Friday, September 19, 2008

A lucky number?

We live in dangerous times, and there have to be security provisions that we didn't need a few years ago, but you wonder how some of them are decided upon. Take this sign on my local mailbox. It has been there for many months, but this is the first time I really paid attention to it. How did they decide on 13 ounces? Is there something about explosives that makes 13 ounces a threshold for danger? According to this, it used to be 16 ounces. Maybe there is a security expert reading this who can explain.


e-Patient Dave said...

Yes, how odd that it changed from 16 to 13 ounces.

I never noticed that the restriction is limited to stamps, which suggests that anyone with a Pitney Bowes postage meter could circumvent the heightened security.

I wonder whether the convenient "print labels with postage, at home" feature would bypass the requirement too. (Actually, that would be a real convenience for me when I need to ship something larger - I'll look into it.)

Mark Graban said...

I've jammed stuff heavier than 13 oz into a mailbox (say, a book) and the "failure" to stay under the limit has *never* resulted in return of my mailpiece.

That would cost the USPS money, so they wouldn't do that, I suppose.

But then again, I used the online postage printing, so it would be traceable if something bad happened (but I presume any "trouble" would also destroy the label).

My guess is that it's easier and cheaper to *scare* people into something than it is to actually implement the supposed security measure.

You're right Paul, that sticker/policy doesn't make a lot of sense.

It's a good practice (as evidenced in Toyota factories) to always explain "why" when giving a direction (verbally or on a sign). "Due to heightened security" isn't really a "why" message that inspires people to want to follow the sign.

If I want to mail a book on Sunday... there's no "service" at the counter. Again, that would cost money. So the natural action is for me to ignore the sign and to mail my 18 oz package anyway.

e-Patient Dave said...

As it happened, today I needed to use "print at home." I brought the parcel to the PO anyway (for packaging... print at home saves 8-10% on postage), and they confirmed, only stamps are subject to that requirement, because (as @Mark says) printed labels are traceable, presuming they don't explode.

So I guess this rule would be useful for anthrax letters. (But wait - those are probably less than 13 oz.)

Anyway, if a perp were to enter false information when creating the online label, they couldn't be traced, eh? Good thing terrorists can't get their hands on stolen credit cards.

Methinks me sniffeth security theater.