A USPS employee shared the things you shouldn’t post with your letters because “the machine will rip them out.” Hint: That’s almost it.
The anonymous worker took to TikTok as @secretsofusps to distribute the advice-warning in a video with over 5 million views.
Delivery barcode sorting machines (DBCS) at USPS facilities read the barcodes on each letter and sort them. Each machine can sort approximately 36,000 pieces of mail in an hour. The machine normally takes two workers, one to load incoming letters and another to pick up mail afterwards.
This tip comes straight from an employee who said he could work more than 10 hours on the machine a day.
Drawing on their experience, the USPS employee told viewers to “stop mailing coins, cards, keys and jewelry. The machine will rip them out.”
The video showed a machine processing the letters at an intense speed, as they became a large flashing blur in front of the camera.
“When I say cards, I mean collective cards. They’re usually in protective plastic sleeves. And those don’t stand a chance against these machines,” they clarified in a comment.
“I always feel bad for wedding invitations with pretty wax seals. They end up everywhere,” they continued.
According to a post office mechanic, posting letters with objects inside can often make the letter itself unpostable. “I service these machines,” they wrote. “I can definitely confirm that at the end of each night I find coins, keys and pens,” they commented on the viral video.
“What’s worse is that the original letter where it arrived was probably destroyed because of this. Now we have no idea where to forward it.”
Some USPS customers were annoyed by the suggestion to change their shipping methods, with one user writing, “It’s the business’s problem, not the people’s. We don’t get paid to host you. You get paid to figure something out.”
The USPS employee, however, felt that there is already an alternative for those who decide to post items in letters – a non-machinable stamp. They add a small amount to the price, but mean the letter is treated as a parcel, handled by hand rather than being put through a machine.
“The Post Office has already found a way to accommodate small, rigid mailings. For just 30 cents more, you can use a non-machinable stamp,” advised the worker. “This will allow employees to manually sort your letter.”
A non-machinable surcharge is added to first-class mail that “is too stiff or contains items such as pens, keys, or coins that make the thickness of the mail piece uneven,” according to the USPS, as well as a list of other conditions.
Viewers of the TikTok video agreed with the advice, believing that regular mail is not meant to deliver items. “Why is everyone in such a rush? asked one user. “You can mail a key or a card, just use the appropriate packaging. Envelopes are for postage paper.
While USPS employees supported the original post, adding, “From a USPS employee, thank you for this post. People don’t understand until they see a visual .”
Newsweek has contacted the USPS for comment.