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Updated Monday, January 17, 2005.

In my experience, delivery times are completely dependent on Canada Post, since there doesn't seem to be any delay in turnarounds. As far as I can tell the companies are getting the DVDs to the postal system on the day they claim (although I almost never get a legible postmark).

Canada Post standards are based on business days (ie. they don't count weekends or statutory holidays). They also don't count the day of mailing, so if you mail something on Monday and it arrives on Wednesday, that is two business day service. Mailing Friday and delivery on Monday would be one day. The lettermail standards are 2 business days for "Local", 3 for "Within Province" and 4 for "National". Since I'm in Yellowknife, even Edmonton might be considered National, but in practice I saw better times from Edmonton than I do from Vancouver. Apparently lettermail from Yellowknife goes to Edmonton, where it is then sorted and forwarded. I'm guessing the experience of people in most non-major centers would be similar - there is going to be a sorting stop in between you and the DVD company which will add a little time that people in major centers may avoid.

Average Shipment Times
Overall Average
to YK
from YK
All rentals (except Edmonton)
3.82 (328)
3.90 (167)
3.75 (161)
3.55 (110)
3.49 (57)
3.62 (53)
3.85 (194)
4.01 (98)
3.69 (96)

As you can see, I'm averaging around 3.7 days per shipment. The problem is that it isn't consistent - a few have been 2 or 3 days, but some take as long as 7. It really makes you want to put a little radio tag in with the DVD and follow them like the bird biologists do - I have no idea what the causes of variation are. In March, I had one DVD mailed from Vancouver on a Friday (the postmark was even legible) show up in my mailbox in Yellowknife on Monday! Obviously it caught everything just right. I've also had a couple of returns back to Ontario leave YK on a Monday and arrive on a Wednesday. There doesn't seem to be much of a difference between Vancouver and Ontario timings, although this may not hold true once there is a larger Ontario sample.

In my limited dealings with Hollyweb in Edmonton, I averaged about 2.5 business day service, reflecting the point to point nature of Yellowknife and Edmonton.

[Feb 24/04] RECTANGULAR Envelopes - I got a note from someone who said he had looked into setting up a DVD rental operation. There is indeed a Canada Post requirement for lettermail to be rectangular - a minimum ratio of 1.3:1 is specified (30% wider than tall). My correspondent writes:

This is interesting, as I researched it quite extensively. Canada post clearly stipulates that envelopes CANNOT be square, but they don't enforce this. The problem with square envelopes is that the automatic sorting machines cannot determine the right orientation of the envelope to send thru the sorting machines. Hence if the machine guesses wrong and cannot read it, the envelope gets ejected and has to be sorted manually by a Canada Post employee WHEN THEY HAVE TIME. I was told this could be every two days during busy times, and very rarely is it manually sorted the same day it was rejected.

However, I see most companies use square envelopes, and hence you can get delays on both the return of a DVD and the replacement. I use a company in Ottawa here and get 2 day service about 50% of the time at best. It is to their detriment to use square envelopes, but I guess many didn't look at the opportunity as closely as I did.

This might explain why I normally get 3-4 business day service to Vancouver, but occasionally hit 6 or 7 days, even on items mailed together. For what it is worth, the CinemaFlow outer mailer has a ratio of 1.36, but the return mailer is squarer at 1.15, so perhaps one occasionally gets rejected by a machine (which might also happen for other reasons, of course). So far, though, there doesn't seem to be any significant difference in times from and back to Vancouver.

ZIP, which seems to have designed their mailers with Canada Post (they have preprinted postage on the outgoing mailer) does indeed have very rectangular envelopes (1.38 ratio both ways), with a square section for the disc and a pocket of dead space to achieve rectangularity.