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physics
jwg

What's wrong with this picture?

This piece of mail arrived at our house today:



We do live at 9 West Street not Road and Cambridge, MA not England.

You'd think that with a 90c stamp, England underlined, and an unrecognized zip code....

Now I do know that the way mail is processed is as follows:
At the receiving mail center, the envelope is scanned and an orange identifying bar code is printed on the back. The address image is sent to some place where people figure out the 9 digit zip code and carrier route code and type it into a database. Later the envelope is scanned again this time looking at the orange bar code and the new bar code and 9 digit zip is printed on the front. Then the envelope goes through a sorting machine where it is directed to be sent to the mail center of the addressee.

At the mail center of the addressee, it goes through another scanner/sort process with the rest of mail received from other places and eventually comes out in carrier walking order to be sent to the destination post office. The carrier then takes this pile along with the non-first class mail which he still has to sort (but that is about to be automated in Boston) and puts it in his mail bag. He also has to check the mail to see if the address is on the hold or forwarding list (this is also soon to be automated and the forwarding will be discovered back at the originating mail center). For forwarding it goes back to get its new label printed and then gets back into the mail stream. For hold he puts it in a bin. When they automate the forwarding and hold stuff that should correct lots of the failures of that type which are completely dependent upon the carrier and often fails when there is a non-regular substitute carrier.

The carrier is supposed to to look at every piece but since much of the mail is presorted he probably doesn't do it.

The original error was by the person who looked up the address, and the carrier is the check point for catching such an error.

And no, even though I was curious about a letter from an Appeals court to the Faculty of English I didn't commit a mail crime and open it.

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That's amazing! I would have to re post it fast or it would need to get opened. My curiosity would kill me.

So, what are you going to do with it?

I would be tempted to send it back to the Court of Appeals with a note about how it came to be in your hands.

Likewise, you could send it on the the real Cambridge with a note.

The simplest option is to obliterate the barcodes and generated ZIP code and drop it in a mailbox, in the hope that they'll get it right this time.

That's rich. More expensive stamps just won't ever make things better, will they?

I actually know where that is.

Perhaps you could deliver it the next time you're in the neighborhood.

A few years back, I wrote to a local church in March, I was missing a charitable tax receipt for the previous year, theirs hadn't arrived and it was income tax time. They said they'd mailed it, but immediately sent a duplicate, which went in with my income tax return.

about six weeks later, I got an interesting package in the mail. It was the original receipt, which had indeed been mailed four weeks before I started asking questions about it. The address was quite legible and correct. The church and my home were in the same local post office (Scarborough ON), so why the actual receipt made a round trip to San Diego CA is a mystery that will forever remain unsolved.

Unlike most holidays in California, though, this was not a happy time away for my receipt: the (standard, #10) envelope was definitely the worse for wear - a triangle about 2cm x 3cm had been torn out of the centre bottom of the envelope (and the corresponding chunk of enclosures). Fortunately, neither this nor extensive dirty marks (??footprints??) obliterated the address, and it came back to me in a sealed clear plastic bag the size of a large envelope, with my address shining through, and an apolgetic form-letter from the San Deigo postmaster on the other side.

Quite a journey for 46 Canadian cents.

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