Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Sorting Mail in Terrible Handwriting

These days, 99% of US mail is sorted successfully by machine with optical readers. But if your handwriting is so bad that the machines can't decipher it, or if the envelope got wet and the ink ran, it will be sent to the Remote Encoding Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Or rather, a picture of it will be sent there. At this level of sorting, a combination of human and computer power will use a strange but effective system of comparison to figure out where that mail is supposed to go. If they can't do it, the last resort is completely human before the postal service gives up and returns it. Tom Scott give us a look inside the Remote Encoding Center to see how it's done.

1 comment:

Spellucci said...

In the 1970s, a torn address label on a letter addressed to my dad made it to his house. The label read

Peter S/
5 Plea/

The tear was diagonally as indicated by the slashes? How did this ever get delivered? Well, it was bulk mail, so all the mail for his zip code got delivered to his town's post office in one packet. In his town, there is only one street starting with Plea, so the post office was able to reconstruct the full address from just that snippet.