US Postal Service Sends Postage Due Bill To Guy Who Put Block Party Invites Into Neighbors' Mailboxes

from the usps-desperation dept

US Postal Service’s (USPS) desperation is beginning to show. We already noted its new ad campaign that seems to focus much more on how bad email is, rather than on any additional value provided by the USPS. But now, it appears that the USPS is cracking down on illicit use of its mailboxes. As you may or may not know, under US law, home mailboxes (even though they’re purchased by the homeowner) are technically property of the USPS, and it’s actually against the law to put anything other than US mail with proper postage in a mailbox. But it’s one of those laws that just isn’t enforced very often. Lots of folks put things in mailboxes directly. For example… neighbors organizing a street-wide event.

But, apparently, the USPS has had enough of that. After discovering that a family in Connecticut planned a Halloween blockparty by putting invites into their neighbors’ mailboxes, the USPS sent the family a bill for postage.

“One Monday I had a note it is illegal to put these in mailboxes. Day 2 I had a bill for assumed 80 in the box, times 44 cents for the stamp,” the father, Jeff, told WFSB. “I haven’t paid it yet. I’m trying to have the conversation that no one is willing to have.”

At least they’re not seeking fines as well. But is this really a particularly good use of the USPS’s time?

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Comments on “US Postal Service Sends Postage Due Bill To Guy Who Put Block Party Invites Into Neighbors' Mailboxes”

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147 Comments
Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re: usps can solve its woes

They just need to apply the logic that many other companies are using: if people are willing to buy their products, then they can increase their profits proportionately simply by increasing the price.

Then when people find ways around it they simply have to pay the government to pass draconian laws that prohibit that behavior, and increase their prices more.

And when more people break the law just pass more laws that are more draconian and raise prices again.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Because this is America, and our motto is “If that doesn’t work, do more of the same.”

But having presumably gotten $3520 out of this guy, if they manage to do that, and assuming it doesn’t cost them anything to do so (not the case, but hypothetically), what good do they think it will do in the long run? They’ve just alienated a customer, who may eschew USPS as much as he can from now on, and probably a lot of his neighbors when they hear about it. And friends and family. And people reading this article and others, aside from the trolls, shills, and corporate apologists. Certainly next time he distributes anything like this he’ll leave it on their porches or stick it in their doors.

And what happens as this repeats around the country, again and again? Even if they win every case, they turn people against their cause.

Hey, I can help. A credit card company recently pissed me off and I decided to go with paper bills until I can pay them off and destroy the card. I went paper because I decided I wanted to cost them as much as possible in the interim. (Yeah, I can be petty. But they cost ME money.) Well, if I decide I dislike the USPS more, I can log in and tick a box, and presto! there’s one less letter a month for them to carry. And the CC co. still gets to lose my business in the long run.

If 80 people do that with all their bills, how much did the USPS make from charging one guy for 80 letters?

The USPS needs to find new ways to be relevant. Diversify. Improve and extend their package delivery, for example. Shipping bits can be done electronically, but shipping atoms still takes people and trucks. I don’t know what or how, but that’s not my problem. I just know that beating up kids for their lunch money isn’t the answer.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Who owns mailboxes?

I think it’s the same logic as the music collection agencies we’ve read about recently. They can’t imagine that someone else could provide the service they exist to charge for, let alone for free, so they fine anyone with the audacity to do so. It doesn’t matter that the fine will put people off using their services or that no sale they would be entitled to has been lost.

It’s early days yet perhaps, but they seem to be headed down the same road. Another industry whose death throes consists of attacking customers and filing lawsuits, while others service the customers they alienate.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Who owns mailboxes?

It’s part of the USPS’s monopoly protections, this is why UPS and Fedex can’t deliver anything to your mailbox.

I can’t find my original source but I believe the USPS also has the power to prevent UPS and Fedex from undercutting their prices (or in other words set’s the minimum price they can charge)

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

> I can’t find my original source but I believe the USPS also has the
> power to prevent UPS and Fedex from undercutting their prices

The source is the US Constitution:

Article I, Section 8, Congress shall have the power… to establish post offices and post roads.

The Supreme Court has interpreted that clause to mean the federal government has a postal monopoly and can dictate the extent (if any) that private entities may engage in mail delivery.

So yes, Congress (via the USPS) could legally prevent any other company from undercutting prices, providing certain mail delivery services, or even from operating at all if they wanted to.

Basically, FedEx, UPS, etc. operate at the pleasure of the federal government. It’s a unique situation that applies only to the mail delivery industry.

There’s been quite a bit of debate in legal circles about the extent of the postal monopoly and whether it applies only to physical mail or whether even email is covered under USPS constitutional authority. My guess is that if it ever was challenged, the Supreme Court would likely rule that email is an entirely different thing and not covered, but that’s just me.

pr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

We once got a bizarre memo at work stating that if we sent a letter by FedEx, but it wasn’t urgent, we had to put it in another envelope inside the FedEx envelope and put a USPS stamp on it.

That’s right, you can send a letter by FedEx if it’s urgent, since that’s not covered by the USPS monopoly. If it’s not urgent, they will graciously let FedEx deliver it (at their full price) but it has to have a stamp on it, too.

I suspect the compliance rate was near 100%. (plus or minus 1.)

Spaceboy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

What if I made my own box and put it outside my home? If I didn’t purchase an ‘official’ box but made my own, would that be a way around this nonsense?

Also, on the same note, is there any law preventing someone from say, starting a company that made these ‘parcel boxes’ that could be placed outside their homes for any delivery service to use?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

What if I made my own box and put it outside my home? If I didn’t purchase an ‘official’ box but made my own, would that be a way around this nonsense?

My understanding of the law (remembered, no citation) is as long as the box meets USPS requirements and receives mail, it’s their property.

is there any law preventing someone from say, starting a company that made these ‘parcel boxes’ that could be placed outside their homes for any delivery service to use?

I can’t see why there would be so long as the “Others” box had no functionality with USPS at all. If it’s not for USPS use it’s out of their jurisdiction.

Of course, where I live that piece of hardware already exists: We call it a porch. 🙂

FarSide (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

Out here in the rural areas, newspapers will put up a small box under the mailbox so you can have your newspaper delivered in a dry place.

I don’t see why you couldn’t put up a UPS box, but who knows – maybe the papers have to pay a licensing fee or some other such nonsense.

I’d like to see someone put up a no-mail box, and then cause a stink when the usps puts somethin in it..

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who owns mailboxes?

No they don’t pay a fee. The seperate box is the way they get around the law preventing papers from being put in the mail box. It is stupid and archaic but that is the way it is.

It would be nice if we could have one box in front of our house to get all deliveries in regardless of delivery method, but it will take a lot of effort from the federal government to make that possible.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

What if I made my own box and put it outside my home? If I didn’t purchase an ‘official’ box but made my own, would that be a way around this nonsense?

No. The USPS does not technically own your mailbox, but there are laws that make them *effectively* own it. If you build your own and use it for USPS first class mail delivery, those rules kick into play. You can, of course, take it down anytime you like and it’s entirely yours again.

Also, any mailbox you build has to conform to USPS design regulations in order to be used for delivery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

Does that mean that they have to pay the mortgage associated with my mail slot? If so, they owe me quite a lot of money, though I am willing to take the downtown post office as partial compensation.

Please tell them that I’ll be there at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning for the keys.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who owns mailboxes?

I’ll quote from a comment from the original article:

An interesting document from the Government Accountability Office:
http://www.gao.gov/archive/1997/gg97085.pdf states “The Postal Service believes that this law, generally called the ?mailbox restriction,? is needed to protect postal revenue, facilitate efficient and secure delivery of mail, and promote the privacy of postal customers.” (primarially aimed at UPS & FedEx)

They also quoted the law in question:

18 USC ? 1725. Postage unpaid on deposited mail matter
Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.

Thanks, Rachacha.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Who owns mailboxes?

Does the USPS own people’s mailboxes?

Basically yes.

30 years ago in a moment of youthful indiscretion, I was caught with a car load of friends playing “mailbox baseball” (we grand-slammed an off-duty sheriff’s neighbor’s mailbox – how stupid were we?). I was issued a felony ticket for “malicious destruction of federal property”. Luckily, the judge took pity and I was ordered to pay restitution and court costs, but the judge withheld judgment – so no permanent record.

So yeah, mailboxes are actually federal property.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who owns mailboxes?

Yes they do own the access to your official mailbox. The law says that only you and they may put anything into or take anything out of it. Thus you will see an additional box under many, to received delivery of newspapers or notices.
It was written this way to protect your mail, and it is a federal offence which could result in jail time. He was fortunate it was just a bill.

Drizzt says:

WTF?!?

As you may or may not know, under US law, home mailboxes (even though they’re purchased by the homeowner) are technically property of the USPS, and it’s actually against the law to put anything other than US mail with proper postage in a mailbox.

RLY?!? How broken is that? If I’d install a letter box I don’t own it? How are non-USPS people supposed to get a message to me, when I’m not at home? Well, we’ve a lot of ridiculous laws over here, but this one is a whole different class.

P. says:

Re: WTF?!?

As a former paperboy… Yes the mail box is bought by the homeowner but owned by the USPS. You cannot put anything in it unless it is mail to/from the USPS (can’t put papers in it). The Newspaper companies put out their own boxes, or place the paper on the door step etc. Damaging the mailbox is a federal offense, since it’s owned by the USPS.

UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc all ring the bell, and leave packages at the door step.

abc gum says:

Why doesn’t the USPS just raise the rates and stop whining. If an increase in postal rates requires congressional approval and congress can not get that accomplished, then let’s apply the criticism to where it belongs. This infighting amongst the wage slaves has to stop, it is the very successful divide and conquer strategy being applied here.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Think about this. Imagine a world where everyone could put anything in your mail box. It would be filled with even more endless crap. That’s why it is illegal and has been illegal for decades for anyone but the USPS to put stuff in your mail box.

This is a complete non-story. Of course the USPS demands payments when people and businesses violate the law. Every so often a pizza place or some direct marketer thinks they can get away with it, and sometimes they do. But when they don’t, they have to pay.

Anyone who feels sorry for this guy, please send me your address. I’ll fill it up with crap and then we’ll see if you change your mind.

martyburns (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In NZ anyone can put anything into your letterbox. When I was younger I used to deliver advertising pamphlets as an after school job.

If people didn’t want to receive them they put a ‘No cirulars’ or a ‘No junk mail’ sign on their letterbox and I wouldn’t deliver to those ones.

It was easily enforced as you could just complain to the company OR the council – the council would tell the company to smarten up and they would abide as they didn’t want annoyed [potential] customers. This would trickle back to me via the delivery company I worked for.

Ive never heard of anyone complainging about this way of doing things and it means people can still pop their invites or lost puppy flyers sa they please.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 14th, 2011 @ 5:16am

Take down your mailbox if you don’t like USPS property in your yard. Problem solved.

However, be forewarned. If you have anything that fits within the regulation of a mailbox, the letter carrier will deliver your mail to that receptacle (and it becomes your mailbox, and immediately gets the mailbox restrictions.) If you do not have anything like that on your property, then the letter carrier will return your mail to the post office where it will be held for a short period before being returned to sender. They will not tell you that they are holding your mail, so you’ll have to go to the post office daily for pickup. Standing at the long lines at the post office or waiting for a long period while the post office “finds” your mail might make this get old…but at least you don’t have their property on your property.

My sister lives in a rural location where the post office won’t deliver to her house. She has to drive to the post office daily to pick up her mail…but luckily she falls under the limited 4.9.3b category and they give her a free post office box to deliver her mail to. Sucks when she has a company that won’t send mail to a P.O. Box though.

Funny thing, UPS and FedEx have no problem delivering to her house though.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 14th, 2011 @ 5:16am

If you do not have anything like that on your property, then the letter carrier will return your mail to the post office where it will be held for a short period before being returned to sender.

I have a mailbox on my front porch, next to the inside door. Several times, when there’s been a substitute mail carrier, they’ve simply opened the outside door and thrown the mail on the floor of the porch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Surely there are better mechanisms to deal with mail spamming? Mechanisms that don’t trap innocent people like the guy in the story?

The way I see it, if a pizza place spams your mailbox, they are only hurting themselves: Would you go eat at a place that fills your mailbox with ads every day? Also, it costs them money to spam you in real life, unlike in cyberspace, so they won’t.

“Anyone who feels sorry for this guy, please send me your address. I’ll fill it up with crap and then we’ll see if you change your mind.”

This isn’t very smart. Would you be willing to travel across the country just to make a point?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, instead we live in a world where fliers get taped to your door, taped on your mailbox, wedged in place by the flag, tied to your door handle, dumped on your stoop, pinned under your lawn furniture and placed under the wind-shield wiper of your car. But thank god the mailbox doesn’t get any off it!

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Anyone who feels sorry for this guy, please send me your address. I’ll fill it up with crap and then we’ll see if you change your mind.”

You will? How are you going to get all that crap here? Remember, no using the USPS.

That’s the point. What businesses today are going to choose a print marketing campaign that requires legions of paid workers goose-stepping to everyone’s mailboxes and illegally putting something inside…as opposed to just starting an email blast?

Bill (profile) says:

This isn't New or 'Rarely Enforced'

Several of my siblings work for the USPS in various Chicago Suburbs, and after asking them about this story, they said that, while usually only enforced against businesses (think lawn service that blankets a neighborhood with fliers), they usually pull out the ‘offending fliers’ and send them back to the company postage due.

They haven’t heard of/done it to community block parties, (and I’m not defending this) but it seems to be a well established, well used part of the law.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: This isn't New or 'Rarely Enforced'

I agree, when I was with UPS, we often had to ransom a package that a newbie had deposited in a mailbox, and the carrier had taken back to the post office. The mail boxes are theirs and theirs alone, that is just a fact of delivery in the US. Not really hard to cope with, why should the USPS give up a federally guaranteed competitive advantage?

Greg G (profile) says:

Re: This isn't New or 'Rarely Enforced'

Anecdotal stories of this happening in one general location (Chicago suburbs) don’t mean it happens everywhere.

My parents neighborhood has individual mailboxes and people are always using them for personal things like block or birthday parties, lost pets, etc.

I live in neighborhood that has those mailbox banks and they are locked, so we can’t get anything that doesn’t come through the USPS in our boxes. So if people want to distribute hardcopy invitations or lost pet notices, they have to do so by canvassing the neighborhood and sticking them to our doors.

Or, better yet. Just use email. USPS is pricing themselves out by constantly raising postage rates anyway. I can’t remember the last thing I mailed or shipped. The last time I had to use a stamp, it was 30?.

Would I miss the USPS if they went away? No, can’t say that I would. My paper shredder would get a break, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why didn’t the guy just stick the flyers in people’s front doors or something like that.

Who doesn’t know that it’s illegal to peruse someone else’s mailbox. I’ve known that since I was a kid. Where I was grew up, we didn’t worry so much about people putting things you didn’t want in the mailbox, it was people taking things that you did want out of the mailbox. Either way, hands off the mailbox.

SpencerMatthewP says:

The truth, who owns the mailbox

This is way down here, so I doubt any one will see it.

The truth is USPS does not own the mailbox itself. That is the property of the person who bought the mailbox. USPS owns the space inside the box. I realize it’s splitting hairs, but it is important.

You can paint your box any color, decorate it however you want. It can be any shape or size you want. However, you cannot use the space inside the box without authorization.

That’s also why bashing mailboxes is a felony. It compromises the space inside the box. If you do it, better hope you don’t get caught because it’s not just one charge. It’s one charge for each box you bash.

Any way…. Gotta get back to work.

technomage (profile) says:

Re: The truth, who owns the mailbox

Technically, and from experience, bashing mailboxes is only a class 1 misdemeanor, destruction of private property. It is if there is anything inside the box, that it gets raised to felony charges, destruction of federal property. This can also get compounded to tampering with US Mail, which is also a felony.

At least that was the way it was in Virginia, 21 years ago.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re: The truth, who owns the mailbox

So, if I turn the mailbox inside-out the USPS owns the universe?

Except the space now inside the box, yes.

Please don’t do that. The Galactic Collective had a hell of a job fixing it last time that happened. They had to get the Time Corps to go back in time and prevent it, and we’re still seeing probability ripples from the resulting disruption of the space/time continuum.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The truth, who owns the mailbox

“USPS owns the space inside the box.”

I have a mail slot in the door, and therefore there is no space for USPS to own, but much of my junk mail gets eaten by the dog.

Does that mean USPS owns the inside of my dog’s stomach? If so, they are welcome to take possession of those contents, though I’d recommend they use one of their waterproof priority/express mail envelopes for delivery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I guess the USPS owns my front door, because we have a mail slot and no mailbox.

I would say, after reading through the posts so far, that the USPS owns everything on your side of the slot since technically the slot makes your home the mailbox. Just hope they don’t decide to charge you postage for the entire contents of their box!

loki_racer (profile) says:

Federal law

Federal law prevents anyone but the resident or assigned USPS route employee from touching any part of the mailbox. This includes the flag, the post, the door, etc.

This isn’t some government scheme to create a monopoly.

It’s to stop asshats from dropping 9,000 flyers on your mailbox. If they want to mail me, buy a stamp. In my old neighborhood people would drive through the neighborhood and stuff flyers under the flag on the mailboxes. Then 10 minutes later, there would be flyers all over everyone’s yards.

I worked from home and could see my mailbox from my office desk. Anytime I would see someone doing this, I would take a photo of them, print the photo, get the flyer, and stick both in an envelop marked “Deliver to Postmaster”.

The postmaster then estimates the number of flyers illegally delivered and bills the person. This is a courteous. The other option is that person being tried for breaking a federal law.

I’m all about small government, but I support this law 100%.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Federal law

Yes, and at the same time you have people who wind up with this crap all over the place because people can’t put it in the box. People who are physically disabled and unable to chase the trash all over the yard because some snooty asshat had to complain about a damn flyer they’d throw away even if it had postage on it.

(No, I don’t support this law.)

ASTROBOI says:

USPS owns lotsa stuff you don't realise.....

Ever get a package with the box all printed up with “Priority Mail” logos and the post office trademarks and such? Well that box “belongs” to the post office. They feel that its their own little cardboard box and even if it’s sent to you and has your name on it, it still belongs to them. So you can put something else in it and clean it up and stick a new label on the box and mail it but you cannot use the box to hold nuts and bolts and some people even say you can’t discard it! Technically you must bring it back to a post office for proper disposal. I have a problem with that last one but that’s what some folks say. I once sent a book in a Priority Mail vhs box that had been lying around my place for years, but turned inside out so I could send it the cheaper book rate. Some clerk with way too much time figured it out and had it sent TO ME. That is they still delivered it but to me instead of the indicated recipient. They didn’t mind doing the work, burning the gas for their little truck, as long as they subverted my ghastly plan to use the box. BTW, following that incident I ordered several cartons of various sized priority boxes and now all my hardware is neatly arranged in my workshop, all in identical sized boxes. Er…waiting to be shipped when I sell the stuff…of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here in Sweden you get mail, newspapers, advertising pamphlets, flyers and small packages in your mailbox.
Lot of people put up a “No Advertisment” though, and it works.
If none but the postal service could use your mailbox would be impractical. We have snow in winters.

Ps
Can’t you put up a second mailbox with the sign “For non USPS usage only”?

Anonymous Coward says:

The guy could have avoided the whole mess by simply taping the notice to peoples doors, or using a rubber band to connect the notice to the doorknob. That’s the reason he doesn’t get all those lawn service, tree service, pool service and pest control solicitations in his mail box , instead they appear on the door.

This guy is a world class idiot! Everyone knows it’s illegal to use mailboxes for anything other than mail.

freak (profile) says:

I find it hard to believe there are people who would defend USPS this way.

(Just to join the chorus), up here, in Canada, we have no such laws, (that I’ve ever heard of), and there really aren’t any problems. As it happens, it’s cheaper, (and more effective), for companies to use the local flyer printing service than to print & deliver themselves, so once a week, I get a yellow bag full of fliers in the mailbox that goes directly into recycling.
I’ve never been around while the flier boy is delivering, but if I were, I could tell him to stop delivering to my house and that’d be that.

And surely if someone does something mischievous, like stuff a mailbox full or use it to store slugs or something, I’m sure there are other laws that have nothing specifically to do with mailboxes that can be used to punish the person responsible.

Jimr (profile) says:

Lucky I do not have a mail box.
We have a large outdoor mail box container at the end of the street on the very busy road. That is the new trend around here to save money. No longer door service just close to your block. This way the mail person can drive down the busy main streets and stop (blocking all traffic) and fill everyone’s mail boxes in the area in about 5 minutes.

rstr5105 (profile) says:

Your Account is Past Due.

So it may need some editing, but…

To: PostMaster, {Your Hometown}
From:{Name, Address}

This is an official notice that your account is past due. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has an easement upon my property located at {address}, over the course of time, the USPS has blatently ignored my repeated requests to not deliver mail belonging to A:)Former Residents of said property, or B)Mailings addressed to one Current Resident.

As such, it is my duty to inform you that as of {date}, there will be a new rental fee for your use of my property located at {address}. This fee is for the involuntary easement upon my property for the placement of your “Mailbox”. This rental fee will apply from {date} to {date} at which point, you may either A) Renew your lease for said rental fee, or B) Renew your lease for free via written agreement to no longer deliver circulars to {address}.

You may also continue leasing said property to host your “Mailbox” for free by signing an agreement that explicitly states the USPS shall no longer deliver mail to {address} that is either addressed to A) Previous tenants of said property, or B) “Current Resident”.

Unfortunately in this economic climate, the necessity for this rental fee has become unavoidable.

Should you have any questions about your bill please feel free to contact me at:

XXX-XXX-XXXX

Thank you,
{Current Resident}

Gracey says:

So, this makes me wonder.

Instead of a “mail” box you bought and paid for and installed (which you don’t own?) – what about mail slots in your door? That’s what our old house had…no mail box, just a slot labeled “mail”…do they own that too?

We did buy a “mail box” (which we paid for, have the receipt for too…it is ours, NOT the postal service’s) and installed it all by our little ole selves. We taped a plastic sign to it that says “newspapers”.

Finally had to tape a second sign to it: “This is not a mailbox…please use the slot labeled “MAIL”.

Ed C. says:

Wait, the postage isn’t for the cost of their entire fleet of trucks and mail carriers, but for space in letterboxes? In that case, I should get to charge the companies that send junk mail for the space in my trash bin.

Seriously, the last time I registered a “change of address” for their 1 year forwarding service, I starting getting junk mail within a day or so with my new address. That’s right, no forwarding labels, my new address that no one else other than the post office and my landlord had was printed on the envelops and cards! Later, someone sent a package to my old address, so I contacted the new tenant. She gave my the package and a stack of envelopes. None of them had been marked for forwarding, and the post dates went back to 1 1/2 months after the 1 year forwarding service began! About all I get is junk mail anyways, so I don’t even bother registering my new address with the post office anymore. Now it just takes a bit longer.

Anonymous Coward says:

what if there is no "space inside my box" ?

my slot goes straight into my house. mail collects on the floor in my living room. am i to understand that the USPS considers the inside of my home their property? the inside of my mailbox is essentially my entire home.

seriously when taken to the limit, this notion that the USPS owns your mailbox space is absurd. whats the difference between my mail slot that goes into my home, and an open window? it doesnt take a great leap of critical thinking to realize that the man being charged for postage is pretty much set to sue the crap out of the USPS. not to mention this is not exactly the best way to rally the public in support of your dying industry.

double facepalm USPS. Double facepalm.

Rekrul says:

With regard to crazy USPS laws, I once read that it was illegal to send a package via UPS, Fedex or any other delivery service, unless they offer a specific service that the USPS doesn’t. Such as shipping larger packages or getting it there overnight. Otherwise, you’re legally required to send it through the USPS.

At least that’s what I read…

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

Mailboxes and Election law

1. Here’s another reason why federal law controls the use of private mailboxes.

It is illegal to place election material inside of a mailbox (unless it’s actually mailed). That’s why campaigns that are following the law will instruct canvassing volunteers to bow the paper and put it between the doorjamb & the door knob, or slid it under the side of a mailbox, or do basically anything besides physically opening the mailbox & inserting election material.

2. I think a lot of this ignores the root problem. Yes, some overofficious USPS employee is going overboard, BUT why is the USPS in this position? Because the Congress has mandated that they pay ahead the next 70 years of benefits over the next couple of years. This blew a ginormous hole in their budget.

Adding to that is the Republicans insistence on the USPS paying for itself. That makes sense if its a private business, but the mail is a public service with responsibilities of ensuring communication access to all addresses, no matter what, that private companies are not bound to.

Imagine if public transit had to pay for itse- oh wait, no wonder there’s always service cuts and price hikes. Or imagine if FIRE DEPARTMENTS had to pay for themselves? Thankfully, we’re not there yet in the US, but it’s only a matter of time… unless we as a country smarten up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mailboxes and Election law

“Or imagine if FIRE DEPARTMENTS had to pay for themselves? Thankfully, we’re not there yet in the US, but it’s only a matter of time… unless we as a country smarten up.”
Well, if republicans had their way, the fire department would only enter or protect buildings that lawfully displayed a notice for fire insurance. Then the democrats would “fix” it by requiring everyone to pay for fire insurance. Finally, you would end up with police harassing the homeless for not having a fire insurance notice on their cardboard “housing”, at the behest of the insurers, and the insurers cutting corners by not even making their official notices fire proof, just so they could get out of having to pay for the fire department in addition to the property damage.

Mark says:

Postal Worker

I’m currently a City Carrier. I should point out that the circumstances described in the article are more than likely due to the carrier on that particular route having a bad day/being a jerk. Unfortunately, he’s technically correct as far as laws and rules of the postal service. This points out an even greater concern, that the postal service itself has long been a business that refuses to adapt to be competitive. This causes frustrations among the employees (and is in many ways caused by the employees), which in turn push back against management, which in turn push back against employees etc., and the customers and profitability of the service fail to be addressed. I can only give myself a big pat on the back, because I’m graduating in electrical engineering in the spring and then I’m out of there for good.

ike says:

Did not actually break the law (though the courts may disagree)

How can one have the “intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon” if one doesn’t know that payment is required?

Furthermore, even if he did know about the law, his choice to use this delivery method was surely predicated on convenience, not financial reasons.

Finally, I doubt the flyer was “mailable matter” in its current form.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Property

> under US law, home mailboxes (even though they’re purchased
> by the homeowner) are technically property of the USPS

Still trying to figure out how that works legally. If I go to Home Depot and buy a mailbox, it’s my property. No question. At what point does legal title transfer to the government? The moment I affix it to my home or land? The moment a mail carrier puts mail in it? And how can the government convert my private property into public property without reimbursing me for the cost, as required by the 5th Amendment?

Cody Jackson (profile) says:

FPO/APO

If the USPS wants to make money, and maintain relevance, make it easier for companies to send packages to military overseas.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have tried to order something online and receive a response that, because my address is FPO (Navy overseas), I am unable to receive the package via the Postal Service. I can spend the extra money for UPS or FedEx, if that option is available.

I don’t know how the FPO/APO rules are set up, but apparently they must be strict (and stupid) because it is no different sending mail to military overseas than sending it to someone in the States, yet a lot of companies refuse to use it.

loki_racer (profile) says:

Re: FPO/APO

Shipping to APO/FPO is not the same as shipping to any other state. Legally, yes, it is, APO/FPO are considered stateside addresses. Process-wise, it’s not the same. Businesses have to fill out customs forms, which require an employee visiting the post office to complete the paperwork.

Now, this is what I want to know. I order from Amazon on almost a weekly basis, and not once has there been a customs form on the outside of it for my APO address. Every other company I’ve ordered from has had to fill out a customs form.

Here’s a little trick if they won’t ship to APO/FPO. Use NY as your state. If they aren’t checking zipcodes, NY is the same as APO/FPO. Test it out with something not important, but it’s worked for me.

CT says:

Mail Box and ownership

For all parties who received and didn’t mind getting the invite, I would suggest that they submit a request to the postal service for reimbursement of the cost of their mailbox and all related mounting, such as pole, concrete, and labor.

Either the people own it and fund it or the USPS owns it and should be pressured to fund the boxes or shut up and go away.

Almost every day I scream in agony because the USPS sucks so bad. They break more than 50% of what I ship. They frequently lose (and don’t reimburse me) for packages sent priority (they also do a horrible job on regular mail too).

Like a growing number of Government functions, if the USPS were a private company, they would be out of business because of how pathetic their quality is. And before the statistic police start yapping, I DON’T GIVE A FLYING MONKEY about “out of XXXXX pieces of mail sent…” because out of the mail I SEND and RECEIVE, about 50% of all non-junk mail is lost, damaged, or takes >3 weeks to receive even though it’s all domestic.

Michael says:

My postman threatened me with legal action

First I filed a complaint because he wasn’t knocking on my door for certified mail, just being lazy and leaving a missed form. Next there was junk mail found in the outbox and the postman blames me. He left a hand written note on another missed form saying its against the law to put trash in mail box! It was junkmail. He delivered that “trash” in the first place. I can’t wait ’til the USPS finally lets UPS handle their job the right way.

Chris says:

Just to clarify...

The USPS does NOT own the mailbox. They do however have the full legal control of its use. This means that while you retain ownership of the box itself, only the USPS and yourself may open it, use the flag for any purpose, or place stamped (paid for) items inside. Any other mailable items inside must be postmarked, as that constitutes “use” of the box. So if your neighbor wishes to place anything inside your box, even at your request, they must pay the USPS for the “use”. The plus side to retaining ownership of the box, is that you are free to decorate it in any manner that does not interfere with its use! That’s why you see interesting mailboxes…if the USPS owned the box, they’d all be the same boring design. Anyways, hope this sheds some light on the subject!

Laura says:

Late to the convo and a little off topic but I need to tell my story. After moving into our new home years ago we continued to get the prior resident’s mail, and I mean for a long time. I am not talking about junk mail, but hospital bills, bank statement, etc. I was not getting some of our mail as well. I called the post office and let them know. It continued. I called again and told them this needs to be corrected. The woman was an ass and informed me that it was a privilege that the mailman picked up my mail. WTF! She then continued to tell me that their only responsibility was to deliver the mail. I replied, “If you didn’t pick up anyone’s mail, what in the world would you have to deliver!” and that was when I told her I was done with writing “not at this address, please forward” on mail all the time and returning it to our mailbox. Now after eight years I only get the occasional mail for the LAST TWO OWNERS and it is usually just junk mail. Oh, I still get my neighbors bills and cards and letters once in a while.

Dan says:

More clarification

(They have jurisdiction but not ownership) See Below

5 Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Brent says:

He got off light

It is a federal crime to put anything other than stamped mail in a mailbox and you must be an authorized mail carrier for the USPS. The maximum penalty is a $10,000 fine. If you want to try civil disobedience, more power to you, but there will be penalties and I doubt very many people will stand by you for putting things in people’s mail box when you can stick it in their door.

selketskiss (profile) says:

Re:

If they are only responsible for delivering the mail then why in the hell do mail boxes have flags on them….Postal employees think they are in control of the horizontal and the vertical in this world. I put my carrier in her place in my front driveway after she cursed me with her attitude. I had been really sick for a couple days and could not get out to get the mail out of “my box”. She then switched routes, as I had her recorded calling me names.

Rich Quail says:

A Bad Law

I can’t believe some of the comments here you would think we were talking about murder rather than leaving a flyer on someones house. It’s a piece of paper if you don’t like it put it in the recycle bin.

Geez you politically correct nitpickers are what’s wroung with the world. Aghh he put a flyer on my house! Please!

Get a life.

Louise Hudson says:

Mailbox ownership

The USPS claims to own and control the mailbox, but won’t fix a broken lock or replace it. So much for ownership. It’s another instance if a law that changes with the circumstances. It belongs to the post office until it breaks or wears out, then, like magic, it reverts to the homeowner or landlord. As soon as the homeowner or landlord replaces the box or fixes the lock, like magic again, abra cadabra, it reverts to post office ownership again. If only ordinary citizens could manipulate ownership like that, but the ability to do that magic moveable ownership apparently belongs only to the government.

amazed attheworld says:

let's have dumb rules and then enforce them too!

Yes, they own the mailbox, but they didn’t pay for it, won’t replace it when it breaks or rusts out, and won’t paint it if it gets ugly. not sure how we got stuck with this deal, but that’s what it is for now.

a good way to get around this problem is to deliver those potluck neighborhood bash notices AFTER the usps delivery truck makes its rounds. assuming that everyone gets their mail every day, it will not be there when he drives by tomorrow.

it is annoying that this sort of thing happens (getting billed for mailbox use!) and it seems obvious to most people that if the cheap pricing/BULK RATE “feature” of usps mailing were to disappear and all the marketing materials we get (that go directly to the shredder) were sent full freight…I am pretty sure that bulk mailing of marketing blah blah would dry up instantaneously.
viola! without changing anyone’s schedules, etc, a lot of the mail would evaporate, leaving the mail sorters and carriers more time to do their job well…AND with the added bonus of little to no more junk mail!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hello folks, my name is Keith Baity. I’m here to give you the absolute truth concerning the USPS, your mailbox and the actual laws concerning both. Fortunately, I just happen to have a boat load of proof, to back it up. Believe me, the USPS knows all of this and if they could fine me, shut me up, shut my business, put me in jail and/or send me to Mars, they would, in a heart-beat. They haven’t done a thing, because they can’t. They would love to, but they can’t.
I know this because, I’m presently in the middle of a two-plus year federal suit, that has already proven everything the USPS says, concerning YOUR mailbox, is lies and misrepresentation of actual law. All carried out as anti-trust actions, against and costing every tax payer, while depriving all Americans of services and savings. This case has already reached the top lowlife within the USPS, aka Postmaster Megan Brennan, the Attorney General of the US and President Trump’s White House.
Everything is moving forward in the legal arena, but now it is time to bring everything forward, for the public, as all have been told would happen. None of this is a joke, like most of the stuff I’ve read in these statement forums. Simply put, anyone that writes that it is illegal to put things on the outside of the mailboxes, is A) working for the USPS, B) is related/associated to someone who works for the USPS and/or C) just a delusional dumb-___ that buys into the USPS cult-like presentation of lies.
Well gosh bozo, you better have facts, to back up your assertions, because the laws and DMM, or Domestic Mail Manual, say differently and they’re law. Aren’t they? Au contraire, mon ami. The law is, of course the law. The DMM however, is a manual for employees of the USPS, nothing else. That’s why anyone who post, using the DMM, as a reference, is almost certainly associated and/or working directly with the USPS. All, in an attempt, to threaten/scare/intimidate anyone who believes differently, and control commerce through YOUR mailbox. All, anti-trust actions.
I also note throughout these forums, people quote laws, especially 18 USC 1725. Pretty much guaranteed, these people are associated with the USPS. They use the exact lies (verbatum mostly), all USPS employees speak and hand out, as a publication. All, used to intimidate and/or threaten Americans, trying to better their life. All, lies.
It’s simple, punch 18 USC 1725 in your search. The exact law will pop up. It’s not 2 pages of regulations and penalties. It’s simple, one sentence, read for yourself. The only word that matters, is the word, “IN”. One read of the actual law and dismissal of the DMM as an employee manual and suddenly, most of the “legal” posts you read, are USPS created or delusional postal groupies. Can’t be anything else. Isn’t anything else.
There is no law in existence, concerning putting things on the outside of mailboxes. As for the USPS having any jurisdicition and/or ownership of your mailbox and/or the surrounding area. The law and their own DMM states many times, that all mailboxes are property of the owner of the residence. Even those large community boxes are owned by the residents collectively, not the USPS.
Any claim of jurisdiction of anything outside your mailbox, is a lie, not backed up by law, only an employee manual. It may be gospel to employees, but that doesn’t make it law. The only jurisdicition and/or authority the USPS has, is to deliver your mail or not. That’s it. Nothing else. You can make your mailbox look like a hooka-pipe or toilet urinal, it doesn’t matter. All they can do, is deliver your mail or not, that’s it.
So, am I a bozo, or telling the truth. Probably both, but the truth is the truth. The truth is within an upcoming book, titled Pro Se, to be released in late May. Pro Se details everything and proves all the illegal actions and cult-like atmosphere within the USPS. Anyone can view the first chapter of Pro Se (which proves what I speak of), on GoFundMe site, titled “Support a Constitutional Right and hunting attorneys.
I’ve been able to pull together the amount needed to guarantee publication, in late May, but I hope to get help, for the extra cost to distribute properly. Once you read the GoFundMe site, you’ll see how this will become main street news, within days of Pro Se’s publication. Especially when I put it in the hands of every news agency, major politician, talk show producer and the like, in the first week.
If you love America, the Constitution and “right”, visit the site. If you think I’m full of poop, visit the site, you’ll be proven wrong. If you want to learn about the “Postalgate” of the USPS, visit the site. After reading, if you contribute, then thank you very much. I’d pay everything right now, if I could but I’m not some sleazy postmaster general who uses tax payer money to screw Americans. I’ll get it out there I guarantee. If you help, it can be quicker. Thank you.

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