What Happens if You Don’t Stamp an Envelope?

This simple question came to me one morning in late January after I received an ad at my office. The ad came in an envelope that was not stamped and did not have a post mark on it, and I concluded that some door-to-door salesman must have just thrown it into my office with the hopes that I would be more likely to open it since it was in an envelope. And to his (or her) credit, that was exactly what I did. But then I saw it was an ad and I shredded and recycled.

But as I sipped coffee and listened to the whine of my shredder, I began to wonder what happens if you address an envelope and drop it in a mailbox without stamping it first. So I did an experiment.

The first thing I did was take a greeting card and write my message in it:

The message was simple, though it did give my recipient a bit of a chore, and I felt bad about that, so I decided to use family because that’s who you ask to do tedious stuff because they have to because they love you or whatever. So, I addressed the letter to my mom, and put my sister’s address in the return line.

The thinking was simple. If the Post Office saw that there was no stamp, they might return it to the return address, in which case that’s a pretty great workaround to sending letters if you don’t have a stamp. Or, maybe they’d just deliver it to the intended recipient and assume I made a mistake.

Of course before any of that could happen, I had to actually put the letter in the mail.

Then about four days later I got a call from my mom saying the letter was delivered to her. Here’s the picture she took of it. I know it looks a lot like the top picture, but that’s just because we have similarly designed granite countertops at our respective houses.

So, the United States Postal Service delivered my letter to the intended recipient even though there was no stamp! I mean, the envelope is post marked and everything!

Now, to be fair, I repeated the experiment using one address in Lubbock, Texas and one address in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and neither person got the letter, so perhaps it just depends on who happens to be sorting your unstamped mail. And I do not recommend doing this. I did it solely as an experiment but before and since I always use the correct postage. The Post Office works hard to collect, sort, and deliver mail for 350 million Americans, so I’m not trying to screw them out of 51¢.

But there you have it! Here at Cosas Totum, we’re answering the questions that no one is asking.

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