If you're like me, I'll bet all your Christmas shopping is done, right? Everything is wrapped and stuffed under the tree. You're feeling pretty good, aren't you? Then you look over and see everything that needs to be mailed!

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Sending gifts to friends and family can be a joyous way to express love and care, especially during the holiday season. However, it's important to be aware that certain items are restricted by the US Postal Service (USPS). Understanding these restrictions can save you time, money, and the disappointment of a returned or confiscated package. All the information came from the USPS website, and these policies are nationwide, including Montana and North Dakota.


Perishable Items:

Sending perishable items such as fruits, vegetables, and certain food items can be a challenge. The USPS prohibits the shipment of items that may spoil, deteriorate, or otherwise become unfit for consumption during transit.

According to the USPS Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), section 601.9.2.8, "Perishable Matter," perishable items that require refrigeration or other environmental controls are not mailable via USPS.

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TSM Media Center

Hazardous Materials:

Hazardous materials, including explosives, flammable liquids, and toxic substances, are strictly regulated by the USPS. Shipping such items can pose serious risks and is generally not permitted. This includes nail polishes, perfumes, and certain types of spray paint. I know what you're thinking, but don't shoot the messenger!

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TSM Media Center

Live Animals:

While sending a cute puppy or kitten may seem like a heartwarming idea, it's NOT! The USPS has stringent regulations against shipping live animals. This includes pets, insects, and even certain plants.

USPS guidelines state that "animals, reptiles, and insects" are not mailable, with exceptions only for specific items like bees and certain types of insects for educational purposes.

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TSM Media Center
alcohol, bottles

Alcoholic Beverages:

Shipping alcoholic beverages, including wine and spirits, has its own set of restrictions. While it is possible to send alcoholic beverages through certain courier services, the USPS has specific guidelines that limit the shipment of such items.

USPS restricts the shipment of alcoholic beverages unless certain criteria are met, such as shipping to certain states and complying with state laws. Be sure to check with USPS before you ship any booze!

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TSM Media Center

Lithium Batteries

  • The USPS, and many other postal services, prohibit the shipment of loose or uninstalled lithium batteries. This includes spare batteries that are not installed in a device including toys and many electronic devices. The concern is that loose batteries can come into contact with other metal objects, potentially leading to short circuits, overheating, and, in extreme cases, fires.
  • Damaged or defective lithium batteries are also restricted from mailing. This is because compromised batteries are more prone to issues such as leaks, overheating, and other safety hazards. Such batteries can pose a risk during transportation, making their shipment through postal services a safety concern.
  • Some types of lithium batteries, especially those with high energy density, may have additional restrictions on mailing. For example, lithium-ion batteries exceeding a certain watt-hour (Wh) rating may be subject to more stringent regulations. These regulations are in place to mitigate the risks associated with transporting high-energy-density batteries. Just be aware you will be asked if your package contains lithium batteries.

Small Firearms and Ammunition

The shipment of ammunition and small firearms through the mail is highly regulated and restricted due to safety and security concerns. Just be aware you will be asked if your package contains ammo or firearms. Here's a brief explanation of why ammunition and small firearms cannot be sent through the mail:

  • Safety Concerns: Ammunition and firearms are inherently dangerous items. Shipping them through the mail presents a significant risk of accidents, theft, and mishandling. The potential for accidental discharge, especially in the case of loaded firearms, poses a serious threat to the safety of postal workers, recipients, and anyone who may come into contact with the package during transit.
  • Legal and Regulatory Restrictions: Federal and state laws in the United States heavily regulate the sale, purchase, and transportation of firearms and ammunition. These laws are in place to prevent illegal trafficking, ensure background checks on buyers, and maintain public safety. Shipping such items through the mail can potentially circumvent these regulatory measures, making it crucial to restrict their transport.
  • Security Concerns: The transportation of firearms and ammunition through the mail raises security concerns related to potential misuse, criminal activities, or the illegal distribution of weapons. Restricting their shipment helps prevent these items from falling into the wrong hands and contributes to overall public safety.
  • Carrier Policies: Postal services and private carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, have strict policies prohibiting the shipment of firearms and ammunition. These policies align with legal regulations and are designed to ensure the safety of their employees, customers, and the general public.
  • Lack of Tracking and Control: Unlike other goods, firearms and ammunition lack the necessary tracking and control mechanisms required for their safe transportation through the mail. Ensuring the secure handling and delivery of these items is challenging, making it necessary to restrict their shipment to more controlled and regulated channels.

Due to the potential risks associated with the transportation of firearms and ammunition, it is imperative for individuals and businesses to comply with the established laws and regulations, use authorized carriers when necessary, and explore alternative legal means for the transfer of such items, such as licensed firearm dealers. Always check and adhere to local, state, and federal regulations when dealing with the shipment of firearms and ammunition.

Before sending those Christmas gifts through the USPS, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the regulations and restrictions in place. Understanding what items are prohibited can help you avoid disappointment and ensure that your package reaches its destination without any issues. Always refer to official USPS resources for the most up-to-date and accurate information on mailing restrictions. Remember, this is a basic list...there are a ton of things you can not mail. Here is the USPS website just in case.

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