Strange Rules of the US Post Office

return to sender.

return to sender.

Did you know that it’s illegal to mail a condom to someone (when they didn’t request it) but it’s perfectly fine to send a live scorpion in the mail? Yeah, neither did I, until I decided to do some digging and look up the official rules and legalities of the United States Postal Service.

Just like parking meter signs, the extensive list of rules and regulations of the post office are complicated and filled with lots of asterisks and certain conditions. You’ve heard the horror stories of people trying to mail things they shouldn’t – like the lady who tried to send a puppy to her son in a box with holes (so the poor thing could breathe, of course, how kind of her). Luckily, authorities stopped the mad woman and the puppy was confiscated without further incident. But next time you think about sending a package to a friend or pranking a buddy of yours, better take a look at this list first – after all, you don’t want to end up going to jail or paying a hefty fine, do you?

Let’s start off with the simple stuff first: there are things that you just simply can’t send, like alcoholic beverages, handguns (although unloaded rifles and shotguns are allowed – I’m confused already), cigarettes (this was recently outlawed in 2010, unless you’re in Alaska or Hawaii and shipping within the state), live or dead animals, drugs in any form* (including prescription drugs), food and perishables, as well as switchblades (but you’re off the hook if the person you’re sending them to works for law enforcement).

Now onto some of the more slightly unusual (but not totally off the beaten path) ones: animal-fighting materials (this includes accessories and paraphernalia), and this next item is definitely going to upset a lot of young guys who enjoy pranking their friends: that’s right, condoms. If you look under Item #482, entitled Mailability on the USPS website, it says that “unsolicited samples of an article or instrument designed, adapted, or intended for preventing contraception is non-mailable, except when mailed to a manufacturer, dealer, licensed physician or surgeon, nurse, pharmacist/druggist, or a hospital or clinic.”)

But what if you’re an overly-concerned mother or older sibling who is simply trying to remind your kids/young ones who are off at college to play it safe? Nope, not allowed. As for the penalty? That wasn’t listed on the site, but we’re assuming that you’ll receive some overly official-looking document in the mail demanding that you pay a small fine? Who knows, but I’m definitely not going to be the person who tries that out to see what happen.

Some of the other items that you can actually send without an issue include live scorpions (apparently there are certain live creatures according to the USPS website that you can ship when packaged properly, including live bees, chicken and baby alligators), human ashes, as well as small amounts of poison, including cyanide, arsenic and tear gas.

Now is it just me or does it seem like the person (or committee) who created this list didn’t exactly have their head on straight? Not quite sure how I feel about shipping live bees and scorpions, yet sending someone a small condom in the mail is an issue. Well, this is just another thing I won’t completely understand, along with taxes and the strange ways that our legal system works.

*Sorry Humboldt.

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