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  DMM TOC > 200 Commercial Letters and Cards > 230 First-Class Mail

235 Mail Preparation

1.0 General Definition of Terms

1.1 Definition of Presort Process

Presort is the process by which a mailer prepares mail so that it is sorted to at least the finest extent required by the standards for the price claimed. Generally, presort is performed sequentially, from the lowest (finest) level to the highest level, to those destinations specified by standard and is completed at each level before the next level is prepared.

1.2 Definition of Mailings

A mailing is a group of pieces within the same class of mail and the same processing category that may be sorted together and/or presented under a single minimum volume mailing requirement under the applicable standards. Generally, automation and nonautomation letters must be prepared as separate mailings. Cards and letters must be prepared as separate mailings except that they may be sorted together if each meets separate minimum volume requirements. Machinable and nonmachinable letters must not be part of the same mailing. Other specific standards may define whether separate mailings may be combined, palletized, reported, or deposited together.

1.3 Terms for Presort Levels

[3-3-14] Terms used for presort levels are defined as follows:

a. 5-digit: the delivery address on all pieces includes the same 5-digit ZIP Code.

b. 5-digit scheme (trays) for automation letters: the ZIP Code in the delivery address on all pieces is one of the 5-digit ZIP Code areas processed by the USPS as one scheme, as shown in labeling list L012.

c. 3-digit: the ZIP Code in the delivery address on all pieces begins with the same three digits (see L002, Column A).

d. Unique 3-digit: the ZIP Code in the delivery address on all pieces begins with the same three digits, and that the 3-digit prefix is so identified in L002, Column A.

e. 3-digit scheme: the ZIP Code in the delivery address on all pieces begins with one of the 3-digit prefixes processed by the USPS as a single scheme, as shown in L003.

f. Origin/optional entry 3-digit(s): the ZIP Code in the delivery address on all pieces begins with one of the 3-digit prefixes processed at the sectional center facility (SCF) in whose service area the mail is verified/entered. Subject to standard, a separation is required for each such 3-digit area regardless of the volume of mail.

g. Origin/optional entry SCF: the separation includes bundles for one or more 3-digit areas served by the same sectional center facility (SCF) (see L002, Column C, or L005) in whose service area the mail is verified/entered. Subject to standard, this separation is required regardless of the volume of mail.

h. ADC/AADC: all pieces are addressed for delivery in the service area of the same area distribution center (ADC) or automated area distribution center (AADC) (see L004 or L801).

i. Mixed [ADC, AADC, etc.]: the pieces are for delivery in the service area of more than one ADC, AADC, etc.

j. Residual pieces/bundles/sacks contain material remaining after completion of a presort sequence. Residual mail lacks the volume set by standard to require or allow bundle preparation to a particular destination, and usually does not qualify for a presort price. Residual mail is also referred to as nonqualifying or working mail.

1.4 Preparation Definitions and Instructions

[3-3-14] For purposes of preparing mail:

a. Pieces refers to individually addressed mailpieces. This definition also applies when pieces is used in eligibility standards. Quantities indicated for optional or required sortations always refer to pieces unless specifically excepted.

b. A full letter tray is one in which faced, upright pieces fill the length of the tray between 85% and 100% full.

c. A less-than-full letter tray is one that contains mail for the same destination regardless of quantity or whether a full tray was previously prepared for that destination. Less-than-full trays may be prepared only if permitted by the standards for the price claimed.

d. An overflow letter tray is a less-than-full tray that contains all pieces remaining after preparation of full trays for the same destination. Overflow trays may be prepared only if permitted by the standards for the price claimed.

e. A 5-digit scheme sort for automation letters yields 5-digit scheme trays for those 5-digit ZIP Codes identified in labeling list L012 and 5-digit trays for other areas. The 5-digit ZIP Codes in each scheme are treated as one presort destination subject to a minimum volume, with no further separation by 5-digit ZIP Code required. Trays prepared for a 5-digit scheme destination that contain pieces for only one of the schemed 5-digit ZIP Codes are considered 5-digit scheme sorted. When standards require 5-digit/scheme sorting, mailers must prepare all possible 5-digit scheme trays, then prepare all possible 5-digit trays.

f. A 3-digit scheme sort yields 3-digit scheme trays for those 3-digit ZIP Code prefixes listed in L003 and 3-digit trays for other areas. The 3-digit ZIP Code prefixes in each scheme are treated as a single presort destination subject to a single minimum tray volume, with no further separation by 3-digit prefix required. Trays prepared for a 3-digit scheme destination that contain pieces for only one of the schemed 3-digit areas are still considered 3-digit scheme sorted and are labeled accordingly. The 3-digit scheme sort is required for automation price letter-size First-Class Mail. When standards require 3-digit/scheme sorting, mailers must prepare all possible 3-digit scheme trays, then prepare all possible 3-digit trays.

g. An origin 3-digit (or origin 3-digit scheme) tray contains all mail (regardless of quantity) for a 3-digit ZIP Code (or 3-digit scheme) area processed by the SCF in whose service area the mail is verified. If more than one 3-digit (or 3-digit scheme) area is served, as indicated in L005, a separate tray must be prepared for each.

h. The required at [quantity] instruction (e.g., “required at 10 pieces”) means that the particular unit must be prepared for the corresponding presort level whenever the specified quantity of mail is reached or exceeded. Bundles and containers may contain more than the specified required at quantity up to the applicable maximum physical size. Subject to applicable price eligibility standards, smaller quantities may be prepared only if permitted. Where specified by standard, required preparation applies only if the mailer chooses to qualify for the corresponding price.

i. The optional at [quantity] instruction means that the particular unit may be prepared for the corresponding presort level whenever the specified quantity of mail is reached or exceeded. Bundles or containers may contain more than the specified optional at quantity up to the applicable maximum physical size. Smaller quantities may be prepared only if permitted by applicable price eligibility standards. Standards for quantities with which preparation is optional are often followed by standards for larger quantities with which preparation is required.

j. Entry [facility] (or origin [facility]) refers to the USPS mail processing facility that serves the Post Office at which the mail is entered by the mailer. If the Post Office where the mail is entered is not the one serving the mailer’s location, the Post Office of entry determines the entry facility. Entry SCF includes both single-3-digit and multi-3-digit SCFs.

k. The group pieces instruction means the pieces are to be sorted together as if to be bundled but not actually secured into a bundle. Bundle labels and other bundle identification methods may be used for unsecured groups of pieces as permitted by standard.

l. A bundle is a group of addressed pieces secured together as a unit. Bundle preparation is described in 2.0.

m. A “logical” presort destination represents the total number of pieces that are eligible for a specific presort level based on the required sortation, but which might not be contained in a single bundle or in a single container due to applicable preparation requirements or the size of the individual pieces.

1.5 Optional Containerization

Mailers may prepare pallets or other USPS-approved containers as described in 705.8.10.2 or according to local customer/supplier agreements.

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2.0 Bundles

2.1 General

A bundle is a group of addressed pieces, for a presort destination, secured together as a unit. See 601.2.0 for bundling standards.

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3.0 Letter Trays

3.1 Standard Containers

Mailings must be prepared in letter trays with sleeves. However, a postmaster may authorize nonpostal containers for a small-volume presorted mailing if the mailing weighs no more than 20 pounds, consists primarily of mail or bundles of mail for local ZIP Codes, and requires no USPS transportation for processing.

3.2 Letter Tray Sizes

These approximate measurements define the tray sizes that apply to all letter-size mail preparation standards:

a. 2-foot managed mail (MM) trays: 21 inches long by 10 inches wide (inside bottom dimensions) by 4-5/8 inches high.

b. 1-foot MM trays: 10-1/4 inches long by 10 inches wide (inside bottom dimensions) by 4-5/8 inches high.

c. 2-foot extended MM (EMM) trays: 21-3/4 inches long by 11-1/2 inches wide (inside bottom dimensions) by 6-1/8 inches high.

3.3 Letter Tray Preparation

Letter trays are prepared as follows:

a. Subject to availability of equipment, standard MM trays must be used for all letter-size mail, except that EMM trays must be used when available for letter-size mail that exceeds the inside dimensions of MM trays defined in 3.2. When EMM trays are not available for those larger pieces, they must be placed in MM trays, angled back, or placed upright perpendicular to the length of the tray in row(s) to preserve their orientation.

b. Pieces must be “faced” (oriented with all addresses in the same direction with the postage area in the upper right).

c. Each tray prepared must be filled before filling the next tray, with the contents in multiple trays relatively balanced. When preparing full trays, mailers must fill all possible 2-foot trays first; if there is mail remaining for the presort destination, mailers must use a combination of 1-foot and 2-foot trays that results in the fewest total number of trays for that presort level. As an alternative, if there is mail remaining, mailers may move those pieces to the next higher presort level when the minimum piece quantity has been reached at the next tray level (e.g., 150 pieces) and the standards in 6.6 are met.

d. For presort destinations that do not require full trays, pieces are placed in a less-than-full tray.

e. Mailers must use as few trays as possible without jeopardizing price eligibility. For instance, a mailer will never have two 1-foot trays to a single destination; instead, that mail must be placed in a single 2-foot tray. A 1-foot tray is prepared only if it is a full tray with no overflow; or if there is less than 1 foot of mail for that destination; or if the overflow from a full 2-foot tray is less than 1 foot of mail.

f. Each tray must bear the correct tray label.

g. Each tray must be sleeved and strapped under 3.4, and 3.5.

h. If a mailing is prepared using an MLOCR/barcode sorter and is submitted with standardized documentation, then pieces do not have to be grouped by 3-digit ZIP Code prefix (or by 3-digit scheme, if applicable) in AADC trays, or by AADC in mixed AADC trays.

3.4 Tray Sleeving and Strapping

Letter trays are secured using USPS-provided sleeves. Each sleeved letter tray must then be secured with one plastic strap placed tightly around the length of the tray without crushing the tray or sleeve.

3.5 Strapping Exception

If the processing and distribution manager gives a written waiver, strapping is not required for any mixed AADC letter tray of First-Class Mail or for any letter tray that originates and destinates in the same SCF (mail processing plant) service area.

3.6 Origin/Entry 3-Digit/Scheme Trays

After all finer sort levels are prepared, an origin/entry 3-digit tray (or, if applicable, origin/entry 3-digit scheme tray) must be prepared to contain any remaining mail for each 3-digit (or 3-digit scheme) area serviced by the SCF serving the Post Office where the mail is verified (origin), and may be prepared for each 3-digit (or 3-digit scheme) area served by the SCF/plant where mail is entered (if that is different from the SCF/plant serving the Post Office where the mail is verified). In all cases, only one less-than-full tray may be prepared for each 3-digit (or 3-digit scheme) area.

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4.0 Tray Labels

4.1 Basic Standards

Tray labels are subject to these basic standards:

a. Use 2-inch labels.

b. Illegible labels are not acceptable. Machine-printed labels (available from the USPS) ensure legibility. Legible hand-printed labels are acceptable.

c. Tray labels for automation price mailings are subject to 4.9.1, and 708.6.0.

d. Intelligent Mail tray labels are subject to the standards in 708.6.3, and to the specifications posted at http://ribbs.usps.gov.

4.2 Physical Characteristics of a Tray Label

A tray label must meet these specifications:

a. Color: white or manila.

b. Weight: minimum 70-pound stock (500 sheets, 24 by 36 inches).

c. Height (perpendicular to printing): 1.860 inches minimum; 2.015 inches maximum.

d. Length (parallel to printing): 3.250 inches minimum; 3.515 inches maximum.

e. Thickness: 0.005 inch minimum.

4.3 Line 1 (Destination Line)

Line 1 (destination line) must meet these standards:

a. Placement. Line 1 must be the first visible line on the label. It must be completely visible and legible when placed in the label holder. This visibility is ensured if the top of this line is no less than 1/8 (0.125) inch below the top of the label when the label is cut and prepared.

b. Information. Line 1 must contain only the information specified by standard, including the appropriate destination facility prefix (e.g., “ADC”). Two zeros may follow the 3-digit ZIP Code prefix required by labeling standards (e.g., 223 as 22300).

c. Overseas Military Mail. On 5-digit trays for overseas military destinations, Line 1 shows, from left to right, “APO” or “FPO,” followed by “AE” (for ZIP Codes within the ZIP Code prefix range 090-098), “AA” (for ZIP Codes within the 3-digit ZIP Code prefix 340), or “AP” (for ZIP Codes within the ZIP Code prefix range 962-966), followed by the destination 5-digit ZIP Code of the mail in the tray.

4.4 Line 2 (Content Line)

Line 2 (content line) must meet these standards:

a. Placement: Line 2 must be the second visible line on the label. This line must show the class and processing category of the mail in the tray and other information as specified by standards.

b. Codes: The codes shown below must be used as appropriate on Line 2 of tray labels.

Content type

code

Barcoded

BC

Barcoded and Nonbarcoded

BC/NBC

Digit

D

First-Class Mail

FCM

Letters

LTR or LTRS

Machinable

MACH

Mixed

MXD

Nonmachinable

MAN or MANUAL

Working

WKG

4.5 Line 3 (Office of Mailing or Mailer Information Line)

Line 3 (office of mailing or mailer information line) must be the bottom line of required information and must show either the city and state of the entry Post Office or the mailer’s name and the city and state of the mailer’s location. It is recommended that the mailer’s name also appear with the city and state of the entry Post Office.

4.6 Abbreviations for Lines 1 and 3

Lines 1 and 3 may contain abbreviated information if such abbreviations are those in the USPS City State Product.

4.7 Placement of Extraneous Information

Extraneous information is not permitted on the destination and content lines. It may be placed away from required lines, subject to these conditions:

a. It may be placed above Line 1 in not more than 0.083 inch high type (6-point type).

b. It may appear to the right of required Line 3 information but it must not consist of numerals that resemble a ZIP Code or 3-digit ZIP Code prefix.

c. It must not appear between Lines 1 and 2 (a blank line is permitted), but may appear between Lines 2 and 3 if it does not consist of numerals that resemble a ZIP Code or 3-digit ZIP Code prefix.

d. It may appear below Line 3.

e. A mailer code assigned by the USPS or such words as “Mailer,” “From” (or “FR”), or “Entered at” may appear before the required information on Line 3.

4.8 Placement of Tray Label

A tray label must be securely placed in an adhesive-backed label holder that is affixed to the specific location designated on the tray. Where no specific location is indicated the label must be securely placed in an adhesive-backed label holder that is affixed horizontally to the top left corner of one end of the tray. Do not use tape. Insert labels completely into the label holder to ensure that they do not fall out during processing. Do not insert labels upside down.

4.9 Barcoded Tray Labels

4.9.1 Basic Standards for Barcoded Tray Labels

Barcoded tray labels must be used for automation-price letter-size mailings. Intelligent Mail tray labels must be used with mailings entered under the full-service automation option (see 705.23.0). Barcoded labels must meet these general standards:

a. Use 2-inch labels.

b. Mailer-produced barcoded labels must meet the standards in 708.6.0.

c. All information on barcoded labels must be machine-printed. Alterations to preprinted barcoded labels (e.g., handwritten changes) may not be made.

d. Mailers must insert barcoded labels completely into the label holder on the tray to prevent their loss during transport and processing.

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5.0 Preparing Nonautomation Letters

5.1 Basic Standards

5.1.1 All Mailpieces

Each Presorted First-Class Mail mailing must meet the applicable standards in 233.4.0, and in 235; All pieces must be in the same processing category, subject to 5.1.4, and must be sorted together and prepared under 5.2, or 5.3. Letter-size pieces (including card-size pieces) must be prepared in letter trays.

5.1.2 Single-Piece Price Pieces Presented With Presort Mailings

[1-26-14] Regardless of postage payment method, mailers may present single-piece price First-Class Mail with pieces claimed at automation or presort prices and report all pieces on the same postage statement. The following standards apply:

a. The mailer must prepare the single-piece price pieces in separate trays from the automation and presort pieces. Mailers must label the trays under 708.6.0 using CIN code 260 on trays of single-piece letters. Label trays as follows:

1. Line 1: Use L201; for mail originating in ZIP Code areas in Column A, use “MXD” followed by city, state, and 3-digit ZIP Code prefix in Column C (use “MXD” instead of “OMX” in the destination line and ignore Column B).

2. Line 2: Use the human-readable content line corresponding to content identifier number 260 (see Exhibit 708.6.2.4).

3. Line 3: Office of mailing or mailer information.

b. The single-piece price pieces must bear no price marking or be marked “First-Class” or, if not affixed with full single-piece price postage, “Single-Piece” (or “SNGLP”). See 202.3.0.

c. The mailer must affix additional postage to the single-piece price pieces to yield the correct amount on each piece, or (if prepared with a corrective price marking) the mailer must pay all additional postage at the time of mailing.

5.1.3 Marking

Subject to 202.3.0, all pieces must be marked “Presorted” (or “PRSRT”) and “First-Class Mail.”

5.1.4 Cards and Letters

Pieces claimed at card prices and pieces claimed at letter prices are each subject to a separate minimum volume criterion whether prepared as separate or combined mailings. Either way, card-size and letter-size pieces may be presented at the same time and reported on the same postage statement.

5.2 Machinable Preparation

5.2.1 Machinable Bundling

Machinable pieces are not bundled, except for (see 2.0):

a. Card-size pieces.

b. All pieces in a less-than-full origin 3-digit tray.

c. All pieces in a less-than-full mixed AADC tray.

5.2.2 Traying and Labeling

Preparation sequence, tray size, and labeling:

a. Separate 3-digit origin trays required for each origin 3-digit ZIP Code; no minimum piece requirement; one less-than-full tray permitted for each origin ZIP Code; labeling:

1. Line 1: L002, Column A.

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR 3D MACH.”

b. AADC (required); full trays (no overflow), with pieces grouped by 3-digit ZIP Code prefix; labeling:

1. Line 1: L801.

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR AADC MACH.”

c. Mixed AADC (required); no minimum, with pieces grouped by AADC; labeling:

1. Line 1: Use L201; for mail originating in ZIP Code areas in Column A, use “MXD” followed by city, state, and 3-digit ZIP Code prefix in Column C (use “MXD” instead of “OMX” in the destination line and ignore Column B).

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR MACH WKG.”

5.3 Nonmachinable Preparation

5.3.1 Nonmachinable Bundling

Except as provided in 601.2.4, bundling is required before traying. A bundle must be prepared when the quantity of addressed pieces for a required presort level reaches a minimum of 10 pieces. Smaller volumes are not permitted except for mixed ADC bundles. Preparation sequence, bundle size, and labeling:

a. 5-digit (required); 10-piece minimum; red Label 5 or optional endorsement line (OEL); labeling not required for pieces in full 5-digit trays.

b. 3-digit (required); 10-piece minimum; green Label 3 or OEL.

c. ADC (required); 10-piece minimum; pink Label A or OEL.

d. Mixed ADC (required); no minimum; tan Label X or OEL.

5.3.2 Traying and Labeling

Preparation sequence, tray size, and labeling:

a. 5-digit (required); full trays (no overflow); labeling:

1. Line 1: city, state, and 5-digit ZIP Code on mail (see 4.0, for overseas military mail).

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR 5D MANUAL.”

b. 3-digit (required); full trays (no overflow), except for one less-than-full tray for each origin 3-digit(s); labeling:

1. Line 1: L002, Column A.

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR 3D MANUAL.”

c. ADC (required); full trays (no overflow); labeling:

1. Line 1: L004, Column B.

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR ADC MANUAL.”

d. Mixed ADC (required); no minimum; labeling:

1. Line 1: Use L201; for mail originating in ZIP Code areas in Column A, use “MXD” followed by city, state, and 3-digit ZIP Code prefix in Column C (use “MXD” instead of “OMX” in the destination line and ignore Column B).

2. Line 2: “FCM LTR MANUAL WKG.”

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6.0 Preparing Automation Letters

6.1 Basic Standards

Mailers must prepare letter-size automation price First-Class Mail under 6.0. Bundle and tray preparation are subject to 235. Use barcoded tray labels under 4.9 and 708.6.0.

6.2 Mailings

The requirements for mailings are as follows:

a. General. All pieces in a mailing must meet the standards in 201.3.0, and must be sorted together to the finest extent required for the price claimed except under 6.2c.. The definitions of a mailing and permissible combinations are in 1.0.

b. First-Class Mail. A single automation price First-Class Mail mailing may include pieces prepared at 5-digit, 3-digit, AADC, and mixed AADC prices.

c. Regardless of the method of postage payment, pieces of single-piece price First-Class Mail may be presented with and reported on the same postage statement as pieces claimed at automation or presort prices if the single-piece price pieces are physically separated from other pieces; bear no price marking, or are marked only “First-Class,” or (if not affixed with full single-piece price postage) are marked “Single-Piece” or “SNGLP” under 202.3.0, in addition to any other marking; and either have additional postage affixed to yield the correct amount on each piece or (if prepared with a corrective price marking) have all additional postage paid at the time of mailing.

6.3 Marking

All automation price pieces must be marked under 202.3.0, and 202.4.0. Pieces claimed at an automation price must bear the appropriate class marking and, except as provided in 202.3.0, and 202.4.0, “AUTO.” Pieces not claimed at an automation price must not bear “AUTO” unless single-piece price postage is affixed or the corrective single-piece price marking (“SNGLP” or “Single-Piece”) is applied.

6.4 General Preparation

Grouping, bundling, and labeling are not generally required or permitted, except bundling is required in any mailing consisting entirely of card-size pieces and for pieces in overflow and less-than-full trays, and grouping is required under 6.6.

6.5 Cards

Pieces claimed at First-Class Mail card prices and pieces claimed at First-Class Mail letter prices are each subject to a separate minimum volume criteria whether prepared as separate or combined mailings. Either way, card-size and letter-size pieces may be presented at the same time and reported on the same postage statement.

6.6 Tray Preparation

[3-3-14] Instead of preparing overflow trays with fewer than 150 pieces, mailers may include these pieces in an existing qualified tray of at least 150 or more pieces at the next tray level. (For example, if a mailer has 30 overflow 5-digit pieces for ZIP Code 20260, these pieces may be added to an existing qualified 3-digit tray for the correct destination (ZIP Code prefix 202) and the overflow 5-digit pieces will still qualify for the 5-digit price.) Mailers must note these trays on standardized documentation (see 708.1.2). Pieces that are placed in the next tray level must be grouped by destination and placed in the front or back of that tray. Mailers may use this option selectively for 3-digit and AADC ZIP Codes. This option does not apply to origin/entry 3-digit/scheme trays. Preparation sequence, tray size, and Line 1 labeling:

a. 5-digit/scheme: optional, but required for 5-digit price (150-piece minimum); overflow allowed. Make 5-digit scheme trays first, then 5-digit trays; see 1.4e..

1. For 5-digit scheme trays, use destination shown in labeling list L012.

2. For 5-digit trays, use city, state, and 5-digit ZIP Code destination on pieces (see 4.0 for overseas military mail).

b. 3-digit/scheme: optional, but required for 3-digit price (150-piece minimum except no minimum for origin or entry 3-digit/scheme); overflow allowed. Make 3-digit scheme trays first, then 3-digit trays; see 1.4f.. For Line 1, use L002, Column B.

c. AADC: optional, but required for AADC price (150-piece minimum); overflow allowed; group pieces by 3-digit (or 3-digit scheme) ZIP Code when overflow pieces from 3-digit trays are placed in AADC trays. For Line 1, use L801, Column B.

d. Mixed AADC: required (no minimum); group pieces by AADC when overflow pieces from AADC trays are placed in mixed AADC trays. For Line 1 use L201; for mail originating in ZIP Code areas in Column A, use “MXD” followed by city, state, and 3-digit ZIP Code prefix in Column C (use “MXD” instead of “OMX” in the destination line and ignore Column B).

6.7 Tray Line 2

Line 2: “FCM LTR” and:

a. 5-digit scheme: “BC 5D SCHEME.”

b. 5-digit: “5D BC.”

c. 3-digit scheme: “BC 3D SCHEME” and, if applicable, as shown in L002, Column B, followed by the letter “A,” “B,” or “C.”

d. 3-digit: “3D BC.”

e. AADC: “AADC BC.”

f. Mixed AADC: “BC WKG.”

6.8 Presentation

Upon presentation of letter-size automation price First-Class Mail mailings to USPS for verification, mailers must present all mixed AADC trays together, and such trays must either be adjacent to one another, or side by side, and must be placed as the top layer(s) on any given container. Containerization instructions for First-Class Mail letters and cards may be established by local USPS managers.