Where's The Beef?

Between the years of 2006 to 2010, the total mail volume decreased by 20 percent. In the last fiscal year, the USPS suffered a net loss of $5.1 billion. The advent of email and texting and the increased profiles of private companies like UPS and FedEx have clearly taken their toll. But, still, you can't email a piece of fruit.

Speaking of which, it recently came to our attention that it's a relatively common practice to mail a banana. For years apparently, unbeknownst to us, loads of people have taken great joy in the practice of writing an address directly onto a banana peel in a Sharpie, affixing a few stamps and dropping them in the nearest blue mail box. The surprising part? Nearly every time, they make it to the intended recipient.

That being said, what else is mailable? We checked with the USPS on their guidelines for mailing packages. There are some rules — no items over 13 ounces dropped into an unmanned blue box, no alcohol, drugs, firearms, or tobacco, no human remains, and no chemically, biologically or radioactively hazardous materials.

Some examples of hazardous materials on the USPS site? Perfumes, nail polish, flea collars or flea sprays, aerosols, bleach, pool chemicals, paints, matches, batteries, fuels or gasoline, airbags, dry ice, mercury thermometers, cleaning supplies, items previously containing fuel, glues and fireworks.

Knowing that, we've decided to test the limits of the USPS — and not just in the items selected but in the manner in which we packaged them. After all, if a banana with stamps on the peel can make it, what other unconventional items can successfully pass through the postal system? In this weekly column, we seek to answer these precise questions. All in the name of science. Or something like that.

Item: Unopened packaged of hot dogs.
Estimated Value: $1
Cost of Postage: $3.60
Method: We put the address and postage on a sheet of plain white paper affixed to the dogs with two pieces of store-brand Scotch tape.
Days to Deliver: 2
Condition Upon Arrival: The tape was barely hanging on, but, overall, the package still arrived in good enough condition where we left the dogs in the refrigerator for a few days while we debated how good they'd still be to eat.
Running “Can You Mail It?” Success Rate: 100 percent.

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