Email Killing Off The Postal Service's Blue Street-Corner Mailboxes

from the the-decline-and-fall dept

For years, we’ve been hearing stories about how the rise of the mobile phone has helped kill off telephone booths. It seems that technology may be putting the hurt on another street corner icon: the blue post office mailbox. Apparently, with all this email stuff going on, the US Postal Service is removing thousands of the recognizable boxes (apparently they own a copyright on the design). Some have been removed out of worries over being terrorist targets, but most of the 42,000 boxes that have been removed have been due to lack of use. If a mailbox gets less than 25 pieces of mail per day, it’s a candidate for removal. Of course, you have to give the Postal Service some credit, as they seem quite sensitive to the anger that removing these boxes seems to cause. They post a public notice, and it sounds like if enough people protest, they leave the box. While this may seem to conflict with recent stories that talk about how the internet has saved the Postal Service, that’s a different situation. It’s definitely built up the Postal Service’s business in shipping packages. But, the street-corner mailboxes aren’t used for packages — but just first class envelope-mail. So, no more phone booths, and no more mailboxes. What’s next to disappear from our sidewalks and street-corners?

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Email Killing Off The Postal Service's Blue Street-Corner Mailboxes”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Stu says:

I wonder what little old granny and grandpop will do when the box near their home disappears? Theirs may be some of those 25 letters. Do they have to walk or take a bus to mail their monthly bills?
Damn post office was never interested in letters. They make money on bulk mail and packages.
They are not a business – they are a taxpayer supported government service that is supposed to provide a service to all citizens. Not just profitable ones.
Damn! I am sick and tired of the commercialization of our government.

Dam says:

Re: Re:

Stu – the USPS always made their biggest profit on first class mail, It subsidized bulk mail for years. When the USPS became a quasi-private organization, it became illegal for them to run any class of mail at a deficit.

Much of the USPS income is now from standard mail, because first class mail volume has declined so much in recent years. But it’s still a major profit center for them. Every bank and credit card issuer still mail millions of statements each month. Granny’s letters never were a big money maker; commercial first class was and is. Priority Mail letters and parcels are a big money maker too.

Disclosure: I operate a business that uses the USPS for a good deal of our shipping, and that’s because they are efficient and less expensive than the commercial carriers. They ain’t your father’s post office anymore.

RevMike (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I operate a business that uses the USPS for a good deal of our shipping, and that’s because they are efficient and less expensive than the commercial carriers. They ain’t your father’s post office anymore.

For me, the killer service is Priority Mail. It seems that almost every large envelope/package I send isn’t urgent enough for me to send overnight, but I’d rather not wait for it to travel via parcel post either. The cost difference is typically small for small parcels, so Priority Mail is a great service.

Rick says:

Yea you can protest BEFORE they go, but not after. I recently moved into an apartment complex that was renovated. During the yearlong renovation, guess what? Nobody mailed anything in the boxes as 75% of the residents moved out – so the box was removed.

Now we have no secure place for our mail other than a 2 mile trek to the nearest box/post office. I don’t drive. 🙁

Complain? I tried – they could care less. Besides it taking about 30 minutes to even get a local phone number by conning it out of a clueless CSR on the national 800 number you get put on endless hold and redirected from person to person to finally be told they will not put it back.

Once they’re gone, they stay gone.

glitch says:

oh the shame of it all

i lived in a small town for 3 years, and was about 3 football fields from the post office…they did not deliver mail to my side of the street…but did on the other side

so, i moved to my new palce last january…i now live less than 100 yards from the post office..if fthere wasn’t a building on the corner, i could actually see the post office looking out my front door, and again, no mail delivery at the house

first, they say there is no sidewalk, then say there is no place to mount a rural mail box so they could drive up and deliver my mail [althouhg i have a mail truck pagking right next door to me, in a driveway, while the delivery person talks on their cell phone…lol] but i do however get a free post office box, the small size

and there are other problems also…i am one of the few that had always had luck with mail-in rebates…ever read one ??? they will be turned down if you use a PO Box number

add to that trying to order online…the PO has refused to deliver mail addressed to my street address for my debit/credit cards and Fed Ex and UPS can’t deliver to anything but street addresses…lol

the most ridiculus was when i got a post card that DHL couldn’t locate my street address and i had to call and arrange for delivery….and was then told they didnt deliver to home addresses and they would only deliver myt package to the Post Office that served me….even though they had to drive right past my residence to get to the Post Office…roflmao

Josh Maher (user link) says:

comments 1 & 2

Craigslist will catch up and 1 & 2 will disapear in time (don’t ask me what that time is, but some amount of time). Don’t forget they used to hide in houses until they wanted the freedom of the street, eventually the freedom of the internet will prevail.

As for the post office, I always thought they should offer an official type email address that is issued at birth, could be number based (, but if they implemented reputation services, encryption, and signatures…a lot of problems with identity management could be solved and many more official documents could be put online (so long as you used your government issues email address). I haven’t really examined the issue closely (that’s my other time problem), so I’m sure it’s been debated elsewhere. I’d love to hear what you think though, or be pointed to someone who has a good reason why this model would not be feasible.

Computra says:

Did everyone forget you can put a letter in your o

The postman can pickup letters from your own mailbox…….Yes it’s not as “secure” as a post office box, but surely there is one within walking distance. I know in my area they certainly haven’t disappeared. I don’t feel so sorry for the “granny” story….in fact I know alot more grannies that can walk longer distances then most of the overweight younger generations. Remember change is good, and walking is good for you.

Josh Maher (user link) says:

Re: RE: #9

A: of course your mother won’t…by the time you are your mothers age though, will that story be different?

B: ISP’s are irrelevant

C: at $.37 per letter, the cost is not hard to account for…if I never had to buy a stamp again I would pay $.40 at least

D: If UPS and FedEx can successfully dominate over USPS in packages, their cost model drops significantly and a “no office” model would have incredible benefits

Computra says:

Hey glitch

Yes there are about 3 generations that will need to die off before technology will work. I would highly recommend those who still buck it, they should move to communities who use technology sparingly. I have several close by me. They are called the Amish and Meninites (these guys use some technology). Seriously don’t laugh it really does work for some folks!

Email is pretty portable so for the gentleman that used the reason that his relative changes isps more often then socks……

“many people do not realize that there are locations that do not offer home delivery..i go thru this almost everytime i place an online order”

Not sure if you read what I said correctly. You can put a letter in your own mailbox for the postman to pickup. I wasn’t talking about incoming packages. Federal law states the postman has to pickup a letter from your mailbox as long as it has correct postage on it.

glitch says:

attn: Josh

i have a niece b=nd a nephew, and also a younger sister [not the mother to either] who have no computers and none want them, personally, i have given up arguing with them..but that shows that some people will never adopt computers [i have been into comps since the early 80’s]

even if the USPS has their own maiservers, you still need an ISP [i have 3. 2 dial-up and a cable connection]

as far as myself, i would prob adopt to that quickly, but, how long until junk mail permeates the postal service ? and you just cant trust the govt to block out unwanted emailers, esp if they are willing to pay

in the late 1960’s, when i applied for my social security card, i was told to never give that number to anyone and it would never be used for anything excpet thretirement program, now, you cant do anything wiothout a SSN

i personally would love to live long enough to see even a part or your dream come true, but, i am, i guess, a skeptic

glitch says:

I read you, Computra

and times do change..i have no mail box i can use

i aksed the post office if they would deliver to me if i mounted one, and they said NO

i live on one end of a small “city” block…100 yards from a post office, a football field away, i have a bad heart [only a transplant would help] and walk with a cane, and it takes me less than 5 minutes to walk to and from the psot office.

honestly, it is easier for me to walk to the local PO than it would be to drive to it…lol,,,,but they dont advise me tio drive anymore

my younger sister is a nurs and uses a computer at work, and my nieice worls in telemarketing, they just dont want them taht far in to their lives [my niece and nephew will be forced to come around to reality if/when they have kids of thier own]

glitch says:

vince, i did that [and an aside to anoyone else]

and on the rebate check, the PO attached a lime green sticker stating all my mail had top be addressed to the PO Bos, it was
name, street address, PO BOX, city state zip…ya just can’t win…lol

this used to be an issue with me, and i am not making any of it up..but, there are always stupid little goofy “glitches” to most problems…UPS/FedEx need a street address, and the PO requires debit/credit card mailing address to be my PO Box. And DHL needed my street address instead of my PO Box so they could deliver the package to the Post Office ! And i have younger family and friends who dont want to use computers. There are and will always be BUTS

I use a small local bank [across the street from the PO] and they tool care of the debit address, and i started using PayPal more. FedEx Ground, FedEx Express and UPS all have a card with my name, address and phone # taped at ther office, so that was resolved. And as far as the Post Office, if I get anything that is too heavy for me to carry, the janitor calls me when he is either quitting for the day or going to lucnh, and I meet him on the sidewalk and he drops it off [which by USPS regulations, he can’t do] I refuse to deal with DHL, period…

in this town, there is an apartment building at the end of the PO parking lot, that shares a commoe property line, that does not get home mail delivery. that is a reality and government regulations.

tek'a says:

removed boxes

so they are being removed.. where do ya think we could find those boxes? figure 2 or 3 stashed away in a garage for 20 or 30 years would be a great kinda keepsake for family.

“ya see little billy.. back before we had the matter transport system, everything had to be moved by people. see here? this is where a man would come, yes, every day, and pick up piles of letter that had been sitting there for Hours!”

Stu says:

Dam - I'll take your corrections as all true.

Nevertheless, my comment about Granny and the role of the USPS stands. I’ll restate it way down here:
They are not a business – they are a taxpayer supported government service that is supposed to provide a service to all citizens. Not just profitable ones.

BTW, and with sincere respect for the other people here:
Side issues such as which private or public mail/shipping service is best, obscures the important topic at hand, which I see as being the continued distortion of government’s proper role.

Gabriel Weldon says:

The US govt is as corrupt as any other corrupt govt on our planet. Iv’e seen two house where the usps driver either told the howmeowner to move their old mailbox or just flatout refused to deliver the mail. Rain or shine my ass. The usps is just another exmple of a govt job gone to shite as it seems they all have. The ‘govt’ doesn’t care & the workers only work for the pay & don’t care either.
Even so they are the most efficient mail service in the world but sadly are not a service as they were meant to be, but simply another us govt bowl of shite.

WhooTAZ says:

Wanna Pay 2.00 per stamp to mail something?

With the tendencies of GOVT, soon you will be paying 2.00 per stamp if you do not remove some inefficiencies…

I am sure they could do more but to lessen their retirements or health benefits. I doubt that will happen. Thus, 42000 non vastly used blue boxes will be gone….

Supply and Demand are the rule here and for most that doesn’t mean a hill of beans and they B__ch about everything….

WhooTAZ says:


Just think of the mess if there were 100 companies to compete with the USPS! It would wind up costing more money and probably 5 times out of 10 your mail would get lost……

None would be big enough to have a presence in all loactions and thus the had off from one to another company would make a mess of everything and delays would probably coinside.

USPS is a big agency that does a good job for what must get sent and delivered… Indeed there is waste amongst all F Govt agencies but I would not want privateization of the US Mail!

Stu says:

doubledoh - Let there be competition

doubledoh said, “The goddamned govt has no right to monopolize mail service in the first place. Let there be competition.”

Dear doubledoh,

We live in a COUNTRY not a COMPANY.

All the talk of privatizing government functions is great UNTIL PRIVATE INDUSTRY SCREWS YOU.

Then you’ll go running to YOUR (goddamned) GOVERNMENT to save your butt, because the private company providing government functions won’t give damn about you.

Be careful what you wish for.

mr says:

Such a strange mix

Libertarian capitalists on one side, disgruntled socialists on the other!

I guess I’ll come down the middle here.

The USPS, for many reasons, some of which aren’t economic, is probably best kept as a default, semi-monopoly for mail delivery. Yet on the other, technology is moving forward every day, making USPS traditional functions less necessary and attaching a larger opportunity cost to using it every day.

Therefore, obviously people will bitch, but like using taxes as a means to push the market towards desirable results, slowly phasing out USPS services such that it becomes slightly more difficult to use over time insures that old stubborn dogs learn new more efficient and modern tricks.

Yes, there shall be bitching, but it moves us towards greater efficiency (besides, grandma will be dead in the long run, as will we all), and keeping to my libertarian heart, hopefully phasing out the USPS ultimately means tax breaks. 🙂

Oh, and privatizing mail wouldnt mean companies would ‘screw’ us. It’d probably raise quality as long as it was deregulated to a large enough degree. But if it wasn’t, then you’re right, competition wouldn’t really exist. I swear sometimes duopolies and the likes are indeed worse than big malevolent dictator companies/agencies.

Stu says:

Such a strange mix by mr

MR said, “Libertarian capitalists on one side, disgruntled socialists on the other!”
Dear MR,
I appreciate your post. It is thoughtful and meant to add value to our conversation. In that spirit, I would like to make a few friendly comments in reply.

1) Labels (libertarian, socialist, etc) take away from any serious discussion because they carry too much meaning. Everyone has their own interpretation of a what a label means and whether it is positive or negative. All one has to do is read a blog or letters to newspapers to understand the negative impact of labeling. Much better to avoid them.

2) IF I was one of those you labeled a “disgruntled socialist”, let me tell you just a little of my background.
Enlisted in the US Army at 18 years of age, served as an air traffic controller. Worked in offices, then business equipment system sales for a gigantic company. Worked as a salesman for small business equipment dealerships, then became a partner in one. Worked in the software industry. Started several reasonably successful businesses in other fields, including IT, internet sites, graphics, business system consulting (analysis and recommendation type consulting). Sold them and retired for a while. Now the IT manager for a business owned by my nepwhew. I’m not a socialist – I’m a capitalist. Not a stubborn dog – old maybe :))

3) The USPS has to change to meet changing conditions, and over the years they’ve gotten better at it. I have nothing against FedEx , Airborne or UPS being in the market. I use them every day, along with the USPS. The opportunity cost/benefit choice is mine. Governent should not remove that choice, and that includes taking away the corner mail boxes.

4) There are some services that governments simply must provide. We take them for granted to such a degree that they become invisible, and therefore, undervalued. If they disappeared we couldn’t function or have the opportunities we have now. Everyone takes all the credit for their own success; but they could not have achieved the same successes in countries that didn’t offer the same environment – including certain government services.

5) Grandma and grandpop will be dead in the long run, as you say; but you will be grandma/grandpop then – and alive. I hope we don’t permanently run out of old folks, don’t you?

6) When talking about the benefits of deregulation, I ask that you read history (and the daily newspapers) to learn why these regulations were passed. They didn’t come about in a vacuum due to mistaken ideological goals. They usually came into being due to an abuse of some sort – they were needed. There has to be a balance, but, in the end a person has to count on the government for protection. Where else can one go? Look at any industry: legitimate insurance claims denied, auto safety, Enron, spinach, etc.. The list is long and the need will never go away because conditions change and human nature unfortunately doesn’t.

7) About tax breaks. I love them and take all I’m entitled to; but the constant harping about taxes is a political tactic, and misleading. US citizens and US corporations, pay among the lowest taxes in the developed world. Not low enough? Compared to what?

What’s the price per gallon of bottled water? “In 2004, total U.S. consumption of bottled water 6.8 Billion gallons, an 8.6% advance over 2003?s volume level. That translates into an average of 24.0 gallons per person.” (Source: Beverage Marketing Corporation)
I don’t hear people complain about it because it is not a tax. They pay HOW MUCH?? for WHAT?? (pardon me but WTF!!!)

We live in a country – government has legitimate service providing functions that must not be evaluated by profit or loss, or privatized – we need taxes – get over it. PS: you hate waste and so do I.

My thanks to anyone who got this far.

Susan F. Heywood (user link) says:

USPS future is in packages

Although, I didn’t identify with the two paradigms listed, I do know quite a bit about mail and electronic marketing, and from that perspective did want to defend the USPS.

Basing perceptions of the viability of the USPS on the mail that is sent using the blue boxes would be like saying that Western Union would not be able to survive without its telegram business.

The USPS is more proactive in strategic planning, farther along in implementing online technology and more consistently efficient in executing to its plan than many private companies taxpayers have had to bail out.

Having worked with direct mail for the last couple of decades, I can say that there have been major changes in the USPS strategy as I most recently commented on last January in my blog.

Focusing on the small package market with flat rate priority mail and special seller services has been very effective in capturing the revenue, not from the bill paying that is replaced by online payments, but from the more profitable package business generated from Online ordering that is growing in use.

The USPS has not stood still as the electronic world has developed, either. The USPS leverages technology in its marketing and uses a combination of Online and traditional direct mail, as well as advertising in trade publications like DM News to make small to medium sized businesses aware of the advantages of shipping USPS.

Adding electronic services to its market offering and providing supplemental services to other carriers such as Airborne are two more ways the Postal Service has expanded the number of revenue streams from which it can draw profits, now and in the future.

If USPS were allowed to operate without the constant challenge and constraint of Senate budget machinations, it would be profitable.

Chris says:

This is old old news in some areas...

In fact, after 9/11, they removed the boxes on my street citing ‘safety reasons’…like a terrorist would be so put out that he couldn’t toss anthrax in my box he would just give up rather than do the extra 4 blocks to the post office.

The boxes have been disappearing since 9/11 around here. I suspect it’s always been about the post office saving money even back then.

Anonymous Coward says:

Being a former mail carrier, I was always told that the USPS only relied on the U.S. Gov. to bail it out in times of emergency, like the anthrax equip. it had to buy a few years ago. Otherwise, the USPS is supported primarily by the postage you pay, and they are just preventing postage hikes through increased efficiency in this case. Afterall, mail workers have to go out and physically pick up mail from those boxes every day of the work week. 42,000 boxes=tons of man hours throughout the work week.

Stu says:

KAP Please read #

KAP Please read #44 for the heart of the problem, from my humble viewpoint. It’s framed as a reply to MR’s post – #33.

Also #52 from a USPS employee has some good info.

I believe Ashley is correct that the USPS is “semi-privatized”, getting subsidies under certain conditions.

However, as interesting as the posts have been, I believe the main issue was the removal of a service that many citizens find essential.

For that subject, I ask people to read my post #44 – specifically items 4, 5 and the final paragraph.

Thank you all.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...