Leave the batteries out: USPS tips for mailing holiday gifts

WASHINGTON — When buying holiday gifts that need batteries, it’s typically good form to make sure they’re included in the package — unless the gift is going in the mail.

“Don’t put it [them] in the mail at all and suggest whoever you’re mailing something to that they can buy those lithium batteries locally,” says U.S. Postal Service Consumer Advocate John Budzynski.

Other items prohibited from the mail include aerosols, nail polish and perfume.

“It’s just the safest way to make sure nothing goes through the mail stream that may cause damage or fires,” Budzynski says.

Just as important as what you leave out of a box is what’s inside. Packages should have destination and sender address labels both inside and outside the package.

That way if the box is damaged or something happens to the exterior address label or if the ink gets smudged and is illegible, workers in the USPS Mail Recovery Center can help.

“They have the authorization to look inside those boxes and when they find those return addresses or mailing addresses inside, they’re able to get the package back to the right people,”  Budzynski says.

Other packing tips include:

  •  Type or print address label.
  • Use clear packing tape on packages.
  • Reinforce all box seams with 2-inch-wide tape.
  • Don’t use twine, cord, string, cellophane or masking tape.
  • Pack sufficient cushioning to avoid allowing items to shift.
  • Reusing old boxes remove or mark through old labels.
  • Don’t use commas or periods on delivery addresses.
  • Use correct city names, state abbreviations and ZIP codes.

Excluding a ZIP code on address labels is better than using the wrong one.

“That can really delay the mail getting to its final destination,” Budzynski says.

You can find correct ZIP codes here.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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