Is Second Class Mail sometimes MORE Expensive To Send?

I always thought that in certain cases, second class mail must be more expensive for the postal service to send. The act of sorting first from second is an extra process that must require an alternative distribution process, which would surely add cost. And for local mail especially this must be a financial burden.

Okay I can see why an aircraft might have limited space and be far more costly to use than a truck but I’m wondering if in all cases second class is really more expensive.

I’m in the UK so perhaps the Royal Mail is required to offer second class by law - not sure if that’s the same in the US and elsewhere.

The US doesn’t offer 2nd class mail. You can mail postcards which typically go slower than 1st class mail. Once you get into packages there are multiple “classes” to use.

The US doesn’t have anything comparable. If you are a regular person, you have to send regular letters by First Class mail or the substantially more expensive Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. There are other rates for parcels and large pieces.

There are other discounted classes of service for bulk mailers. The mailer has to pre-sort their mail before delivering to the Post Office and mail a certain minimum number of pieces at a time.

We used to have a class of service called Second Class mail that was for mailing periodicals, but it is now known as Periodicals Mail. Regular people would rarely have need to use it.

As I’m not familiar with the UK system, this may not be adequately addressing the OP. But I wondered what 2nd-, 3rd-, etc.-class mail even was and whether we even have it here.

So it sounds like UK First-Class mail might be roughly the equivalent of our Priority Mail? First-class in the US does not aim for next-day delivery. And we do have other classes, but they’re not for stuff most individuals send. Although I’ve sent packages “media rate”, which looks to be fourth-class.

And I see two others responded before I could get this posted.

The USPS has second class mail. It is for the mailing of periodicals including newspapers. (It may only apply to subscriptions I don’t recall.) The rate is cheaper, but the send has to presort by, I think, zip code. You had to apply for a separate permit and pay a fee for each different periodical, so one for Time and one for Life, etc. It may be that this is no longer called second-class but is simply called periodical.

They used to have 3rd class and 4th class as well. 4th class was packages over 1 pound third class was for lighter packages or things. At some point they just started calling the latter Parcel Post.

I thought that “4th class” was media mail, for sending books? I think it’s mostly used by libraries for inter-library loans, but I’ve used it for sending a gift of a few books to a friend.

I thought the USPS had a proper second class mail service but perhaps that shows that second class mail is not so profitable for postal services - I’m betting that where it exists in most places it is because of regulation. Thanks all.

Many years ago I mailed some photographs from Thailand to U.S.A., thinking they should get a lower 2nd-class postal charge. (How I’d even heard of 2nd-class mail escapes my memory now.) The postmaster asked to look inside the still-unsealed envelope, noticed there were hand-written captions on the backs of some photographs, so charged me the higher 1st-class rate!

Almost all UK mail is sorted by machine. Second Class mail is not deliberately delayed, but First Class gets priority. This allows some slack in the system to smooth out peaks and troughs.

When I worked in haulage, we offered “Next-day” and “Three-day” services. In fact a good many of the Three-day pallets were delivered next-day, but if anything had to be left off, it was easy to make the decision.

No media mail is a type of third or fourth class depending on weight. It’s for books, magazines, (and possibly now CDs etc. I don’t know). You can’t send Christmas gifts that way unless they happen to be books I guess. Nothing can be handwritten. You can include such if you pay a first class fee for the enclosed “leter”. It’s a cheaper rate. There is an even cheaper rate that can be used if sending such materials to or from an actual Library, and no, your bookshelf doesn’t count as one.

Yeah, when I used it, it was just a few paperbacks wrapped in brown paper, with no other writing than the books themselves and the address. The conversation with the clerk went something like “I’d like to send this book rate, please.” “What’s in it?” “Books.” “OK.” They didn’t do anything to verify the contents, though I suppose I might have just had a friendly postal clerk.

When I was in college back in the late-70s, I used to mail myself books from home to school (across the country), and from school to home sometimes in the summer. I’d mail them in small movers boxes, so they were fairly heavy packages. Thank God for 4th Class rates! However, I was once required to open the box and remove a letter I had included the year I sent the books but stayed behind on the East coast. :eek:

I’ve never had them check either, but they do sometimes ask. When I had a letter enclosed all they required was a notation of first class mail enclosed and an extra first class stamp

Second, third, and fourth class mail were eliminated in the United States around 1995. That’s when the USPS reorganized its mail classifications and created new classes.

Media Mail is a subclass of the class currently known as Package Services and USPS Retail Ground.

So to the OP’s question, by delivering letters at two rates, they have to have a system for dealing with both. Does the reduced cost of the slower rate outweigh the cost of having a second rate? Am I interpreting that correctly?

It’s not two completely separate systems. If there’s room left on the First Class airplane (or whatever vehicle they’re using) after all of the First Class mail is loaded, they’ll load it up the rest of the way with Second Class mail. And in fact, there’s often room for most of the Second Class mail, that way, so the cheaper mail will often arrive just as quickly as the expensive. They just won’t guarantee it.

The big exception to machine sorting being the mass of handwritten Christmas cards, which are still largely sorted by hand. I worked as a temp one year sorting them, and we were told to just not really worry about separating out first and second class stamps for cards. It wasn’t worth the trouble, especially given half the staff were barely trained temps and the place was far fuller than normal, so keeping the system simple was priority.

Corrected that for you…

Moderator Note

bob++, it against the rules to change text in a quote attributed to another post. No warning issued, but don’t do this again.

General Questions Moderator

At least how it’s handled in the US, 1st class is basically given priority if there’s too much mail being processed for the day. If there’s too much mail to sort the 1st class mail is taken out and processed first while everything else is either labeled to be processed later that day or is sent somewhere else to be processed occurring an additional delay to it.