Never Give Your Mail Carrier This One Thing, USPS Says
They won't be able to accept this, no matter how hard you try.
While it might seem as if there is no mail too weird to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), there are plenty of things that your mail carrier is not allowed to accept. That includes items restricted from being mailed, such as fireworks and live ammunition, but that's hardly an exhaustive list of what the USPS bars customers from handing off to workers. Ahead of the holiday shipping season, it's important to be aware of one common thing that mail carriers cannot accept from you. Read on to find out what the USPS says you should never try to give them.
The holidays are expected to be a busy time for the Postal Service.
There's no doubt that USPS employees work hard all year-round, but the holiday shipping season is a different beast altogether. Last year, the Postal Service accepted more than 13.2 billion letters, cards, flats, and packages during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve alone. This was up from the already record-high 12.7 billion mailpiece volume during the holidays in 2020, and it's expected to continue to climb even further this year.
In fact, preparations for the 2022 holiday season began all the way back in January of this year, according to the USPS. Several critical investments have already been made to help prepare the agency for the busy shipping months, including converting 100,000 part-time employees to full time, hiring an additional 28,000 peak season employees, deploying over 130 new package processing machines, and expanding processing capacity up to nearly 60 million packages per day.
"Successfully delivering for the holidays is a cornerstone of our Delivering for America 10-year plan," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said. "Thanks to the 655,000 women and men of the Postal Service, recent investments and operational precision improvements, we are ready to be the most used delivery provider this holiday season."
But as USPS employees prepare to deal with a substantial increase in shipping demand, there is one thing you should take note of in order to not make their job harder.
Don't try to give your carrier this during the holidays.
Knowing how much work gets added to our mail carrier's plate at the end of the year, it's natural to want to reward them for the effort. Unfortunately, they're legally not permitted to accept just any gift or tip from customers. The Postal Service is a federal agency, so all of its employees—including mail carriers—are required to comply with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. This mandate from the U.S. Office or Government Ethics (OGE) is meant to "ensure that every citizen can have complete confidence in the integrity of the Federal Government."
Due to these federal regulations, you should never try to give your carrier a cash gift or tip—even during the holidays. "Cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted in any amount," the USPS warns in its Employee Tipping and Gift-Receiving Policy.
There are some gifts Postal Service carriers can accept.
This isn't to say you can't show appreciation for your USPS carrier at all. According to the Postal Service, "carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer." So gifts that you can give your carrier include store, restaurant or mall gift cards that do not exceed a value of $20, the agency explained in a 2020 statement. But certain gift cards that can be used like credit cards, such as those with Visa, MasterCard, or American Express logos, are not permitted no matter the amount.
At the same time, the Postal Service does not just restrict carriers from accepting gifts based on their monetary value. Employees are also only allowed to accept one permitted gift worth $20 or less from a customer "per occasion, such as Christmas," according to the USPS. "Furthermore, no employee may accept more than $50 worth of gifts from any one customer in any one calendar year period," the agency explains.
This policy is not strongly enforced.
Despite being a federal regulation, many people might be confused because they have tipped carriers with cash in the past with no issue. John Mitchell, a former technical instructor at the USPS, explained in a Quora forum that accepting cash is viewed more like just a "policy infraction," so some carriers have and will accept it if offered. "The point is that you should not feel obligated nor should the carrier feel entitled," he wrote. "The carriers appreciate the tip, but certainly don't expect it. Most carriers will tell you, you shouldn't have, and they literally mean it, but no one turns down found money."
Teddy Gingerich, a mail carrier for 22 years, also admitted that while they're not supposed to accept cash or certain gifts, it's not a heavily enforced policy. "That doesn't change the fact that for decades, customers who really appreciate their carrier's service have given those people cash tips and/or small gifts," he wrote in the Quora thread. "And no, management doesn't follow people around, check them for cards or gift bags—or even really care. They have other things to focus on."