7 Tips For Christmas Mail

christmas-santa-reading-mail-1935Many times over the years, I have worked for the post office during the crazy Christmas mail season.  Working behind the scenes, telling the electronic scanners where the mail is going when they have difficulty deciphering it…it’s hectic work, and postal employees go through millions of unreadable letters and packages every single day during the holidays.

This is the time for Christmas cards and gift-filled packages.  (Not to mention save-the-date cards and wedding announcements!)

So, to get all your Christmas mail ready, and hopefully to get it there on time, here are a few tips to help in that process.  It will certainly help that poor harrowed postal employee working 72-hour weeks to keep on top of everything.

Write the address correctly.
Too many people forget how to properly write an address.  So, a quick refresher:

Name Of Recepient
Street Address (including apartment number)
City, State, Zip Code

When writing the city, please do not use abbreviations!  Write it out in its entirety.  Use “Los Angeles” instead of “LA.”  “Pittsburgh,” not “Pbgh.”  Spell it all out, it has a much better chance of getting to the right place.  And make sure you have the right state code!  You don’t want your letter to Alaska getting sent accidentally to Arkansas because you used the wrong coding for the state.  Double-check it if you have to.

But basically, put everything in the right place.  Far too often, we would find zip codes in the middle of the street address, or the apartment number was off in a corner, or the entire address was completely reversed.  Make sure you do it right.  Also, remember where the address goes on the envelope!  Make the mailing address larger than the return address, and put it closer to the middle, not the edge of the envelope.  Putting it near the edge, you run the risk of vital information getting covered by a bar code. So be careful of placement.

Get it done early!
The later it gets into the month of December, the busier it gets.  Try as they might, there is only so much the post office can do when they’re overloaded.  Trust me, they fall behind.  So don’t wait until the last minute!  Send your letters yesterday.  🙂

Avoid using super-fancy scripts.
Somehow people tend to get especially fancy when it comes to Christmas mail.  Elaborate fonts with many a curlicue appear right, left, and center, and they can often be very difficult to make out.  I can’t tell you how many times I would sit staring at my computer going, “Is that an N or an H…or is it a 7?”  And the mail has to move quickly, so there is very limited time to make out where that mail is going, so please use a simple font.  I know it’s more fun and festive to use something else, but try to resist.  Keep the fancy to the inside of the card or letter, but keep the outside clean.  Repeat after me: Times New Roman is my friend.

Don’t doodle.
Again, this seems to be unique to Christmas mail, but leave artistic expression to what’s inside the letter, not outside.  Don’t doodle all over the envelope, as it tends to make it even more difficult to make out the address.  I have seen tiny addresses buried by crazy pictures all over the place.  It seems cute, but it wreaks havoc.

Leave the red and green envelopes alone.
This is one of those that sort of makes me sad.  I love the red and green envelopes!  They’re festive and fun.  However, the scanners also have a really hard time distinguishing between the colored envelope and the ink used for the address.  So, as tempting as it is, stick to the white or cream envelopes.  If you just have to have a red, green, or otherwise colorful envelope, put that one inside a second, basic envelope to actually mail it.

No metallic ink.  Seriously.
Those gold and silver pens?  Yeah.  Don’t use them.  The scanners just can’t even see the address when it’s written in metallic ink, all it does is reflect the scanner light and renders it unreadable.  And, sadly, this is especially true when it’s on the green and red envelopes.  Just don’t use metallic ink.  Nothing shiny.

Don’t let your kids write the address.
It’s always super cute when a child wants to write to Grandma.  It warms my heart, really.  But unfortunately, the post office has no idea who “Grandma” is or how to get her letter to her.  (And Crayon is also pretty hard to make out on that scanner.)  Let them write a letter to a relative, that is awesome.  But when it comes to the actual address on the envelope, take care of that yourself.  We want to make sure they have the joy of seeing that letter.

(Note: The post office may not be able to get letters to Grandma, but they DO have an “in” with the Big Guy in the Red Suit!  They can get anything to Santa, address or not.  So you’re safe there.  😉 )

I know, I know, a lot of this seems to kinda take the fun out of Christmas mail.  But you have no idea how much it will actually help!  Working those long, loooong hours, these are issues that every employee sees hundreds of times in an hour.  This is the busiest time of year, and they are all frantically trying to keep up with it.  It would go a long way in making things easier on them during this holiday season, and it will make it faster and easier for you as well.

So get those Christmas cards ready!  Pack up that care package, order your gifts and ship them, and have fun!

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