Does the USPS have a heart? (short on stamps)

I had to mail* some checks to pay bills for my company in last week, and I just now realized that I was in such a hurry that I completely forgot to add a 1 cent stamp along with my 41 cent stamp.

Has anyone had any experience with the local post office sliding you the difference this close to a stamp price change? As far as I know, my local post office is a decent place and I’d like to think they’d hook me up just this once.

I haven’t gotten either of the bills returned with “INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE” yet, and I think it’s been at least 4 days. I am going to be screwed if they take their good old time returning the envelopes to me. This was for our health insurance which was already running late!

*Yes, I am aware you can pay most bills online. But not these. If I could, I would have.

You’ll get them back, eventually. The USPS is a business, and they don’t care what you meant to do. Insufficient postage will get kicked back to sender, or sent to the Dead Letter Office if there isn’t a return address. I suggest you cancel the check and send a new one, with correct postage this time, because the USPS doesn’t hurry in returning mail.

If USPS was a business then they’d just deliver the mail because sorting out a letter missing 1 cent is going to cost them more than just letting it go through.

Now, since it’s a quasi-governmental agency, they might send it back and try to stick you for the extra cent. You’ll know within the next couple days. They’re about as fast returning mail as they are delivering it.

First contact the check recipients. If they haven’t received payment then get that taken care of as fast as possible. I wouldn’t worry about stopping payment on the original checks, any legitimate company will return the overage, or apply it to your account for the following month. The checks may slip through the system, but it’s doubtful.
Several years ago I mailed a check to the IRS that was a couple of cents short on postage. I didn’t get it returned for almost two weeks. It cost me around 40-50 dollars in late penalties.

The USPS handles over a 350 million pieces of mail a day. How much would it cost them (and us in the long run) if they allowed just a small portion of those letter with insufficient postage to be sent on?

For what it’s worth, I sent my most recent electricity bill in with 41¢ of postage about a week after this most recent rate change. It was cashed four days later, and I didn’t even realize I had done something wrong until I was at the Post Office last week and was reminded of the rate change.

I guess it depends on many factors like local options, but I sometimes get mail delivered to me with postage due. The rural mailman leaves an envelope for me to put coins in that he picks up the next day.

Experience has shown that shortly after rate changes, the PO sometimes lets underpostage slide.

When the postage is insufficient they leave a envelope with the letter for the recipient to make up the difference. The recipient can pay the postage due and keep the mail, or leave the unopened mail and envelope with a note of refused for the delivery person to take back. The mail will be returned to sender at that point for insufficient postage. I refused the mail last time because it was unsolicited stuff I didn’t want.

What stamp did you use? The Liberty bell stamps are “Forever Stamps”.

How does McDonald’s deal with people who routinely take waay too much ketchup and too many napkins?

I had the same experience as MikeS - mailed 2 bills about a week after the increase, with 41 cent stamps which I quite mistakenly thought were forever stamps, and they both got cashed a few days later.

They identify them on security cameras, and next time they come in the store, an alarm sounds in the kitchen and everyone wipes that customer’s 100% beef patty over their big hairy ol’ butt cheeks.
Legal disclaimer: the above might not be true. Please don’t sue me, Ronald.

If you read Customers Suck you’d find they charge for packs over a certain amount. Bitching will sometimes get you more without a charge, but I don’t think you can badger the postal service into caving in.

It strikes me that you may have that backwards – it may be the better business decision to return it.
How much does the return-to-sender mechanism cost? The letter/package is already in the system, so I don’t think it would be good accounting to allocate the entire transportation cost. Another factor would be whether or not the postage on returned mail remains valid. Even if it is, the incidence of people removing/reusing the postage is unlikely to be 100 percent.

The sorting/routing mechanism is already in place, whether going to Peoria or Peekskill. There is a cost to differentiating between which address to send it to, of course (I’m certainly not suggesting RTS is cost free).

…and so on. What’s the cost of the whole mechanism?

First, compare that cost to the overall amount of under-postage. If it’s less, it clearly makes sense to return mail. If it’s more, then it’s a matter of projecting the increase in under-postage that would result in letting malcontents inspired by ZipperJJ to get away with their attempts at gaming the system, puppy-kicking, and world domination. I find it hard to imagine that someone in the system hasn’t already done the calculus.
(Disclaimer: I am not a cost accountant. I am not a Postal employee. I am not suggesting ZipperJJ is gaming the system or mistreating puppies. I, for one welcome our new ZipperJJ overlord.)

The Post Office is usually lenient for the first work or so after a rate change.

And the rate change sometimes works in their favor. I sent some mail, but only had some old 2 cent stamps to boost the postage. So I ended up over paying by one cent on several pieces of mail.

I used up all my numerated stamps and only have forever stamps now. Rate changes will be trivial for me in the future.

Right, and presumably the USPS, were it a real company, would develop similarly cost-based (as opposed to strictly rule-based) procedures for dealing with people who abused their service. It’s fairly obvious they would, in fact, which is why racer72’s question surprised me.

I do know that when I send out manuscripts and the rates change while they are out, I still get the rejections even if they’re mailed a couple of months after the change without additional postage.

One issue is that, with the volume of mail, they don’t have time to check each stamp (I sometimes mail envelopes with a real mish-mash of stamps to make up the proper postage, but I doubt they sit and add up the values). They’re just thrown into the mail sorting system and it’s not surprising that no one catches the incorrect postage – the stamps become a blur to you.

I ran afoul of their new security rule that Priority Mail Envelopes over a certain weight have to be presented at the counter. The delivery time on Priority is supposed to be 3-4 days, but it was 3 or 4 WEEKS before they bounced the mail back to me.

The post office might just not notice.

Back in the days when you could buy form-feed postcards, I did a hurried mass mailing to my computer club. As the cards printed, I watched for cards that I would hand-deliver and marked an X where their stamps should go. I left the stamp off those when I went through applying stamps. Then I burst the forms, stacked the cards, and dropped them all in the mail, forgetting to pull out the unstamped ones.

Every card was delivered, including the dozen or so that just had an X where the stamp should be.

Thanks for all your answers. I looked and the one check I sent was cashed on 6/2, so “whew.”

Turns out the other thing I sent wasn’t a check but a somewhat time-sensitive document. No one has told me it didn’t go through, so I guess it did.

I guess the USPS does have a heart. Or at least, like some of you suggested, is too busy to notice.