because the pickup on the stamps only box was a 4pm the next day and the metered was 9:45am. I want my next book! And then I thought, well what if they don't send it until 4 PM on the following day 24 hours later because now some nugget put it in the wrong box. This puts my mind at ease. Thank you.

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger beek said...

for a second i thought you had jumped inside my mind, it was like reading my own thoughts up until the part where you got up and did some work :) thanks for putting my mind at ease and lowering my blood pressure some more :D

 
At 4:34 PM, Blogger Bongo said...

So... should I go back and dig my Netflix DVD out of the 'Stamped' box I dropped it in earlier today? I don't think I can fit my hand through the slot far enough to reach it.

Just think: for every one of us who has left you a 'thank-you' note for answering our common question, there are probably a hundred more who are silently grateful for this post!

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Net Psycho (Patti) said...

Something is seriously wrong when you can't find the answer to this question on either the Post Office or Netflix web sites but Google search for "return mail metered slot" takes you right to this individual citizen's blog 3 years after it was written! Thank you for your thoughtfulness in sharing your research with the rest of us :-)
--pj

 
At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should learn about summarizing a little bit.

 
At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing the answer. I just searched the internet for netflix "stamped" "metered" and found this. Now I won't put mine in the wrong box ever again! You'd think netflix would have this on their FAQ page or something seeing I'm not the only one who looked for this.

 
At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

Nice blog indeed.. Like all the other people that replied, I too also wondered which box should my netflix returns go into and now I know :). Thx for the info

 
At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

I'm a stamped box offender, but thanks to this I will change the error of my ways. And ditto on the Internet having all the answers--although I may never know why my dropping harmless mail into a questionable box produced secret feelings of shame. LOL.

 
At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbelievable, I was just dealing with this very same question (returning a pre-paid item) and found exactly what I was wondering. Thank you!

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it! I've been dropping my Blockbuster DVDs in the stamped box for quite a while. But have had that nagging feeling that I might be doing it wrong. I heard a honk behind me last week and was sure it was someone trying to say "You idiot! It goes in the metered box!"

 
At 3:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been four years since the article was written - still people use Netflix and have the same question!!! It is like nothing has changed. Amazing.

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would we do without the internet to answer the world's nagging questions?? What did we do before?? Thank you for saving me a trip to the post office and for teaching me to continue to put those netflix movies in the 'metered' box.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

While not specifically related to Netflix, I was wondering whether to put a postage paid envelope in the stamped or metered box. Thanks for a great write-up!

 
At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! Everytime I mail my netflix back, I spend about 5-10 seconds trying to decide which box to put it in.

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Katie LeJoi said...

I couldn't find my Netflix Metered vs Postage answer @ usps.com, I'm so glad google found this blog entry. I'm off to confidently drop my Netflix movies off in the Metered Mailbox!

 
At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omigosh thank you SOO MUCH for posting this! It's EXACTLY what I was looking for, lol... I hate reading and wanted to SKIM down to get the 'answer' about whether Netflix should go in Metered or Stamped, lol.. but your story was very interesting! So thanks for posting this info! I'm sad to say that I also put Netflix in the 'stamped' side before, lol.. GLAD to know what to do now! :o)

 
At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, another person saying thanks. I've spent years trying to decide which was correct box for depositing "no postage paid" envelopes... making the decision anew each time. So glad I can lay that conundrum to rest. :D

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to decide between metered and not every time I drop my netflix off. I also worry about the same thing (will the mailmen be annoyed with me?) so this helped a lot! Thank you so much and from now on, metered it is!

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

:D Hahaaa, I'm not the only one! :D Thanks for talking to your postman for us. Now I don't have to feel so darn self-conscious when I drop off my Netflix. :D

 
At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should I be embarassed that I found this comforting? Ive always wondered if I was making someones job harder than it had to be..... Turns out I was with both my netflix and gamefly discs.

 
At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, so funny that there are so many people that feel the exact same way about this topic. How funny that the mystery of the metered vs. stamped mail slot has the power to bring so many people together so tightly. And yes, I too had the same question which is why I am here. What a great delivery of information (pun intended):)

 
At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog and everyone's comments totally cracked me up! The power of the web - not only did I get the answer that I was looking for (netflix = metered or stamped?) but I also feel much less bad about the dozens of times, up until today, that I've put it in the wrong slot! Cheers!

 
At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks!!
You may have written this 5 years ago, but you should know that it is still being viewed today. Great blog sir!
:) happy writing!

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh mi gosh, this question has been on my mind for quite some time. We have a stamped and metered slot at my work and I always put it in stamped and wondered if I was really putting it in the correct slot. Thank you for setting me straight!

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was curious because I sent my DVDs back from a different post office then usual. Did a quick search and found your article. Looks like I guessed right. Good thing my small town where I usually mail them only has one box, no guessing there.

 
At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My turn to know has come.

Now the answer is clearing for all

who have a sought a mind of caring.

Now' pass the popcorn bowl,the

soda cups...and please enjoy the

movies' without commercial

interuption.

 
At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Nina said...

Wow, I'm so glad I'm not the only person that worries about this kind of thing. I didn't even know that metered mail was a thing until I stopped by the big post office in Cambridge to mail a business reply letter. I panicked, dropped it in the "stamped" box and ran away, praying that that was the right box and that they wouldn't burn my letter out of spite. Anyway, thanks for the info!

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger Dylan said...

Hey really great post! I recently got a postage meter for my own small business. I actually had to get a small tutorial on postage meters and what to do with my metered mail when I got to the post office. I found online postage stamps
to be a really helpful resource.

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is no longer 4 years old as mentioned by a previous poster. It is now 6 years later and still useful information! Netflix should email everyone and tell them it's metered!

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I googled it on my phone before I made the stamped or meter decision haha

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Jake Alexander said...

Thank you for sharing this post and your experience. Many people are having that same problem. That is why I have been looking into postage meters for small businesses. Postage meters allow you to get mail out of the door and on its way much quicker.

 
At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I accidentally dropped mine in the metered bin, and thought I had done something awful. So I did research and ran across this blog and saw that no, I was in fact correct by mistake. So lucky me and lucky USPS!!

 

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