Postal customer bristles at ‘non-preferential’ designation

Katama resident Richard Brown received this postal two-sided tab in his mailbox and took umbrage to it. The Postal Service says it's merely a sorting marker accidentally introduced to the mail stream and not a judgment on a person's mail.

Edgartown resident Richard Brown recently received a plastic tab in his mailbox labeled “NON-PREFERENTIAL MAIL”. The tab was interspersed with his mail.

“Who are they to decide what’s preferential and what isn’t?” he asked during a telephone interview with The Times. Brown, who’s been an Edgartown postal customer for about 50 years, said he never before found such a tab in his mail.

The tab turns out not to be indicative of unusual or arbitrary mail classification, but a type of marker for normal mail sorting, according to U.S. Postal Service spokesman Steve Doherty. Doherty believes it found its way into Brown’s mailbox accidentally.

Non-preferential mail is mail that isn’t First Class or time-sensitive (sometimes referred to as standard, business, or bulk mail),” he wrote in an email. “When it is first dropped at one of our processing facilities it is tagged, based on its arrival time and the processing cutoff time for that facility, with a color-coded card or tag. This insures that this type of mail is worked in the proper (first in, first out) sequence. Each day has a different color for quick identification.”

The robin’s-egg-blue tab Brown received indicated it was for marking mail received on a Friday for delivery by Monday.

“Those tags are for internal use and not intended for delivery, but this one may have fallen in with some walk-sequence mail at the plant, and the carrier didn’t notice it during the delivery,” Doherty wrote. He said “walk-sequence” refers to a presorted batch of mail for a given route or Post Office.

Brown said aside from receiving the postal tab, his other qualms with the Post Office include long waits to get to the counter and poor communication on package delivery. He said he particularly dislikes receiving a note for a package in his RFD (Rural Free Delivery) mailbox and finding out it hasn’t come to the Edgartown Post Office yet — that it’s hung up in Vineyard Haven.

“There’s a lot to be desired with their management,” he said.


  1. I was told (by a post office employee) that even if your informed by the sender that your package was delivered to Edgartown post office that it typically takes 2-3 days to sort out before it’s available for pickup. I have also been at the post office, waiting in a long line, when an employee announced that ‘IF YOU DON’T HAVE A YELLOW SLIP IT YOUR PACKAGE IS NOT AVAILABLE”. I guess a few too many people that day had said their package was supposed to be there…and no it wasn’t summer or Christmas, it was just a regular day at the post office when this happened. I stopped having my meds delivered to post office, it was too unreliable. I will also pay extra to have something shipped to my house rather than the post office. I gave up on Edgartown post office a long time ago.

  2. Wow! This is what gets your butt hurt huh? How dare they let a tag they use to separate mail slip into your mail…the horror ! Let’s write our Congress Person we’ve been wronged! Get a grip please! You live on a amazing Island surrounded by so many fantastic people , great article so moving and news breaking.

  3. The US postal service has been declining for years, with the Edg post office a ‘shining example’. In order to get your bills received and paid on time, many people have changed their important billing to email delivery, and pay their bills via online banking. Imagine your credit rating going in the toilet because your bills arrive late, your payments sent arrive even later. Leave it to the geniuses in Washington who run the post office to chase away all of the customers who pay for first class mail, while subsidizing package deliveries for wealthy internet companies such as amazon. I’d like to see FedEx and UPS allowed to deliver mail, and the US postal service will go the way of the 8 track tape.

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