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, as applicable. Unsolicited items that are not hazardous materials may be subject to additional packaging requirements based on the content.
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).
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.
- The sample is improperly prepared for mailing, such as an inadequately packaged razor blade or a household substance (39 U.S.C. 3001(f)), i.e., any matter unsolicited by the addressee, that contains a substance as defined by section 2 of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 (15 U.S.C. 1471(2)), that does not comply with the child-resistant packaging established for that substance by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (16 CFR 1700).
- The sample is a pesticide (18 U.S.C. 1716), i.e., any matter that contains a pesticide as defined by section 2 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136(u)), that does not comply with child-resistant packaging standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency applicable to that particular matter (40 CFR 157) and meets the applicable standards in 10.0.
- A fragrance advertising sample (39 U.S.C. 3001(g)), i.e., any matter normally acceptable in the mail but containing a fragrance advertising sample, that does not comply with the requirements to be sealed, wrapped, treated, or otherwise prepared in a manner reasonably designed to prevent individuals from being unknowingly or involuntarily exposed to the sample. A sample meets this requirement if it uses paper stocks with a maximum porosity of 20 Sheffield units or 172 Gurley-Hill units treated exclusively with microencapsulated oils, and if the sample is produced so that it cannot be activated except by opening a glued flap or binder or by removing an overlying ply of paper.
- The sample is an odd-shaped item in a letter-size envelope that is prohibited under DMM 601.3.3.
A mailer, who presents matter that is generally permitted in the mail, but for compliance with the specified packaging and preparation requirements, may submit an accompanying written statement certifying that the matter is packaged or prepared under the applicable federal laws and postal standards. The certifying statement may be made on the mailer’s letterhead, on a postage statement, or as a notice on the exterior of each item presented for mailing.
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.