The 37-cent test

Being the inquisitive fella that I am, I”ve been wondering what the post office would do with a letter carrying 37 cents worth of postage in a 39-cent stamp world.

If I stuck such an insufficiently-postaged item in my mailbox, I imagine my letter carrier would probably write or stamp “insufficient postage” on it and leave it in the box. Likewise, I figure my neighborhood post office would do the same and send it on back to me.

But what if the USPS had a tougher call to make on a letter that”s two cents shy of proper postage? What if, for instance, a letter bearing a 37-cent stamp was addressed to St. Amant, Louisiana; had a return address of Atlanta, Georgia and was dropped into a USPS mailbox in Mountain View, California?

Well, that”s exactly what happened today.

That”s Mountain View”s City Hall in the background. Sure, I could have picked a more iconic backdrop for Mountain View, but there happened to be a mailbox nearby when I snapped this and sent the New Year”s Monkey on his way.

So then, the great experiment is set in motion. A letter that”s two cents shy of postage mailed 2,244 miles (driving distance) away from its intended destination and 2,565 miles away from its return address. What will be its fate?

I can envision a number of potential outcomes:

- The USPS might go by the book and return the letter to Atlanta for insufficient postage. I don”t know if it would cost the USPS two cents to get it the 321 extra miles back to Atlanta and handle it as “insufficient postage”, but this would be the governmental approach.

- The USPS might just deliver the letter to St. Amant – maybe with a mean note on the outside – as if it were properly postaged. This would be the business approach.

- The USPS might demand two cents postage due on delivery. The intended recipient (my sister) has been instructed to not pay any such postage. This would be the phone company approach.

- The USPS might just toss the letter in a furnace and pretend it never existed. This would be the Hudsucker Industries mailroom approach.

If I had to bet, I”d go with the USPS delivering the letter to St. Amant, probably with a nasty note on it. The floor is open to wagering.

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