Straight Dope on postage rates needed

I went to mail a slightly oversize envelope, the dimensions of which are 4 11/16" x 9 15/16" ; under 1/4" thick and weight 0.6 oz. By every guideline I could find on the USPS web sites this should have been eligible for the standard letter rate. But I was charged the extra $0.21 for an oversize envelope. Today I called the USPS customer service line (1hr 10 min on hold), and asked for clarification. I was told that the standard rate applied to minimum-size 3.5" x 5" envelopes, and that anything larger got surcharged. If that is correct, than a standard #10 business envelope of 4 1/8" x 9 1/2" inches might cost more than the (currently $0.50) first class rate, which I’m certain can’t be the case.

I’m majorly confused. I’ll pay whatever the USPS legitimately charges but now I have no idea what counts as oversize and what doesn’t. Can anyone give me the Straight Dope on this?

4 1/4" = 4 12/16"

4 15/16" make it oversize by 3/16"

4 2/16" is under four and a quarter by 2/16"

The USPO can.

To be eligible for mailing at the price for letters, a piece must be:

  • Rectangular
  • At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick.
  • No more than 6-1/8 inches high x 11-1/2 inches long x 1/4 inch thick.

Contrast with oversize envelopes.

Maybe I’m having a stroke, but I can’t figure out how any of these numbers relate to anything the OP mentioned. 4 1/4 is is 4 4/16. How is four and a quarter four and twelve sixteenths? Where does 4 12/16 come from? And what are the rest of the numbers? 4 15/16? What is that referring to? 4 2/16? Huh?

The postage for an oversize envelope is a minimum of $1.00.

The 21 cent fee you were charged was either the extra charge for a 2 ounce envelope or the non-machinable surcharge. Since you say your envelope weighed less than one-ounce, it was probably the non-machinable surcharge (or they/you weighed it wrong). See the section called “non-machinable criteria” in Section 101.1.2
of the DMM.
Did your letter meet any of those criteria (“a” through “i”)?

So you’re claiming 4.25 = 4.75?

And as I said, my mail was less than that maximum.

Damfino. Flexibility? How the fignewton do you gauge that?

Where does it say that the size limit is 4 1/4"?

ETA: and yes, I’m certain the weight was under 1 oz.

Print this out on thick cardstock or glue it cardboard. lot of businesses have a hard plastic one they got from the postal carrier. If there’s any doubt about your envelope ask and the clerk will pull one out and measure for you. BTW, cut out the thickness slot and slide your envelope through. IF any part of the envelope gets stuck, it’s a parcel.

According to the template lingyi posted, it would appear your envelope failed to meet the Machinable size requirement. At the size listed in the OP, the envelope would be too short for its length and would fall into the unshaded area below and to the right of the shaded area listed as Machinable Sizes. So, while it fell below the overall maximum letter size requirement, you were charged the surcharge for an unmachinable envelope. SC

:confused: Nope, upper right corner solidly in the shaded area.

I am wondering now if it got treated as a postcard rather than an envelope because the mail in question was a self-mailer, printed on cardstock and folded to envelope dimensions.

Can you physically take the example letter to a physical US post office for an official ruling?

That’s more or less what I did when I mailed the original. I was told it was an oversize item; I’m just trying to understand by what criteria, since what’s on the USPS website seems to be either inaccurate or misleading.

sorry about the bad arithmetic yesterday.

It says that the maximum height for a card is 4 1/4"

Note that the Post Office’s definition of rectangular is not the geometric definition. To them, a square envelope is not rectangular, and they charge extra for that shape.

Supposedly the automatic equipment cannot determine which side is up if all edges are the same length, so they can’t find the stamp or the address. This regulation may have come from a long time ago, since they have scanners now that can accurately read a cursive, hand-written address in a fraction of a second. Locating a stamp is trivial compared to that. Nevertheless, they charge extra for square.

Perhaps related to this is that an envelope is non-machinable if the address is written parallel to the short sides instead of the long side.

The square envelope thing rings a bell. CD mailers are square, but I’m sure they cost more to mail.

Still the OPs piece was definitely rectangle. My guess is something about it, maybe the thickness, especially if it was just shy of 1/4" resulted in the additional fee. The clerks handle so much mail, they often use their best guess to calculate charges and err on the high side, probably to ensure the piece doesn’t get postage due at the end. I’ve rarely when clerks pull out the template, usually only when directly questioned by the customer.

You can get CD/DVD mailers in several sizes and configurations. The cardboard-stiff square ones, like these are my favorites. Mailers with a little extra piece of cardboard on one side, making them non-square but not too big, get around the post office’s regs, but cost more. I haven’t seen those recently.

Yeah, I’m doing badly…