The term “unsolicited promotional sample” refers to any article of merchandise that is sent through the mail free of charge and that is unrequested by the addressee. This definition includes items such as patent medicines, cosmetics, laundry products, and razors.
The fact that an item is unsolicited by the addressee generally does not affect its mailability unless the article is composed of hazardous materials or restricted matter. Hazardous materials are subject to the mailing conditions in chapter 3 of this publication and DMM 601.10, as applicable. Unsolicited items that are not hazardous materials may be subject to additional packaging requirements in 601.11.
Any article or instrument designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion is nonmailable (18 U.S.C. 1461).
Unsolicited samples of an article or instrument designed, adapted, or intended for preventing conception is nonmailable, except when mailed to a manufacturer, dealer, licensed physician or surgeon, nurse, pharmacist/druggist, or a hospital or clinic (39 U.S.C. 3001 and 18 U.S.C. 1461). See
Other types of unsolicited samples may be nonmailable for other reasons, including the following:
- The sample is an otherwise restricted item such as a toxic substance or poison subject to the hazardous materials requirements in chapter 3 and DMM 601.10.
- The sample is improperly prepared for mailing, such as an inadequately packaged razor blade or a household substance that does not comply with the child-resistant packaging required in DMM 601.12.13.
- The sample is a pesticide subject to the restrictions in DMM 601.12.14 or a fragrance advertising sample subject to the restrictions in DMM 601.12.15.
- The sample is an odd-shaped item in a letter-size envelope that is prohibited under DMM 601.3.3.
Customers who object to receiving unsolicited matter should be advised that the Postal Service must accept any lawfully mailable matter that is properly prepared for mailing and bears appropriate postage. These customers may be directed to contact the mailer or manufacturer to have their names removed from the mailing list. Customers also may be advised they may refuse any piece of mail, either at the time it is offered for delivery or after it is delivered (if unopened), as provided in DMM 508.1 and POM 611.
Rulings sometimes can be provided based on the trade name of an item, but that is not always possible. A generic description, such as “razor blade,” “cleaner,” “aerosol product,” or “drug,” is insufficient for determining mailability. To request a ruling on the mailability of restricted matter, furnish the information in 215.3 to the local postmaster.
If the matter for which the ruling is being requested has the physical characteristics of a toxic substance, flammable liquid, compressed gas, or other hazardous material, a ruling should be requested under the conditions in 215.2.