Postal Service Potpourri

The holiday season is fast approaching. We all know the amount of mail handled by the postal service increases dramatically during this time of year. Here are some interesting facts and tips to keep in mind when you’re planning your holiday mailings, whether personal or professional. Get all those messages and packages to the right place, at the right time.

Double-check your addresses. Transposed digits or illegible handwriting can send your nephew’s wool mittens to the wrong part of the country. According to the United States Postal Service, there are 31 cities named Franklin in the USA. You may have relatives in one of the 29 Clintons and Washingtons; or the 28 Arlingtons. A package meant for Minnesota (MN) could end up in New Mexico (NM)!

The most popular street name? Main Street, of course. The next most frequently-used name may surprise you though – it is 2nd. What happened to First Street? You’re also likely to find Maple, Oak, and Park streets somewhere near you. The ambiguity of address data demonstrates the importance of ensuring accurate addresses appear on your mail. The most important address component is the ZIP code. This is how the Postal Service routes the fruitcake to your sister in Franklin, Alabama instead of shipping it to one of four Franklins in California!

Zone Improvement Codes

Speaking of the ZIP code, the original Zone Improvement Code was introduced in 1963, allowing the Post Office to handle higher volumes of mail on automated equipment. Commercial mailers were quick to embrace ZIP codes back then which entitled them to postage discounts. Consumers were harder to convince though. The Post Office ran campaigns featuring cartoon figure Mr. Zip, reminding mailers to use the ZIP code. Mr. Zip retired in the 1970’s but made an encore appearance in 2013, on his 50th anniversary as the ZIP code mascot.

After twenty years, the ZIP code expanded to nine digits, enabling machine sorting down to a group of streets or a large building. Then in 1991 two additional digits designated individual residences or businesses. Today ZIP codes have many uses besides routing mail and are critical components of 911 emergency systems.

Rain and Snow OK -Menacing Dogs? Not Mentioned

Do you know the Post Office motto? Something about delivering the mail through snow, rain, and dark of night, right? Though that familiar phrase by Herodotus is inscribed on the James A. Farley Building in Manhattan (ZIP code 10001), it is NOT the official USPS motto. They don’t have one! The Farley Building is a recognizable landmark and home to “Operation Santa” every year – made famous in the holiday classic film “Miracle on 34th Street”.

To the Stamp Cave, Robin!

A lesser known but equally important postal facility is located in a cave; 150 feet underground, in Kansas City, Missouri. The Stamp Fulfillment Center must be a cool place to work. The temperature remains constant at 68 degrees year round. The site features low humidity and no heating or cooling bills. It’s a perfect place to store hundreds of millions of stamps used to fulfill consumer and commercial orders for the entire country. Also stored by tenants of the underground industrial park called SubTropolis, are IRS archives and the original reels for the Oscar-winning film, “Gone with the Wind”.

Procrastinators Welcome

If you’re taking holiday packages to the Post Office on December 15th, plan to wait in line. It’s traditionally the heaviest mailing day of the year. So you can be prepared, here are some mail cutoff dates according to this year’s USPS Holiday Mail Schedule.


Dec. 15                                     Standard Post                      Ground service for non-urgent and oversize packages

Dec. 19                                     First Class Mail                    Cards, letters, and small packages up to 13 ounces

Dec. 21                                     Priority Mail                        One, two, or three business day delivery for parcels

Dec. 23                                     Priority Mail Express       Guaranteed overnight scheduled delivery to most locations


Cutoff dates vary according to the mailing class and destination. Believe it or not, a package mailed as late as December 21st can arrive in Africa or Europe by Christmas!

Visit for a holiday shipping date calculator (including international and military deliveries) and access to package tracking services.

Do you have any questions, comments or experiences with your holiday mailings? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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