Before Media Mail, sending printed material through the mail was expensive. Like other packages, those containing books and other printed materials were priced by weight. Needless to say that a box of books gets heavy pretty quickly!
So, to combat the high cost of mailing such items, USPS introduced Media Mail. Postage for this service is cheap, but it comes with a catch- USPS can inspect these packages randomly. If this concerns you, read on to learn more about how USPS treats Media Mail!
Does USPS Check Media Mail In 2023?
USPS checks Media Mail on occasion in 2023. It’s difficult to say how many packages are checked, but some estimates put the number around 10,000 per week. Media Mail packages can be X-rayed or opened manually for contents verification by any postal service employee. Packages in violation of Media Mail regulations are delivered with a “postage due” notice.”
Check out the rest of our article to learn more about Media Mail and what USPS does to regulate it!
What Is Media Mail?
Before getting into the question of whether or not USPS checks Media Mail, it’s helpful to know what Media Mail is.
Media Mail is a low-cost, low-priority shipping option offered by USPS.
This service is designed for shipping media items like books, sound recordings, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media like CDs and DVDs.
This service is a great value for people sending such items, but it does come with a tradeoff. By sending a package through Media Mail, you give consent for USPS to inspect it.
Packages sent through this service take 2 to 10 days for delivery. Like other USPS shipping options, Media Mail packages can be tracked.
What Can (and Can’t) Be Sent Via Media Mail?
As mentioned above, books (at least 8 pages or longer), printed materials, CDs, and DVDs are eligible to be sent as Media Mail packages.
Here are some other items that can be sent via Media Mail:
- 16-millimeter or narrower width films
- Printed music and test materials
- Playscripts and manuscripts
- Printed educational reference charts
- Medical loose-leaf pages and binders
Keep in mind that any disks or tapes must have material on them. In other words, you can send a CD or DVD, as long as it isn’t blank.
In addition, Media Mail items cannot contain advertising. As such, magazines cannot be sent through this service.
Video games, computer drives, and digital drives are not eligible for Media Mail prices.
Does USPS X-Ray Media Mail?
Regardless of the mail service selected USPS x-rays some packages during the course of its day-to-day operations.
Packages are x-rayed to ensure that they don’t violate health and safety standards.
When x-raying, USPS is looking for prohibited items like alcohol, drugs (illegal or prescription), or firearms.
That being said, USPS notes that there are no specific guidelines as to what may or may not be x-rayed.
However, mail sent to or through larger cities is more likely to pass through an X-Ray machine.
Similarly, suspicious packages, such as those that are over-taped, make a rattling noise, or have “Do Not X-Ray” written on them, are more likely to get x-rayed.
Overall, Media Mail packages can be x-rayed (just like any other package), but the chances of it happening are fairly low.
How Often Does USPS Check Media Mail?
USPS has a “spot check” policy in place when it comes to checking the contents of Media Mail packages.
No one knows exactly how many Media Mail packages USPS inspects on a daily basis, but some estimate that around 10,000 are checked per week.
Therefore, it’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of them go unchecked and unverified.
This lack of verification isn’t due to laziness or unwillingness, but instead due to being busy.
Every day, USPS handles about 173 million pieces of First-Class mail alone.
This is without mentioning the millions of other pieces of mail sent through other services like Media Mail and Priority Mail.
Add to that the fact that much of USPS’ system is fully automated, and there’s not much room for manual package inspections.
USPS is concerned primarily about being as efficient as possible and isn’t worried about squeezing every penny out of postage by catching people abusing the Media Mail system.
All of that being said, there are anecdotal reports that for a one-month period, USPS was checking all Media Mail as a way of cutting down on abuse.
This drastically cut down on the number of businesses that were sending non-media items through the service.
So, it’s possible that if USPS ever suspects widespread abuse in the future, the company may be more diligent about checking packages.
Who Checks Media Mail?
Most often, a clerk at the sending or receiving post office is the one to check a Media Mail package.
However, any postal service employee has the right to open Media Mail packages.
What Happens If You Ship Non-Media Items Through USPS Media Mail?
If your Media Mail package happens to be opened and is found to contain prohibited items, a postal worker will reseal the box and attach a “postage due” form on it.
Postage due is calculated based on the difference between the cost of shipping the item through Priority Mail, minus what the shipper paid for Media Mail postage.
Delivery occurs as scheduled, but USPS won’t release the package to the recipient without collecting the postage due.
If the recipient is unwilling to pay the extra postage, the package gets rerouted to the sender, who then has to pay for the postage due, plus the cost of return postage.
To learn more, you can also read our posts on how fast is USPS Media Mail, is USPS tracking accurate, and what day does USPS deliver.
USPS doesn’t often check Media Mail, so it may be tempting to abuse the system, but we don’t recommend it. If you get caught, you’ll saddle the recipient with the postage due fee, or worse- have to pay the fee and the return postage yourself.