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Red and green envelopes slow down the holiday mail

December 23, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Postal Service won’t say no-no-no if you choose to say your ho-ho-hos with green and red envelopes, but the holiday’s most festive colors actually slow down the Christmas mail.

Computers that sort mail using bar codes and addresses have a hard time reading red and green envelopes because of the lack of contrast.

In New York, red and green envelopes are pulled out and put in separate trays for sorting by hand. Elsewhere, computers that can’t sort a piece of mail beam an image of the address to a postal clerk, who keys it in.

``It’s difficult to say whether it will actually slow it down by a delivery day or not, but it will take longer for us to process those red and green envelopes,″ Postal Service spokesman Andrew Sozzi said Tuesday.

Black capital letters on white envelopes are the best, especially from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, when the Postal Service processes about 20 billion pieces of mail.

Sandra Harding, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said the agency upgraded its scanners this year to deal with the estimated 5 billion holiday cards and letters _ mostly handwritten _ that are sent during the Christmas season.

The Postal Service expects to automatically sort a record 25 percent of all handwritten cards and letters, she said.

Card makers are working on the red and green problem with the Postal Service.

``A lot more of them are going with more pastel-type colors. You don’t see as many dark reds and greens as in the past,″ Ms. Harding said.

The nation’s second-largest card company, American Greetings Corp., is using a slightly lighter red than before in response to the problem.

The head of holiday card sales, Michael Woos, said 80 percent to 90 percent of holiday cards the company sells come with colored envelopes _ either red, light blue or off-white. American Greetings doesn’t make green envelopes, he said, because consumers have never shown much interest in them.

For those who want Christmas-colored envelopes and maximum mailability, Sozzi offers a solution: Use a red or green envelope, but print the address on a white label, preferably using capital letters and a computer or typewriter.

``I send mine out so late that it doesn’t matter,″ said Patricia Smith as she affixed holiday stamps to white envelopes at the post office in Rockefeller Center.

Duffy Walter said she mailed red envelopes because that’s what came with the cards she picked out. ``I might try to buy it earlier if I wanted it to get there on time, but if I liked the card, it wouldn’t stop me,″ she said.

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