Handwriting hackers

The Postal Service facility responsible for deciphering illegible handwritten addresses from across the nation has a growing fan base.

Millions of viewers have learned what it takes to get mail delivered to the right place since the USPS Remote Encoding Center, known as the REC, in Salt Lake City opened its doors to British YouTuber Tom Scott.

The nearly eight-minute video, filmed July 8, recently hit more than 3.7 million views on YouTube, as of the date this story was published.

“It’s one of the most popular videos I’ve made in the past year. Something about it seems to have resonated with both my audience and the wider world,” Scott said.

Scott has made more than 600 educational videos for his YouTube channel. He learned about the REC, which receives digital images of letters and packages with illegible addresses from across the United States, from one of his viewers.

During the video, Scott receives a tutorial from REC Manager Ryan Bullock using “demonstration mail” composed of envelopes and addresses that REC keyers use for training. Bullock also showcases the special keyboard used for their digital detecting and talks about the history of REC facilities.

Bullock, who serves as Scott’s tour guide throughout the video, has worked for USPS since 1997 — when there were 55 REC facilities.

The Salt Lake City location, which has just over 800 employees, is the only remaining REC. It is open every day of the year, with shifts around the clock.

Ninety-nine percent of the letters that USPS handles can be sorted electronically. Images of the 1 percent that can’t be read by sorting machines are sent to the REC.

Technology advances and a decrease in handwritten addresses have resulted in only 1.2 billion images a year needing to be keyed manually, compared with 19 billion in 1997, Bullock explains in the video.

“The employees at the REC do amazing work,” said Mike Barber, processing and operations vice president. “I’m glad to see that so many people are fascinated by — and appreciative of — that work after they learn about it.”

Bullock said that the REC has received an increase of interested visitors seeking to tour the facility since Scott’s video appeared on YouTube.

While the REC has received recent increased attention, this isn’t its first 15 minutes of fame. The facility has also been showcased in TV news reports, including a “Today” segment in 2015.

Holly jolly frivolity

Santa’s helpers take center stage with the Postal Service’s latest Forever stamps, Holiday Elves, to be issued on Sept. 15.

The whimsical stamps depict four of Santa’s helpers cheerfully working on an assembly line filled with good things like presents and candy.

No lumps of coal are in sight.

The stamps are se tenant, which means they work together as a single scene or as individual images.

The design and color palette — largely teal, turquoise, red and white — have a retro, mid-20th-century feel that adds to the playful spirit.

Artist and designer Don Clark sketched the illustrations by hand and then finished the images digitally. Antonio Alcalá was art director.

The stamps come in booklets of 20 and will be available at Post Offices and usps.com.

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican dancers and a mariachi band perform

The Postal Service recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration held each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Roughly 13 percent of USPS employees report Hispanic ancestry.

While it may seem unusual to have a monthly observance start in the middle of one month and end in the middle of the next, it turns out that mid-September is a meaningful time throughout much of Latin America.

Sept. 15 marks the independence anniversaries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

Toward the tail end on Oct. 12 is Dia de la Raza, or Day of the Races, a holiday that simultaneously acknowledges the hardships brought by colonization and celebrates the multicultural, multiethnic society that evolved as a result.

The Postal Service has honored Hispanic peoples and cultures with many stamps throughout the years, most recently with Mariachi, a celebration of the Mexican musical tradition, and Day of the Dead, a colorful issue marking Dia de los Muertos, the Nov. 1 holiday that combines Indigenous and Roman Catholic elements.

The theme for this year’s celebration, chosen by the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.”

The National Hispanic Heritage Month website has more information.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

Scanning snapshot. A snapshot of Postal Service scanning data shows the national rating was 96.88 percent during the week ending Sept. 9, down 0.22 percent from one week earlier.

The data was collected Sept. 14.

Central led the four areas with a rating of 97.15 percent, while Atlantic ranked last with a 96.69 percent rating.

Among the 50 districts, Iowa-Nebraska-South Dakota, part of Central Area, ranked first with a 97.91 percent rating, while California 5, part of WestPac Area, ranked last with a 95.22 percent rating.

Scanning data allows customers to track their mail and packages, which helps USPS deliver excellent service, boost loyalty and drive revenue.

To see the latest data, go to the Informed Visibility website and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.” Postal Service employees must request Informed Visibility access through eAccess.

Delivery data. From July 1-Sept. 2, the Postal Service delivered 93.2 percent of First-Class Mail on time when compared with the organization’s service standard, according to data released last week.

During the same period, USPS delivered 94.6 percent of Marketing Mail and 87 percent of Periodicals on time, the figures show.

Postal Bulletin. Postal Bulletin’s Sept. 8 edition features an overview of National Preparedness Month, along with the latest updates to USPS policies, procedures and forms.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.