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#1
Old 12-06-2012, 07:01 AM
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Moscow, RF
Posts: 618
Is it mandatory to put a return address on mail to the US?

While at the post office with a friend today, she said she'd heard that it is now mandatory to put a return address on any mail sent to the US, and that without a return address, the mail could legally be opened/ thrown away/ not delivered.

She seemed to think it was some sort of anti-terrorism measure, but did stress she couldn't remember where she'd heard it, and had no idea whether or not it was true.

So: is a return address mandatory?
#2
Old 12-06-2012, 07:12 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: New London, CT
Posts: 3,812
Here's what the postal manual on the USPS website currently says:
Quote:
1.5.3 Required Use of Return Addresses
The sender’s domestic return address must appear legibly on:

a. Mail of any class bearing a printed ancillary service request or an ancillary service request embedded within an Intelligent Mail barcode.
b. Official mail.
c. Mail paid with precanceled stamps (except Standard Mail pieces weighing 13 ounces or less and bearing a mailer's postmark in accordance with 604.3.4).
d. Matter bearing a company permit imprint.
e. Priority Mail (including Critical Mail).
f. Periodicals in envelopes or wrappers.
g. Package Services (except unendorsed Bound Printed Matter).
h. Parcel Select (including Parcel Select Regional Ground).
i. Registered Mail.
j. Insured mail.
k. Collect on delivery (COD) mail.
l. Certified Mail if a return receipt is requested.
m. Express Mail if a return receipt is requested. The return address on the Express Mail label meets this standard.
n. Detached addressed labels (DALs).
It would seem to me that something like a Christmas card to Aunt Judy would not fall into these categories.
#3
Old 12-06-2012, 07:16 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 28,863
From: Joe Da Terrorist.

Yeah, I see how that would work.

Wait, couldn't Joe just use Sister Bertrille as his return addressee? Or are they not that cunning?
#4
Old 12-06-2012, 07:31 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2011
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You said "it is now mandatory to put a return address on any mail sent to the US."

Note: "to the US" not "within the US."

Please tell us what country you are sending this mail from. Each country is free to create its own postal regulations.
#5
Old 12-06-2012, 08:34 AM
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Location: Caseyville, IL
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If I put the destination address where the return address should go and forget to apply postage, will they "return" it to the intended recipient?
#6
Old 12-06-2012, 08:46 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: SLC, USA
Posts: 4,086
If a letter cannot be delivered because the address is incorrect or invalid, and there is no return address on the envelope, postal employees have the right to open and inspect the contents to find clues about where to deliver (or return) the mail.
#7
Old 12-06-2012, 08:52 AM
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Location: Sweet Home Chicago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
If I put the destination address where the return address should go and forget to apply postage, will they "return" it to the intended recipient?
Sometimes, but they don't have to. (I will confess, I owe the post office about 60cents from the 1980's.)
#8
Old 12-06-2012, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
You said "it is now mandatory to put a return address on any mail sent to the US."

Note: "to the US" not "within the US."

Please tell us what country you are sending this mail from. Each country is free to create its own postal regulations.
To clarify: the implication was that it was a USPS (or similar) regulation which applied to mail being sent into the US from other countries, rather than legislation which applied in the country the mail originated from.

So without a return address, the USPS/ other American government body would be legally entitled to open or dispose of the item.
#9
Old 12-06-2012, 10:52 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
If I put the destination address where the return address should go and forget to apply postage, will they "return" it to the intended recipient?
It depends. IIRC the USPS will not return to sender if the letter was not mailed from the same town (or perhaps a nearby town) as the return address. i.e., if a letter with a Chicago return address is mailed from Chicago without a stamp, they'll give the "sender" the benefit of the doubt and return it. However, if the return address was in, say, Miami, they might assume that a Chicago resident is trying to trick them into sending the letter to someone in Miami for free, and they won't deliver it.

Last edited by skdo23; 12-06-2012 at 10:53 AM.
#10
Old 12-06-2012, 11:01 AM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surok View Post
So without a return address, the USPS/ other American government body would be legally entitled to open or dispose of the item.
The government is legally entitled to open incoming international mail already. Fourth Amendment applies with considerably less force at international borders.
#11
Old 12-06-2012, 12:43 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Nevada
Posts: 2,169
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
If I put the destination address where the return address should go and forget to apply postage, will they "return" it to the intended recipient?
There was a time when this almost always worked. When I lived in a college dorm about 1952-59 almost all outgoing mail had the destination as the return address and no postage.


At some point in time they caught on and changed the rules.
#12
Old 12-06-2012, 04:08 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 3,644
I just mailed a package at the post office yesterday with no return address. I was asked if I wanted to put one on, but said no because it was a secret Santa gift. Not a problem at all.
#13
Old 12-06-2012, 06:04 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 14,180
Quote:
Originally Posted by skdo23 View Post
if a letter with a Chicago return address is mailed from Chicago without a stamp, they'll give the "sender" the benefit of the doubt and return it. However, if the return address was in, say, Miami, they might assume that a Chicago resident is trying to trick them into sending the letter to someone in Miami for free, and they won't deliver it.
And if, like many did, they put their own address as the deliver-to address, the Post Office might just get even by delivering it to that Chicago address, with a 45 postage-due note, plus a 25 fee. And the letter still didn't get to Miami!
#14
Old 12-06-2012, 06:43 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: NW Fairfax County
Posts: 2,646
Depends on what mail service you are using. Registered mail, or any type of correspondence that has to be signed for won't be accepted without a return address. However, that doesn't stop anyone from dropping something in the mailbox without a return address. Postcards for example. (Mail without postage will be delivered and the recipient will be charged with postage due, although the PO isn't as aggressive as much as they once were to collect.)
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