By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Question: "At the post office, there is a slot for `stamped' mail and one for `metered' mail. I am mailing a business-reply envelope (no postage required). Which slot should I use?"
Hint: "Business Reply Mail looks a lot more like metered mail than it does stamped," says Bonni G. Manies, local spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.
Answer: The hint was a trick.
"The preferred choice for postage-paid letters is the slot marked `stamped'," Ms. Manies says.
"BRM (that's postal talk for Business Reply Mail) is sorted on the same machinery that sorts stamped mail. The same equipment that `reads' stamped mail has a stacker (bin) for BRM, which is then automatically sent to the next step in processing."
Metered mail is read by a different machine.
But don't panic about that magazine renewal you just shoved down the wrong chute.
"Mail placed in the improper slot doesn't get lost," Ms. Manies says. "It simply must go through extra processing steps before it finds its way to the proper (destination). ...
"For the Postal Service, the key to keeping costs down is reducing unnecessary handling. As automation techniques improve, we are getting further and further away from manual sortation - the most labor-intensive and costly method of processing mail."
"This isn't really a stupid question," Ms. Manies assures us. "I remember when I asked it myself."
If you have a stupid question, send it to Ask a Stupid Question, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax: 768-8330;
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