Residents stamp over damaged mail

Postmaster: Flimsy envelopes, bulky items to blame

Despite all the care taken by the United States Postal Service during this busy season, some cheap envelopes and some recycled paper envelopes may get damaged during sorting. When buying Christmas cards, consumers should take care to purchase quality envelops.

Despite all the care taken by the United States Postal Service during this busy season, some cheap envelopes and some recycled paper envelopes may get damaged during sorting. When buying Christmas cards, consumers should take care to purchase quality envelops. Photo by Stephen Brooks.

While some local residents have complained recently to the post office about damaged mail, Jefferson City’s top postal official says such problems can often be avoided.

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Kevin Nahler moves incoming mail onto a mail truck at the Capitol View Post Office bound for sorting at the Columbia facility. The postal service expects to handle 15.8 billion cards, letters and packages between Nov. 25 and Dec. 24.

Earlier this week, Jefferson City resident Larry Coen received the unattached front and back of an envelope, but without the Christmas card that originally was inside.

“We got an envelope that looked like it was slit open on all four sides,” he said. “I don’t even know how the front and back stayed together. It was just two separate pieces of the envelope.”

He said the envelope was mailed by another Jefferson City family.

Jefferson City Postmaster Don Knoth acknowledged damaged envelopes are sometimes a problem, and that it often stems from one of two things: flimsy envelopes or envelopes with bulky items.

“In Jefferson City, we do get some envelopes and cards that are kind of torn up,” he said. “It’s normal for this time of year, might be a little bit more than normal, but it’s hard to tell.”

Knoth said all postal service mail originating from Jefferson City or destined for Jefferson City goes through a Mid-Missouri processing plant in Columbia. That operation runs letters through at least three sorting machines.

He said the machines do a good job, but that they can damage letters that are too thin or too thick.

“The envelope companies that are the major players like Hallmark, American Greetings ... the major players know how to make their envelopes,” he said. “During this time of year — and people are cutting back — they may be using a little bit cheaper envelope that doesn’t hold up as well.”

Sometimes cards with recycled materials don’t hold up as well either, he said.

In addition to using quality envelopes, Knoth advised customers not to put anything thicker than a quarter-inch in the envelope. Sometimes, he said, envelopes containing coins or pins, for example, can be damaged. Gift cards, he said, aren’t a problem.

Coen said the envelope that he received was thin and lightweight, but he said the post office could do a better job of alerting customers before they send their Christmas cards.

“They’re kind of issuing a warning now saying you need to use better envelopes, but they’re the ones who know what their machines can handle,” he said. “Their customers don’t know that. Telling us now after everybody’s mailed them doesn’t really help, except maybe for the future.”

Another postal customer supplied the News Tribune with a damaged Christmas card envelope containing thin material and made by Paper Magic Group.

Knoth said damaged mail gets sent to a postal recovery center, which is authorized to open the letters and packages to try to determine a recipient/sender or destination. That’s why Knoth advises customers to put return addresses inside packages, as well as on them.

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