Section 1725 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code prohibits placing mailable materials like circulars and sales bills with unpaid postage in mailboxes with intent to avoid payment of postage. That means that the Chinese menus and offers for cheap lube jobs that end up in your mailbox might have been placed there illegally. One reader whose mailbox was clogged with this junk contacted the USPS to report the businesses. Her story, and the post office’s ambivalence, inside.
Our reader writes:
Three years ago I bought a house in NJ and moved into the new development. In the beginning, my mailbox was constantly getting stuffed with flyers and the like offering services such as cleaning, nanny, and contractor work. Knowing that it is illegal to place these materials inside a mailbox without a stamp (see Section 1725 of Title 18 of the United States Code), I asked via the USPS website whom I should be contacting in order to get these to stop coming to me. The response I got back the following day was to forward the matter to my local Post Office. I did exactly that, mailing the offending flyer with a letter to the local post office asking them to enforce Section 1725 of Title 18 of the United States Code. The amount of flyers received in my mailbox has since decreased, but everytime I got one in my mailbox, I would mail it with a letter again asking them to enforce Section 1725 of Title 18.
Several weeks ago, I got a knock on the door and it was a postal worker who had indicated that they have received the letters I had been sending them all along and to please stop. She admitted that they call the business in violation of Section 1725 and ask them not to do it again, but do nothing to really enforce it. It puzzles me why they even bother to establish this and layout penalties if no one is going to enforce them.
It puzzles us too. The USPS’s website (PDF) states: “Except under 2.11 [dealing with newspaper boxes attached to mailboxes], the receptacles described in 1.1 may be used only for matter bearing postage. Other than as permitted by 2.10 or 2.11, no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.” Note that “door slots and nonlockable bins or troughs used with apartment house mailboxes” are excluded from this prohibition, and can be loaded up with as many flyers as they can hold. Although our reader was told to contact her local post office, there’s actually a specific form for these complaints on the U.S. Postal Inspection website. You can also try contacting the business directly and informing them that they are breaking the law.