Notes from the Past

A Modern Postal History Item

On February 28, 2000, I mailed a deposit to a bank on behalf of my mother whose affairs I manage.  Since this was a regular occurrence, I took little note that the deposit receipt didn't show up in the return mail in a timely fashion.  Finally, when I was reconciling the bank accounts at the end of March, I concluded that the check had gone astray.  Since it did not appear, I reissued the check and made a second, albeit late, deposit.  Fortunately, the incident would not cause bouncing paper.

The incident surprised me because, as a stamp collector, I am very careful to note the quality of postal service.  Perhaps it is just that I am lucky, but losing a letter in the U.S. mails has been a rare occurrence in my experience -- not more than a half dozen in 50 years.  As it turns out, this was the third incident since December, 1999.  One is still astray, one showed up 45 days late, and then the one you will see here.

I was surprised on April 18, 2000, when I received the envelope shown below from the United States Postal Service Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia.  This organization provides 'dead letter' services in today's Post Office.


Envelope from the Mail Recovery Center

When I opened the letter, I found the errant deposit envelope with the deposit slip stapled on the outside as shown below.  Inside the check to be deposited was still in the sleeve.


 Returned envelope with deposit slip stapled on top

I then examined the envelope itself.  The cover had been a victim of modern methods.  You will note that the envelope has a window through which the inner deposit sleeve reveals the address of the bank.  During processing the Post Office added a pressure sensitive tape which normally has routings encoded with a dot matrix or ink jet printer.  This tape was blank.  The tape had been placed on top of the address which otherwise would have shown through the window.  To compound the problem, I had neglected to put a return address label on the envelope since 'I knew there would be no problem. . .'  Since there was no visible address or a return address, the rules require that the item be sent to the Mail Recovery Center for
processing where it can be opened within the regulations.  Why someone didn't just lift the unmarked sorting tape is beyond imagination although I suppose that is forbidden as well.


Envelope with automation tape over address window


Closeup of automation tape over address window

The result was that the round trip which generally is accomplished in less than 6 days took 50 days this time.  I got an interesting modern cover showing the effects of automation and learned another lesson.

Posted April 23, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.