Yes, I am a mailman…
10 basic things we should all know about our mail, but most of us don’t.
In the United States, if you have an address, you get mail. Whether you have a small box on your front porch, a huge box on a post at the end of your long driveway, a post office box that you rent, or something in between, a postal employee delivers your mail to you six days a week. The following is a list of things every person who has ever licked a stamp or received a birthday card should know.
Where is my mail?
If you are planning to move or have just moved, there are two things you should do to ensure your mail is coming with you. Submit a change of address form, either online or pick up one at your local post office. You can also get one from your mail carrier. You need to have a separate form for each different last name for members of your household, including maiden names if you are still getting mail addressed that way. If only a part of the household is moving, individual forwards for each person is the best way to go. You don’t want to be forwarding your parents mail along with yours when you finally move your wife and six kids out of Dad’s basement. Remember that forwards can take up to two weeks to process so get it in early. Remember, junk mail won’t be forwarded. If you want to keep getting that clothing catalog you like, contact them directly. The second thing you should do is contact the post office for your new address and have the carrier informed that you are moving in and when, particularly if you are building a new home. The construction bills start coming early.
They haven’t lived here in ten years!
We all get junk mail or mail that has someone else’s name on it. Take a second to really look at it before you angrily return it with a fiery scribble or no explanation at all. Look at your mail carefully for the terms “John Doe or current occupant”, “resident”, “boxholder”, or “postal customer”. The mailer is paying to have that mail delivered to your address and your mail carrier has no choice but to deliver it. If you don’t want it, just recycle it. As far as other unsolicited mail that doesn’t come with a stamp or marked first class, you can’t send it back unless you put more postage on it. Recycling is an easier and less expensive way to deal with that box full of mail. Junk mail pays the postal service’s bills.
I keep getting my neighbors phone bill!
There could be anywhere from 250 to 600 plus addresses on the route you live on or more. Your mail carrier must sort that mail and then pack it all up and deliver it. Mistakes happen. If you get mail that isn’t yours and it doesn’t say “or current resident” then put it back out in the box and put the flag up. A note of explanation to your carrier is always very helpful. Some people move and never put in a change of address. Some addresses or names might be very similar and the mail just gets missorted. The mail carrier might think this mail belongs to you or a family member and is attempting deliver. Mail tends to stick together and get overlooked. If a problem persists, contact your post office. Your mail carrier wants to know what is happening so it can be corrected. It could be that the new guy delivering on Saturdays isn’t paying attention or just doesn’t know he is making a mistake.
You know which house is yours, but does anyone else?
You can help to make it easier for the mail carrier to deliver the right mail. Clearly mark your mailbox so the carrier knows it is yours. The best place to display your address is on the front of the cover or the side they see as they approach. Remember that snow and shrubs can obscure even a clearly marked box so try to keep your number visible. If you live in an area where the houses are close together and the boxes are clustered, display your house number proudly. If you live at 903 Elm St, you don’t want your Christmas presents delivered to 905 because no one has an address on the front of their house or worse, they are all covered by holiday decorations.
A little Raid goes a long way.
Warmer months bring insects. Your mailbox can be the ideal living space for spiders, silverfish, hornets, wasps, and bees. If you have an unused paper box attached to your post, holes in your box, your cover doesn’t fit securely, or flowers and shrubs planted around the base, then you should be aware of insects. Many people are allergic to stings or deathly afraid of spiders. If your box is starting to look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, get some bug spray.
The lost art of shoveling.
Winter brings its own set of challenges. If your mail carrier can’t get at your box, you are not getting your mail. Shovel, especially after the snowplow has been through. If you can’t drive up to your box and reach out your window to get your mail then your carrier can’t either. If your mailbox is on your house and you just reach out the door and grab your mail, be mindful of the poor person who must walk up your sidewalk and climb your front steps. No one wants to fall on their backside and end up on YouTube. Shovel your snow, salt or sand the ice, and never miss a delivery.
Fido won’t bite, he’s all bark.
Said every dog owner ever whose dog has bitten or chased a mail carrier. Most dogs don’t like strangers and the mail carrier falls into that category. Some dogs love everyone and must jump, jump, jump to make sure all are aware. Whatever type of dog you have, if Fido is loose in the yard and the carrier feels threatened by growling or raised hair, chances are you are going to be making a trip to the Post Office to get Johnny’s birthday box from Aunt Mildred. An even bigger disaster would be if Fido is a Chihuahua and likes to follow people and chase cars. Please know where your pets are and be aware of their safety as well as your carrier’s.
It’s not a box, it’s a work of art!
That may be, but is it functional? Your mailbox should be more about protecting your mail and accommodating the volume of mail you receive than about a statement to the neighbors that you love fish. If your box is old and tilting to the side with rust holes and the cover hasn’t closed properly since that snow plow incident two winters ago, you really should replace it. Your box needs to protect your mail from the weather and close securely. The flag should work and your address should be clearly visible. Another overlooked but very important factor is size. If you are a frequent online shopper or you get a large quantity of magazines or catalogues then you should invest in a larger sized mail box. If that plow takes it out again and you have to reset the post, contact your post office for height requirements.
A post office on wheels.
Your mail carrier doesn’t only deliver mail to you, but picks up items to be mailed as well. Remember the red flag on your box? It doesn’t matter if you put it out for the mailman, drive it to the corner to the blue collection box, or take it to the window at the post office; it will get where it is going at the same time. Generally, mail is collected from each post office in the evening and taken to a sorting facility to get it on its way. No matter where you mailed it from, it is going to end up in the same truck. Your mail carrier can deliver stamps to you, just leave your order and payment in the box. Your mail carrier can pick up your etsy or ebay shipments, just go online and schedule a prepaid pickup. If you want to send a birthday card to your cousin’s sister’s nephew in the UK, you can look up postage rates online. And remember, put your return address on items you send out. Sorting machines have been known to mutilate mail, stamps fall off, things get wet and addresses are unreadable, the list goes on. If it can’t be delivered, you at least want it back. If it is important, pay a little extra for a tracking number. If your Christmas gift cards end up in Alaska because you put the wrong zip code on them, you would like to know that as soon as possible I imagine.
Why are you so late? The other guy gets here way before this!!
Ideally, your mail should be delivered at roughly the same time every day. Ideally. In a perfect world. There are many factors to keep in mind before getting upset that your Publisher’s Clearing House entry form is late and you start looking up the number to call and complain. Weather is always a factor; everyone drives and walks slower when it is snowing, raining, windy, or icy outside. Not everyone can power walk a ten-mile route in a ninety-five-degree heat wave. Some days mail is much heavier than others and your carrier spends more time sorting or making more trips to other people’s doors. Mondays and the day after a holiday are perfect examples of this. Every day from Halloween to New Year’s as well! Most postal installations are shorthanded, particularly on Saturdays or around the holiday season. Your carrier might be unfamiliar with your route or perhaps they are having to carry multiple routes that day. Be patient. It is coming.
If you keep these simple things in the back of your mind, you can develop a wonderful working relationship with your mail carrier. Besides your deadbeat brother, your carrier is the only person that comes to your house every single day. When you are excited about a delivery, you make their day. When you take the time and make the effort to make their job a bit easier, they are grateful and never mind going that extra step in return. Cookies in the mailbox help too.
For more information about anything and everything postal, contact your local post office or visit http://www.usps.com. Don’t forget the cookies!