Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 by Peter Sciretta
Why Are The Netflix Envelopes Rectangular Instead of Square? It’s not a question I’ve ever wondered before, but it is still a good one. Any Netflix subscriber has received and mailed hundreds of those red rectangular envelopes. Wouldn’t making the envelope square save the company a ton of money in production, never-mind save a bunch of trees in the process? That’s my first thought. Fidn out the answer after the jump.
Rakesh Agrawal answered this exact question on the social question and answer site Quora. Here is his answer:
Square envelopes mailed at first class rates incur a 20 cent per piece surcharge because they are considered nonmachinable. That would steeply increase postage costs. Doing simple math on Netflix: How much does Netflix spend on postage each year?, it would cost Netflix an extra $225MM to $270MM a year. If you buy a square greeting card, the envelope often has a note that extra postage is required. The inference is that postal service sort equipment needs a long edge to ensure that it can correctly read address information. There has been a longstanding controversy within the USPS about Netflix return mail pieces causing machines to jam because of the leading floppy edge. If you Google it, you can find a long inspector general report on the topic. They found that at some sort facilities postal workers will just pull Netflix envelopes out of the mail stream manually. (Good thing they’re bright red!)
So there you have it.