Just Don’t Send a Brick

The New York Times doesn't quite get the whole story on the front page in A Few Tips to Cope With Life's Annoyances. Ian Urbana reports that,

Wesley A. Williams spent more than a year exacting his revenge against junk mailers. When signing up for a no-junk-mail list failed to stem the flow, he resorted to writing at the top of each unwanted item: “Not at this address. Return to sender.” But the mail kept coming because the envelopes had “or current resident” on them, obligating mail carriers to deliver it, he said.

Next, he began stuffing the mail back into the “business reply” envelope and sending it back so that the mailer would have to pay the postage. “That wasn't exacting a heavy enough cost from them for bothering me,” said Mr. Williams, 35, a middle school science teacher who lives in Melrose, N.Y., near Albany.

After checking with a postal clerk about the legality of stepping up his efforts, he began cutting up magazines, heavy bond paper, and small strips of sheet metal and stuffing them into the business reply envelopes that came with the junk packages.

“You wouldn't believe how heavy I got some of these envelopes to weigh,” said Mr. Williams, who added that he saw an immediate drop in the amount of arriving junk mail.

Mr. Urbina doesn't take this on faith, he tries to check it out,

A spokesman for the United States Postal Service, Gerald McKiernan, said that Mr. Williams's actions sounded legal, as long as the envelope was properly sealed.

Problem is, the issue isn't legality — it's whether the postal service will actually deliver it.

Once upon a time, the rule was the post office would deliver anything with a business reply mail sticker on it. Back in the Vietnam War era, when Nixon was running for re-election, merry pranksters got the idea of mailing the CREEP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President, bricks. That annoyed the Nixionites, and they had the postal regulations changed.

According to the Straight Dope, this change is codified in Rule 917.243(b) in the Domestic Mail Manual: When a business reply card is “improperly used as a label”— such as being affixed to a brick—the package may be treated as “waste” and not delivered, which means no charge to the recipient.

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