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Retail & Inventory, Shipping

Life of a Package in the Post Office

We all know what happens to a box on the customer side of the counter. Wrap it nice and safely, put it in the box, tape it up, stick on the label, hand it over – and then it disappears into a vortex.

This is the point where most of us lose perspective on the shipping process. It may as well be magic to us for all we know – that box we handed to the nice (well, maybe) lady at the counter suddenly appears cross-country a few days later.

But what’s really behind the curtain? What happens after you send that box down the shoot?


As soon as that box cross the threshold, its journey begins. Let’s say you’re shipping a package from Atlanta, Georgia, to Los Angeles, California. Whether you drop that box into a box or hand it in at the counter, it ends up in the back of your local post office. They are then taken to the processing center.

Your little box is first separated from its “flat” brethren the letter. If you shipped a thick letter envelope, that is separated from regular letters by a rolling pressing machine. Envelopes are also barcoded – if you look at the back of an envelope, you’ll see a lightly printed series of numbers and letters. This is your letter’s unique code to get where it needs to go.

Back in the day, actual human beings would read the label or printed address on the front of the package/letter and send it on its way. Now, though, it’s all computerized, and sophisticated enough to instantly read the worst handwriting imaginable. Occasionally something closer to chicken scratch than writing goes through and a living, breathing person must help, but not often.

Our package to Los Angeles will be processed and put on a plane to California. When it arrives, it will go to yet another processing plant. Here, the label is read by the computer and put in an appropriate bin. If it was far away, it may end up at yet another plant; however, since it’s going to Los Angeles, it will simply be shipped to a local post office.

Now that the local office has it, it’s loaded onto a truck and placed into the receiver’s mailbox. They open it up and marvel at the process that got that little box to their doorstep.

Well, we like to think they do after reading this!