sending cd/dvd through mail

Postal Service to Netflix: redesign your mailers or face fees

The USPS is complaining that the Netflix mailer costs too much to process because it is, in practice, non-machinable, even though it qualifies for a machinable discount; and, its reply rate is too close to 100% for the discounted business reply mail to be profitable. Sounds to me like broken cost modeling by the USPS.

Netflix clearly spent some time designing their mailer. A disc by itself in the paper envelope is just a hair under 1 oz. And the Netflix envelope has that useless floppy flap because the aspect ratio of a machinable letter-class mailpiece has to be between 1.3 and 2.5. Even USPS says

Currently, the envelop design with the floppy leading edge meets these criteria, as none of the negative characteristics listed in the DMM specifically apply to this type of mailpiece.

But there is one thing I don’t understand. If a mailpiece is “too rigid,” then it ceases to qualify for the machinable rate. Look at the definition of “too rigid”:

Does not bend easily when subjected to a transport belt tension of 40 pounds around an 11-inch diameter turn

Okay, an 11-inch diameter is not that large, and putting 40 pounds of force on a DVD is sure to shatter it to pieces, so how is a Netflix mailpiece not “too rigid”? And if it isn’t too rigid for Netflix, then it shouldn’t be too rigid if I mail a disc, right?

So I tried exactly that. I put a disc in a 6″x9″ bubble mailer. It was maybe 1/8″ thick and weighed 1.5 oz. (if I put it in a jewel case, it would be in the range of 3-4 oz.)

It should cost $0.58 (first class letter rate for 2 oz.), right?

Even if, to be fair, it were considered “rigid” and hence non-machinable, it should still cost just $0.58 plus a $0.17 non-machinable surcharge. However, the postman insisted that I pay for the package/parcel rate of $1.30. I don’t understand why.

Actually, what he said was, this envelope is too small to be a “flat” (true) because a flat has to be 11″ (false) and it doesn’t contain a letter (that shouldn’t matter). I’m surprised a postman is so confused.


  1. Peter Piper
    June 3rd, 2008 | 22:40

    I’ve learned that postal employees themselves are confused about what qualifies for which rate. Granted it IS confusing.

    USPS Rules state that Letter size is:
    “No more than 6-1/8 inches high x 11-1/2 inches long x 1/4 inch thick.”

    Large Envelope or ‘Flat’ size is:
    “No more than 11 1/2 inches high x 15 inches long x 3/4 inch thick.”

    First Class Parcel — anything over large envelope size that is under 13 ounces

    I use 6″x9″ manila envelopes for mailing CDs. These should qualify for the “letter” rate, but sometimes the postal employees insist they have to go for the “large envelope” rate.

    I’ve also noticed that if you quote the rule to them, they are generally skeptical of your claims and don’t bother to look up the actual rule. (After all, you are the general public, what do you know about postal rules?)

    Not to knock postal workers — a lot of them, most of them even, are actually pretty helpful.

    The small size manila envelopes holding one CD are exactly one ounce. The calibration of some of their machines much be a bit off because sometimes they get returned to me for extra postage even though the envelopes are all exactly the same weight.

  2. August 4th, 2010 | 21:58

    Good post

  3. January 22nd, 2011 | 7:23

    Or you can make your own… it costs less.

  4. March 26th, 2014 | 18:12

    I don’t know how the Netflix DVDs survive a trip through the sorter without getting cracked. I make my own cardboard mailers and pay the extra 21 cents to avoid the machine and make them square too so they don’t even try to machine them.

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