Notes From the Post Office – Yes, we DO throw your packages!

post office

This post is about postal parcel handling practices and Registered mail.

When I started working at the post office, my supervisor took me over to the parcel section and said, “This is where we throw parcels.” I said with a laugh, “But, we don’t really throw them like they show in some you-tube videos. Right?” He said, “Yes, we DO throw them. We have to. ” huh?

That seemed so wrong to me. How could we possibly care about each and every parcel as we do and still throw them? Well, the fact is- we really do have to throw them.

Before I get into the mail processing of parcels, let me tell you about the MOST secure way to mail your items from letters on to parcels.

If your item is non-replaceable, please consider mailing it REGISTERED. Registered mail costs more than regular mail because of the extra processing requirements. Registered items ARE handled by hand. They do not go into the big cardboard boxes and they never get thrown. In fact, Reds have to be signed for by each and every handler (even truck drivers), so they RARELY get lost or broken. If a registered piece does go missing, it is grounds for immediate firing. Truly, we take care of every piece of registered mail! It is THE most secure way to mail a package. But, it is also the slowest because Reds are kept in a locked cage all day until they are shipped out at the end of the work day with all Reds at the same time.registered mail

Now back to throwing your parcels. There are only three scheme trained clerks left in our processing facility. We usually have one clerk assigned to parcels.  They handle from 2,000 on a slow night to 5,000 plus parcels on a busy night. We work all night to get every bit of mail that comes in sorted and ready for the carriers to get on the streets by 9:00 am in the morning. We are in a hurry! The only packages that get hand carried to the pumpkins are the ones that are too heavy for us to throw that far. Believe me, I have developed a good and accurate throwing arm working in the post office.

post-office-wes-packsThe way it works is that we unload trucks carrying parcels up from Phoenix every couple of hours. The packages come in large cardboard boxes. Those are the boxes that you see in the above photo – the ones on pallets with orange tags. They are mixed with teeny little packages along with large packages.postal mail handling

One-by-one, each parcel gets passed under the computer scanner that reads the bar codes on packages. You can see the scanner in the above photo. You can also see the array of carrier pumpkins surrounding the person throwing packages.

As we pick up each package and scan it,  we lob it over to the appropriate pumpkin that is numbered for each mail carrier. I took these photos at the beginning of our work night so there is hardly anything in any of the pumpkins ( orange wheeled carts) yet. But, by the end of our work night, they will have been replaced several times as they become full.pumpkins-1We three night shift clerks that are left standing are all scheme trained. That means that we studied and know which carrier delivers to which address. The computer cannot read every address (like some hand written addresses or parcels that have illegible bar-codes) so we have to look at the package and know where to throw it.

Here is but one of my pet peeves about the Post Office. They are no longer training people in scheme “because we have computers to read labels.” uh-huh. Occasionally, we have non-assigned clerks to help us schemers if the volume is too heavy. They throw each item that cannot be processed by the computers into a bin that we schemers then have to go over and sort manually by street address. When we are retired, the non-trained clerks will have to look up every single address in this mountain of non-readables. I tell management (and they ALWAYS listen to me.) “When we are gone, good luck on getting the carriers out to the streets early in the morning.” I believe that it is short sighted to discontinue the training of scheme clerks based on the usage of computers. Computers are amazing- don’t get me wrong- but they cannot do everything. Anyway, back off my soap box for now.

My main message in this post is this: Your best defense against breakage is to pack well. If the item that you are mailing is glass or some other fragile item, consider packing a well padded box within a well padded box. If your item is non-replaceable, please mail it registered for the utmost security.
I hope this post has been helpful in understanding the modern day post office.S McCall



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