Really got grilled at the post office today--sample kits.

Not open for further replies.
Jan 1, 2003
I presented two samples for mailing. Clerk asked me if it was anything "liquid", "hazardous", or "flammable". Never been asked that before. I answered that it was liquid, but not hazardous or flammable. She inquired. I said "motor oil for analysis at this lab [pointing to mailing label]". She looks concerned. "Hmmm, not sure we can take that," says she. I tried to interject that these were standard mailing containers and that this lab receives ten or hundreds per day. She wanders off, intending to research, with a look that suggests that it doesn't matter a whit what I've just said. She returned from the main section with a reference volume. She began by asking, again, what it was that I was presenting. "Motor oil". She tried the index. No listing. She tried fuel. Asked me if it was fuel oil. "No, Ma'am, motor oil." She turned to the "Explosives" section. Several pages, reading each. Then, "Gases". I showed her the little bottle, inside its plastic baggie, inside the outer jar. "No, not compressed gas," she said. She tried the index again. I suggested, that since there was no reference to "motor oil", that perhaps it wasn't a hazard or a concern after all. She read on. Other substances. Long lists of chemicals, reagents, solvents. Then, a breakthrough. She asked, "What is the flashpoint?" "Oh, man," I thought, now here's a bridge across this divide. "Over 400 degrees," say I. "Ooooh, OK," she says. She's looking at a list of rather volatile combustibles, with FPs around 100 and high vapour pressures. Her face relaxed. The worm had turned. She weighed one, put the postage sticker on, and, as she does the next, she "strongly recommends" that I contact my lab and see if I can get these mailers properly labeled. "I will," said I, asking for guidance as to what constitutes acceptable labeling. "ORHM", replied she. "It's a little square figure with the letters in it," she added. "It indicates special handling for hazardous materials." "But it's not haz...", I didn't say it. My samples got mailed. Best not to push it, I thought.
YZF150, I have been having the same problem at the post office along with Fed X. Trying to explain what you have to people that have no idea get's really frustrating. So what I do now is put the sample kit in a 6x6x6 box and I have no problems. The last kit I sent to Blackstone took 17 days to get from San Bruno, CA to Fort Wayne, IN first class! The sample kit was in the black tube and not a box. Every sample that has been sent in a box I have never had a problem yet so to me the slightly higher postage is worth the no hassle service. Mikeyoilnutt
Blackstone used to have a nice letter answering any questions the postal worker may have had on their website. I'm not sure if its still there... I bring it with me anytime I mail a sample. I've been asked if was hazardous every time, and asked if it was a liquid another time. No hassles in any case, but I've been prepared!
Yes, I have been placing mine in the drive through mail box and not had one returned as yet. Guess if they don't have the option to question the contents they pass it along.
MNGopher: "Blackstone used to have a nice letter answering any questions the postal worker may have had on their website. I'm not sure if its still there ... I bring it with me anytime I mail a sample. I've been asked if was hazardous every time, and asked if it was a liquid another time. No hassles in any case, but I've been prepared!" Hmmm ... maybe I'll check their site. If I don't see it, I'll just print out this thread and hand it to the postal clerk. [Wink] --- Bror Jace
Under DOT it is considered a "consumer commodity" and is exempt from labeling and placarding. Since it has a flashpoint over 140 F, it would exhibit the characteristics of a D listed waste which would make it a hazardous waste as defined under RCRA. However, because of its intended purposes and small quantities, Congress passed the consumer commodity rule, which exempts labeling under certain conditions. Look at it like this, imagine all the household products that you have that have flashpoints over 140 degrees....WD40, engine oil, carb. cleaner, etc. etc. All that stuff would have to be transported as hazardous materials and you'd have to have a license to use it at your house.
I have never had an issue with sending a UO sample....but after my hassle with a case of ATF at the USPS, I stick with UPS (the preferred Amsoil carrier - but note they do damage shipments...from time to time)
The joys of living in a small town. I went to school with a lot of the local postal employees. Between ebay, business, and assorted other containers they don't even look at my stuff anymore. I slap a label on it and throw it on the scale. They weigh it, tell me how much, and away it goes...
Just because YOU say it's motor oil,how is she supposed to really know?? She can't and doesn't. So in closing,be honest about what you are sending,and don't give them a hard time as they are just doing their job. I was and I didn't. It was actually a cordial and relaxed exchange. I understood exactly what was the basis for the investigation. If I had any complaint at all, it was that she appeared to be somewhat unfamiliar with her reference. Indeed, we were looking through it together, trying to find mention of motor oil. This post was not intended to disparage the Postal Service or their employee, nor to cast blame or aspersions. Just FYI all.
You should try shipping firearms, ask ten people about regs, and you will get ten different answers.
This has been basically since the plane blew up in the florida swamps. I can't use the mail from here, Fedex will not handle oil samples, nor UPS. Only DHL, so they charge accordingly. From small towns the samples are sent by bus or as fruit on the plane. We have ONE DHL rep qualified to handled samples. I have to fill out the commercial invoice ($1), the customes declaration, and include a copy of the msds sheets (I will admit to normally sending just one set of msds, not one for each type of oil). I've seen the book. Tried to send once by air freight and after 30 min or so found the category. as long as it is under 3 kg it can be in a plastic bottle, must be in a plastic bag, or another bottle, and inside a box. Over 3 kg the box has to be wood or metal. I can remember back to the pre-regulation times when I mailed samples from the US and they were squashed by the post office, with flat, soggy cardboard arriving at the lab.
Sprintman, I believe he is talking about the DC-9 which was carrying O2 generators in the cargo I recall they were cited as the cause of the crash...don't remember the details (e.g. if they exploded [which is what I assume happened] or what). Wanted to give you an insight while you wait to hear from widman.
I was not given a hard time when I mailed my oil sample at the post office (it was the nice young woman on duty instead of the rather unfriendly older women), but that was over a week and a half ago and no word yet on whether my sample ever arrived. I am going to have to reconsider whether I send in oil samples or not. How long do you guys usually have to wait to get results?
FWIW, had a similar experience last Thursday with mailing four samples, never before had any problems or questions asked, and believe me, I send sample all the time. Some VOA's of new formulations, UOA's, etc. Bonnie, the nice reheaded clerk, asked what was in the package. I said oil samples. She goes, "Hang onaminute." She gets this white-cover catalog out and can't find any catagories. I said, "Try hydrocarbons, lubricating oils, etc." No luck. She asked if was liquid, and I jokingly said, "Bonnie, it was when I put it in there." She giggles. So I ask, "Does the USPS have a section on liquids." So together we turn to liquids section. She reads the specs. One of the specs was flashpoint. I told her the flashpoints of all the samples were above those listed in the flashpoint table. Case closed. Bonnie stamps it and sends it on its way. She said cheerfully, "Hey, I learned something about chemistry today." I said, "Yep, and I learned how helpful and careful you guys can be." So guys, "Flash Point above 350 F." [Big Grin]
Not open for further replies.