Don't Reuse That USPS Priority Box, It's Illegal

7 News in Denver reports that a Colorado man has been officially warned that reusing a United States Postal Service “Priority Mail” cardboard box is a violation of federal law. We’re not even talking about mail fraud but simply reusing them for other types of shipping. Could reusing these boxes actually be a federal crime? Find out more about this outlaw…

Like many others, Gary Adler reuses these boxes after receiving them or sometimes just finds them near the dumpster. Typically, he turns the box inside out to so that it’s brown on the outside, then uses the box as a normal shipping box. However, the postal service says this is against postal regulations and if he does it again he could be charged with misuse of postal property. Nicole Reiter of the USPS said, “Our Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes are, bottom line, supposed to be used for that service. That is what they are intended for.” She also claims this regulation is actually helping the customer, “enforcing the no-recycling rule would keep postal rates low for everyone.”

We believe that a box is a box and if it’s clearly marked then why should it matter if it’s an “ex” priority mail box? Given the unholy volume of junk mail with which the USPS turns a profit, it’s no wonder that the postal service shows so little concern for the environment.

Reusing Cardboard Postal Boxes Illegal [7 News] (Thanks to James for sending this in!)
(Photo: 7 News)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ooops, I guess I am offender too! I take the ones people send me stuff in and flip them inside out as well. I can see some logic in this if people skeeze NEW ones from the post office for the purpose of using them inside out… but old ones? hmmmmmm

  2. APFPilot says:

    This makes sense, the USPS isn’t a charity they provide the boxes ONLY to be used as Priority Mail Boxes…

  3. radio1 says:

    Or you could do what I do… Just wrap the package in brown shipping paper…

  4. Erwos says:

    What they’re worried about, I gather, is people ordering the free USPS boxes online and then using them for something other than shipping using those services. If you could only buy the boxes, yeah, no harm no foul, but misusing the free ones seems unethical (and possibly illegal).

  5. eabu says:

    since new boxes are readily available and free to take at the post office, the point of restricting non-USPS use is valid, even on old boxes

  6. MeOhMy says:

    @rainmkr: I think the key problem is how do they determine who legitimately recycled a box and who is just getting them from the post office and misusing them?

    Of course rather than criminalizing the innovative reusers, they could just come up with a better solution!

  7. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    You’re missing the point. USPS buys shipping materials at significant cost and provides them free to those who agree to use them only for their service. Seriously, you can go to their website and order a dozen boxes delivered for nothing. The problem is people using NEW boxes for other purposes. USPS can neither prevent this, nor tell the difference between used and new boxes (esp. when they’re turned inside out).

  8. MrGutts says:

    When will they just let them die. The government needs to stop bailing USPS out and let the private sector take over.

    and stop running over my freaking flowers which is surrounded by stone!!

    USPS sucks and so is all the physical spam you shove in my damn mailbox!

    • zandar says:


      private sector? you realize it already is contracted to a private company, right?

      Without governmental oversight.. you think they suck now. they’d be as bad as the purple and brown ones then.

  9. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    Also USPS is now marking the brown side of the box to prevent use for lower class shipping.

  10. OnceWasCool says:

    Now, this just makes me want to gather every used USPS box I can find, pile them in a pile and set them on fire.
    (and giggle like a little girl the whole time)

    USPS is such an outdated worthless “business”.

  11. flamincheney says:

    My guess is that the guy in question is a much more egregious offender than what we are led to believe. I would guess an ebayer or the like that does this quite often.

    I hate to be that guy who calls the guy out, but it would take a postal clerk a far amount of excess work to get attention paid to the situation. And I can’t imagine this happening because a guy tried to use one Priority box like this.

    That or he ordered a ton of them from the website and turned all of them inside out.

    • kgazette says:

      @flamincheney: Theory disproved. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t do this, tried to send a couple books out with a recycled priority mail box today, and got rejected by the post office… as a first-time offender. (That’s why I came home and Googled this.)

      I understand why they do this, but argh! It’s annoying if you don’t know and then get rejected at the post office.

  12. Murph1908 says:

    I believe these priority boxes and envelopes are free. So I imagine this is to prevent people from going into their post office, snagging a couple of boxes, and doing the aforementioned process of turning them inside out.

    The cost of the box/envelope is included in the delivery charge.

    So the USPS can’t tell if you are recycling like Gary, or stealing like others are surely doing.

  13. flamincheney says:

    For those complaining about the USPS I have had better luck shipping through them than any corporate carrier. The clerks at the office on the other hand can be a varied lot- from helpful to downright uninformed, rude, and condescending.

  14. satoru says:

    I have a thought experiment with the USPS that always seems to have a counter intuitive conclusion. Since the USPS is a federal body its employees are federal officers. Thus if you shoot a USPS mailman its a federal crime. But so is shooting a Secret Service agent. So basically shooting a mailman is almost the same as shooting a secret service agent. If you had some TSA “oh we’re totally doing a random search and not discriminating against Arabs” name and shot a mailman, you’d probably be charged with treason and go to jail forever in Abu Ghraib.

  15. courtarro says:

    @MrGutts: While USPS competes with other private shipping companies on popular services, they also provide mail services to rural areas where a private company would be unwilling to do business, at least at the stated USPS rates. The USPS’s official status as a government monopoly (in some aspects of its business) allow it to provide services that private companies would find very difficult.

    In other points, I’ve always wondered why FedEx and the USPS give away their shipping boxes. Why not just charge 10 cents (or whatever they cost) for the boxes and reduce the shipping fee by 10 cents? That way, they wouldn’t have to make silly rules like this, and people would only take what they needed to send shipments … or they’d just buy boxes for their own purposes without the USPS taking a loss.

  16. Fuck the law. I’d do it anyway, and let the Feds come get me. I’d love to get my 15 minutes of fame on CNN, especially when I get to point out something so incredibly stupid.

  17. ARP says:

    @MrGutts: Let me know when you find a cheaper way to send a physical piece of mail. USPS is good for regular mail, but not as good for shipping boxes, etc. But they’re often cheaper.

    Oh and the Constiution (Art 1, Sect 8) gives the legislature the power to provide the postal system. It’s not clear if its mandatory or permissive.

  18. timmus says:

    Well all things said, I am a merchant and am super happy with USPS. They are hands down cheaper than UPS for regular 1 to 2 pound packages, and they now pick up metered priority rate boxes free (used to cost $10/box). My loss/delay rate on packages is really, really low, like 0.2%. Frankly I don’t understand why anyone uses UPS except for bulky stuff.

    As far as clerks go, the ones here are fantastic but that’s because I’m in a rather small city. My experience is when you get into larger cities, USPS service is generally surly or arrogant. I don’t care though, as my mailing requirements never change and as long as the stuff gets on its way I don’t really care.

  19. unklegwar says:

    “he could be charged with misuse of postal property”

    If I remember correctly, you have to PAY for these boxes, which makes them the property of the sender, and when it gets sent, that ownership transfers to the recipient. So in my completely non-professional (law-wise) mind, that makes the box the property of whomever is in possession of it!

  20. RandomHookup says:

    They need to rethink their promo model. You can get rolls of their Priority Mail tape for free (and delivered free, too). Don’t tape non-Priority Mail with it, but useful for a quick home tape job.

  21. azntg says:

    @MrGutts: I believe the USPS has been self sufficient for a while, without much government aid. As outmoded its model is in theory, you’d be very hard pressed to find an even more efficient solution to physically deliver letters, parcels, etc. in practice.

    @Erwos: Agreed. If a box has been used before and paid for its original purpose, then I don’t really see the harm in being able to reuse the box for a different purpose.

  22. kallawm says:

    Our USPS service is so bad, I’ve had to pay extra for delivery confirmation on anything of any importance. Both coming and going, I’ve had numerous items just disappear into the abyss that is the USPS.

    I found this site [] but I don’t hold out much hope that it will work.

  23. MyPetFly says:

    Don’t be silly, readers. The USPS needs all the old boxes to store lost mail in.

  24. Angryrider says:

    I use my Priority Boxes as a box only. I use them to carry stuff around, instead of using a bag…
    Is that illegal?

  25. sleze69 says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost: “You’re missing the point. USPS buys shipping materials at significant cost and provides them free to those who agree to use them only for their service.”

    Doesn’t sound like a good business model. Perhaps they should include the cost of the box in what they charge for priority mail service?

  26. ianmac47 says:

    The real problem is when the huddled masses, hungry from the ever rising price of grain, begins picking up these boxes and eating them. See, the USPS is thinking ahead. They are worried.

  27. Phildawg says:

    In the past I have ordered 100+ boxes from USPS for selling items on eBay. You have to ship priority mail, but I like that and so do my customers anyways.

    The cost of 100 boxes plus delivery would be very high, yet it’s free, since the cost is built into the priority mail shipping cost.

    I completely understand where the USPS is coming from.

  28. xamarshahx says:

    This makes sense, they differentiate the boxes by their labels, if it says Priority it makes their job harder if the box is being sent Parcel. They let you reuse other boxes, just not the Priority and Express UNLESS you are mailing by Priority or Express. UPS wouldn’t let you reuse a 2nd day envelope to send a ground shipment. So YOU CAN REUSE them long as you send using the appropriate service.

  29. 3drage says:

    We should all assure USPS that we take their complaints seriously.

  30. 44 in a Row says:

    While USPS competes with other private shipping companies on popular services, they also provide mail services to rural areas where a private company would be unwilling to do business, at least at the stated USPS rates. The USPS’s official status as a government monopoly (in some aspects of its business) allow it to provide services that private companies would find very difficult.

    Not just rural areas, but remote areas, as well. It’s true that private companies have been able to compete on parcel and express delivery, but delivering a letter from New York to California for 41 cents wouldn’t be sustainable as a profit-making business model. Private companies can compete on certain profitable segments of the postal market, and total privatization might be more “economically efficient” in the technical sense, but wouldn’t be so good for the country as a whole. The fact that it costs the same amount of money to send a letter, no matter where in the country you’re sending it, is a pretty big deal.

  31. ShadowFalls says:

    I’ve actually had USPS fail to deliver and return a package to the sender that was shipped only about 5 miles from me. It quite literally would have only been in two post offices and two trucks at the most… The address information was correct too…

    Seriously though, what do they expect people to do? Return them to USPS? I am not going to throw away a perfectly good box just because the USPS thinks it owns the box wherever it is in the world.

  32. Landru says:

    I have sold stuff on eBay and one of the worst problems is finding boxes to ship the stuff in. You would be surprised at what it costs to purchase a new box; especially if you are not buying them in bulk.

    Many times I have received eBay purchases where people had turned the boxes inside out, though not lately, because I hardly ever buy stuff on eBay anymore.

  33. tcp100 says:

    @satoru: Holy leap of logic, Satoru.

    Nobody’s talking about murder here, just boxes.

    You might want to look up your definition of treason, too.

  34. tcp100 says:

    By the way, I’ve had much better luck in my area (Northern VA) with USPS than UPS/Fedex. I know my mailman, and he doesn’t just dump stuff on my doorstep like UPS.

    That, and I have a PO box from USPS where I can get mail when out of town, for $50/year. The UPS store charges almost that much per month.

    The USPS also is a place I can go to get things notarized, get money orders, and renew my passport.

    That, and they are not taxpayer funded – they’re fully independent (and profitable) as a loosely connected arm of the government.

    They deliver mail and packages where private companies won’t, and they deliver on saturday for no extra charge.

    Priority Mail gets stuff in 2 days for about 1/5th the cost of Fedex, and even overnight express mail is a heck of a lot cheaper than Fedex overnight.

    The USPS is hardly outmoded or obsolete. This is not an ad, just an endorsement from someone who ships/sends a lot of crap.

  35. nikkomorocco says:

    haha, i use their priority mail boxes for my 1st class postage on my stuff all the time, i just wrap them. its a box, i’m still using usps just not the priority mail service. if you are buying loads of boxes from them and doing nothing with them or not shipping with them, i can see a problem they might have. easy solution: make 1st class boxes or just make people pay.

    the way i see it, why pay for a bubble mailer when i can wrap a post office box for a dvd and save myself a buck?

  36. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Why not just make people buy the boxes?

  37. stinerman says:


    I’ll pay attention to your company when they can deliver a first class letter across the country for $.41.

  38. Mantichora says:

    I ship with USPS daily, mostly Priority Mail. I appreciate having these boxes available to me as it cuts my costs down and I can pass that savings onto the person I am shipping the item to.

    I order them online, my latest batch has Priority Mail printed on the inside of the box now. That should keep people from reusing them.

  39. Gokuhouse says:

    Okay, let me chime in on this. When I first read the story I thought that the USPS was crazy, BUT after finding out that these boxes are FREE I realized that technically these boxes are still the property of the USPS and when you order them they do clearly state that they are for the sole purpose of using them with their services. Used boxes I can see making an exception for, but honestly I’m in favor of the USPS even if they don’t care about the environment.

    They even ship them to you for FREE.

  40. taka2k7 says:

    Assuming that USPS did business study on giving away the boxes versus making people buy the boxes (i.e. less likely to use their service if you have to buy their boxes; or just ordering boxes and not using them for shipping at all).

    Still, you really should be able to reuse the box if you turn it inside out.

    Better yet, turn in the reusable boxes to USPS for a small ‘finders fee’. You get a little cash back and the USPS saves money by not having to buy new boxes.
    Perhaps you should be able to trade the priority box for a free non-priority box.

  41. RINO-Marty says:

    If they’re giving the boxes out for free then I suppose they can make them conditional on following terms and conditions, such as not using them for other services. I can see that.

  42. RINO-Marty says:

    Nikko: Because, technically, it’s theft, and your actions cost taxpayers and stamp-buyers money.

    It reminds me of that scene in Office Space. Peter Gibbons tells his girlfriend of his scheme for skimming a few fractions of a cent off of millions of bank transactions. His girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) says it’s theft. No it’s not, he says, it’s just a few fractions of a cent per transaction.

    But they add up to a lot of money, she says.

    Yes, he says.

    And it’s not yours, she says.

    Technically, no, he says.

    “And how is that not theft.”

    Not a big deal, but technically, those boxes aren’t yours.

  43. RINO-Marty says:

    On the other hand (jeez what a lot of wasted pixels over boxes), if the box has been used one time for its legitimate purpose, then I see no basis at all for USPS to complain about them being RE-used. After that initial use, any reasonable person would conclude that whoever is in possession of that box owns it, and since USPS does not ask you to return it, you should be able to do whatever you want with it.

  44. bohemian says:

    USPS is far better than UPS, DHL and in some ways still better than FedEx. Having them tied to the gubmint gives us a level of control over them we would never get if this was handed off to some private sector company to do.

    But I am still unclear what I can do with my used priority mail boxes without landing myself in Gitmo.

  45. Starfury says:

    Let me understand. I buy something from eBay and the seller sends it in a USPS Priority mail box. Now I decide to sell something on eBay and want to re-use the box but I’m going to use FedEx because their shipping is cheaper and I can do if from work. If I turn the box inside out, pack/tape it up I’m violating some Federal law? Am I supposed to return the used box to the post office or should I just have it added to the local landfill?

    This is SO stupid.

  46. opfreak says:

    Boxes are free is you use there service.

    I do agree that once the box was shipped it should be allowed to be reused by flipping it inside out.

    I’ve had problems with all shippers. USPS, Fed-Ex, Ups, Air-Borne express. none are prefect. At least for small things USPS is affordable. A missplaced box that cost me 40 dollars to ship, is a bigger pia then a late 10 dollar shipment.

  47. opsomath says:

    I have a question. The article says that it’s a “violation of postal regulations.”

    How are postal regs the same thing as federal law?

  48. Suttin says:

    The USPS has a big deal with people using their stuff.

    They give out their trays and sleves for them for free to mailing houses. If you do enough busness with USPS, they drive semis to your mailing house to give you trays. They don’t mind if you use their stuff, as long as you use it for its purpouse.

    Hell, I think they even give rubber bands free of charge to mailing houses.

  49. Blackneto says:

    and others that recognize USPS for the value it is:


    Two of my favorite Government entities are the USPS and the IRS, the USMC comes in a close third.

    There may be surly carriers or counter folk, but its really a bargain for the service they provide.

    If time is not a issue and I need to send my mom something. It’s there cheaper than the private companies can do.

    It’s also nice to live in an area where your mailman will stop and chat for a moment about the Cubs. And you see him in the local diners.

  50. dkush21 says:

    I ship ebay items priority mail and I use their boxes. But if I have unusual items which they don’t have boxes for, I go to the dump and get the boxes that are for recycling. So I don’t see any problem with reusing boxes you receive. You are recycling them.

  51. BigElectricCat says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost: “You’re missing the point. USPS buys shipping materials at significant cost and provides them free to those who agree to use them only for their service.”

    I go into my nearby USPS office. I pick up a Priority or Express shipping box. I walk out.

    Where in there, precisely, is the *agreement* of which you speak?

  52. BigElectricCat says:

    @MrGutts: “When will they just let them die. The government needs to stop bailing USPS out and let the private sector take over.”

    The USPS doesn’t get bailed out; it pays its own way. Perhaps you’re thinking of Amtrak.

  53. se7a7n7 says:

    I sent my own story like this to the Consumerist about 2 months ago and they didn’t do anything with it…

    I had sent a package to a buyer and he was charged an extra 10 cents by the delivery person because it was a Priority Mail box inside out. So the extra 10 cents was for how much it would have cost via Priority Mail, even though it wasn’t sent in that way.

    The title of my email/story was “USPS DRMs it’s boxes”
    Way to go CONGLOMORIST….

  54. consumerd says:


    Speak for thyself, I don’t want to have to drive to town to get my mail.

  55. SinisterMatt says:

    Priority Mail boxes can be reused, if you ship something with Priority Mail again, and you don’t turn the box inside out. I’ve done this several times and the Post Office has never said a word. Also, be careful to not try and ship something via Priority Mail with a Flat Rate box, or vice versa. They don’t like that, and they’ll either charge you or the recipient to cover the extra cost, if any.


    You know what I do regarding finding boxes to ship stuff that I sell on eBay? I go and find used boxes (dumpsters in apartment complexes and grocery stores usually have a large supply), let them sit for a few days outside to air out any smell, and then cut the box up and make a “custom” box that fits the item in question, plus a little bit of padding if you want.

    There’s less risk for the item to get damaged in the mail, and I routinely get comments in feedback and such about how well the item was packaged. So, it works for the customers.


  56. se7a7n7 says:

    Also, every Priority Mail box says

    “Cradle to Cradle Certification is awarded to products that pursue an innovative vision of ecologically-intelligent design that eliminates the concept of waste. This USPS packaging has been certified for its material content recyclability, and manufacturing characteristics.

    Please recycle”

  57. esd2020 says:

    ” Given the unholy volume of junk mail with which the USPS turns a profit…”

    Actually that pre-sorted junk mail helps subsidize your hard-to-sort handwritten 1st class letter.

  58. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Troy F.: It’s been a while since I have used one, but do they get stamped/post marked?

    And how do they know what kind of box it is while inside out? are there markings on the inside (later to be outside) that are a tell?

  59. Lambasted says:

    I know eBay sellers have snaked their share of Priority boxes to reduce their costs. At least twice, I have received an item in a new Priority box turned inside out, although the item wasn’t shipped via Priority mail.

    I understand USPS not wanting people to get a new free box for other kinds of shipping, but if you receive a box that has already been legitimately used, I don’t see why someone cannot reuse it for their own purpose rather than throw it away.

    To be fair, the USPS cannot discern which boxes are being reused after a legitimately use and which ones have been snaked. So they have to ban all of them. I suppose if I wanted to reuse a Priority box I would just wrap it in brown paper.

  60. ncboxer says:

    I shipped something recently via USPS and at first used a larger box than was necessary. The clerk got a different box for me, put it in there and gave me the first box and told me to take it and use it for whatever I liked. I have junk in it right now.

  61. mikelotus says:

    @Steaming Pile: well have fun, and be sure to let us know when you are on CNN. I’m sure you aren’t talking shit, so we look forward to it.

  62. mikelotus says:

    haha, now that i snagged your IP address, we shall see how good the postal inspectors actually work.

  63. mikelotus says:

    @RINO-Marty: taxpayers? why? your taxes don’t fund the USPS.

  64. jjeeff says:

    Only a pseudo-government agency could enforce this policy. The federal government can make it a crime to misuse a USPS box. However, the government will never pass a law outlawing misuse of a FedEX box. Thus, if you were to misuse a FedEX box, all FedEX could do is sue you IF and ONLY IF you had a binding contract with FedEX.

  65. Notsewfast says:

    I was an R.A. for a couple of years in my undergrad and couple of kids on my floor constructed a castle facade for their room, complete with a working drawbridge using USPS priority boxes and tape.

    I wonder how the USPS views creating makeshift housing out of their property?

  66. bonafidebob says:

    The problem is when the RFID tags in the boxes go through the system again their accounting gets all messed up…

  67. @MrGutts:

    USPS isn’t supported by the government, it’s a separately run organization.

  68. MD4Prez2032 says:

    I tried to use an inside out Priority box also and the Post Office made me buy a replacement box for $7.

  69. Lambasted says:

    @nikkomorocco: If there was any doubt why USPS needs this policy nikkomorocco just resolved it.

  70. mtaylor924 says:

    As stated multiple times already, the USPS is self-sufficient. I was at the PO today and saw a sign stating that they have not relies on gov’t subsidy since 1982. Since that time, postage fees have covered the cost of running the entire service.

    And to add my $.02 to the actual post, if you receive a package in one of those boxes, the box becomes yours as well. If you want to reuse it for shipping something, just have the decency to wrap it in brown paper first, to avoid confusion.

  71. edrebber says:

    @Starfury: It’s only an issue if you try to use a priority mail box with USPS but not pay for priority mail, i.e. first class or parcel post. FedEx and UPS don’t care if you use a priority mail box.

  72. edrebber says:

    Order free boxes and envelopes from UPS or FedEx and use them with USPS. Problem solved.

  73. dirk1965 says:

    USPS is charity… who do you think pays for everything in the long run… WE DO! You think the US Government is going to shell anything out of their own pocket???

  74. potohead1 says:

    I’m going to keep on reusing this boxes screw the USPS they can go to hell for all I care.

  75. Tank says:

    that just makes me want to order boxes and use them inappropriately, just because.

  76. johnva says:

    There is a really simple solution if they are concerned about people abusing the free boxes: just start charging for them at cost. That is what any private business would do, and would make far more sense than trying to stop people from recycling boxes or using them for different purposes than intended.

  77. 44 in a Row says:

    FedEx and UPS don’t care if you use a priority mail box.

    Nope, but Fedex does have rules on what you can do with their own materials. For example, you can’t use any of the Fedex Express packaging (the boxes, packs, and envelopes) with Fedex Ground.

  78. Buran says:

    @timmus: Their tracking is just as cheap. No thanks.

  79. forgottenpassword says:

    The reason why the USPS doesnt want people doing this is that you could get these boxes for free from the post office (assuming you were ONLY going to use them for priority shipping).

    I recieve these boxes a lot when i buy from ebay. I still reuse them. You cant turn them inside out anymore because they print something on the inside. SO what I do is take a paper grocery bag & cut it up & use it as wrapping paper & wrap the box. Works perfect.

  80. smoothtom says:

    @MrGutts: Uh, yeah. See how much the private sector enjoys shipping a letter coast-to-coast for 41 cents (or is it 43 now?) and stopping by your house every day, free of charge, to see whether you have outgoing mail.

  81. KyleOrton says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost: They need to try harder. They put a postal mark on stamps so you can’t reuse those. Put a flipping mark on the white side of the box and if someone gets caught, they have to show that to prove it’s been recycled.

    I can’t believe there’s an argument against recycling. Stupid.

  82. EndlessMike says:

    Flat Rate boxes are my favorite thing. Stuff as much crap in them you as you want for a set price? Great! I’ve seen people ship steel plates in them for the set price with no trouble.

  83. I realized this when I ordered a bunch of boxes from…only to discover that the batch of boxes I received was just a wee bit too small to serve my needs. Admittedly, I should have just brought them to the local post office. Instead, they gathered dust in my attic and I eventually used them as delivery boxes (non-mail, just dropping off things to people) or cut them up, using the cardboard for various things.

    After that initial order, though, I had no intention on ordering them again as I felt guilty enough with the first batch.

  84. JaneBadall says:

    I have an online business and ship around 100 parcels a week. Proper packing supplies and postage are part of my business expenses. I lose a small amount of money on about 70% of what I ship.

    So the misuse of postal supplies is a pet peeve. Shipping supplies cost the post office money. The more it is abused, the higher postal rates rise. I do NOT want to supplement some amateur seller’s shipping costs with my postal expenses. If a seller isn’t successful enough to afford shipping supplies, they should find another source of income.

    I have received many packages in reversed priority boxes. None have been recycled. They are all new. So the whole reusing boxes is a primarily sham. If you must recycle them, find a place that accepts cardboard and recycle it there.

  85. forgottenpassword says:

    Hmmmmm…. I wonder what fun things i could build with 500 free priority boxes from the USPS?? The kid in me deaming of box-made forts is ecstatic!

    Wish i had a woodstove…. those burning boxes could keep me warm all winter! (I seem to remember a compacting device shown somewhere on the net that would compact cardboard into extremely compact bricks so they could be used in fireplaces & such)

  86. forgottenpassword says:


    about reusing postmarked stamps…. I did some experimenting a while back just for fun. I read online that prison inmates would reuse stamps by sticking them on the side of a stick of deoderant overnight to erase the cancellation ink. It works…. kinda ….but it isnt perfect. I found that rubbbing alcohol works much better.
    I also did another experiment where I took a large stamp (it was an ironman stamp), ripped off the top part (where the postmark was)& stuck it on an envelope to where it looked like I had put the stamp on wrong with the top sticking way out past the edge of the envelope & that it must’ve ripped off during post office machine handling (I dropped it off in a street mailbox & mailed it to myself). It went thru just fine.

    I like doing odd experiments like that.

  87. mikelotus says:

    talk is cheap from you two, and since you don’t even have your name or email posted on your profile, its just cheap talk. So why don’t you rectify that and add a picture of you doing to show us that you two are not just a couple of shit talkers?

  88. SuperJdynamite says:

    @APFPilot: “This makes sense, the USPS isn’t a charity they provide the boxes ONLY to be used as Priority Mail Boxes…”

    In the case of boxes that were received and reused they *were* used for their original purpose.

  89. ablestmage says:

    I’ve encountered this problem, also. I tried to use a Priority Mail box turned inside out as a re-used package (having previously been used as a Priority Mail package sent to me). When told I couldn’t do that, I simply explained that it had already been used once and she hesitantly allowed it.

    They are allowed to open your mail, particularly if it is Media Mail, to see whether you are actually sending Media if there is any doubt. I see no difference in them opening the carton to see whether or not it’s actually a re-used box.

    All they need to do is, when a Priority Mail box is shipped, is to make some sort of specialty hole-punch that makes a particular design in the board of the box to tell whether it’s been used or not, and then cover it up with a wide piece of opaque tape to prevent peeking inside the box. That way it’s obvious as to whether it’s been used or not. And just make it illegal to possess one of those hole punchers outside of a post office.

  90. ablestmage says:

    @RINO-Marty: It doesn’t cost taxpayers anything, it’s a .com, not a .gov .. the Postal Service is a self-sustaining agency.

  91. TechnoDestructo says:


    How exactly does reusing boxes cost the post office a dime? If anything, if the boxes get used for priority mail again, it saves them money. (And considering how they’ve been bumping up parcel post over the last few years, there really isn’t anything under priority in most cases anymore)

    How is this any different than reusing any other box? I thought you just had to black out or otherwise cover up any extraneous marks and you’re good to go?

  92. donkeyjote says:

    If you have proof that the box has already been used for priority or express mail (Receipt or better yet, postmarked left on box), it has already been paid for. It can be argued in court that the government has a vested interest in reducing garbage, and increasing recycling or reuse, and that that interest does not conflict with making sure the supplies were used for the purpose it was originally intended for.

  93. krunk4ever says:

    The problem with how the USPS Priority/Express system works is that they provide free boxes to everyone. You can even order the boxes online and have them shipped to you for free.

    However, they do make it clear that the cardboard boxes are and remain USPS property, to which I can understand.

    If everyone goes and order these boxes for personal use, then as they said, it just increases the prices for everyone.

    I’m not saying it’s a good system. In fact, I think it’s somewhat flawed, but it does provide a great amount of convenience and choosing to ship via USPS priority mail is actually something I do quite often: competitive pricing, free shipping material (boxes, tape, labels, etc), and 2-3 day delivery.

  94. LionelEHutz says:

    This is a case of just more extremely stupid and unproductive regulation by a bunch of federal government pinheads.

  95. StevenJohn says:

    The rules on the USPS website referrence using the USPS boxes for shipping with a commercial carrier or for other commercial activities.

  96. wildness says:

    Here’s an idea to really stick it to them: Next time you move ONLY pack you stuff in Priority Mail boxes.

  97. wildness says:

    Here’s another idea to really stick to the destroy the Earth one piece of junk mail at a time Post Office:

    Whenever you receive junk mail that is NOT addressed to you or your address, take it to the Post Office and stuff it in the out going mail slot – if we all did this, it would send quite a message.

  98. mikelotus says:

    @wildness: sure why don’t you do it while the post office is open and tell us what happened next?

  99. Simple solution

    Use your free USPS boxes for shipping with UPS

    Use your free UPS boxes for shipping with Fed Ex

    Use your Fed Ex boxes for shipping with USPS.

    heheh. So am I going to Postal Hell?

    One time a Post Office Nazi told me I couldn’t use a 2″ x 3″ “Priority Mail” label on my (non-USPS) box to write the address on my box. Even if I tore off the blue part so it was just a white rectangular sticker.

  100. freejazz38 says:

    Please, the USPS is an overbloated poorly run joke. I once had a moron mailman yell at me because I was distributing flyers advertising my business. When those underbrained, overpaid morons learn how to run their own business, they can tell others what to do. The jerkoff delivery guy by me delvers the mail at 4 pm because he’s too lazy to walk, he actually drives his jeep to EVERY HOUSE. I guess his moron union told him he can

  101. DashTheHand says:

    So is it really illegal or not? You kinda glanced over the whole point of the article.

  102. Orv says:

    @EndlessMike: Heh, when I worked at a TV studio we used to ship big 3/4-inch Umatic videocassettes in flat rate envelopes. You could just barely get the envelope closed after shoving the tape case in.

    @freejazz38: If you were distributing those fliers into people’s mailboxes, you were breaking the law and he was right to yell at you.

  103. Mary says:

    That article is so misleading, he’s not RECYCLING the boxes. He’s stealing them from the post office dumpster, after they’ve been used, and REUSING them for non-priority/express purposes.

    This is very very clearly against their rules, which are really simple to find (I think it’s printed on the boxes).

    You may not like the rules, but you should still follow them unless you want to face the consequences of breaking them. People like this drive me insane. Stop griping that you got in trouble for breaking the law, please.

    @DashTheHand: it is illegal to use priority mail or express mail boxes for ANYTHING other than mailing items Priority or Express. He was turning the boxes inside out and then using them to ship through cheaper channels, this is illegal. Plenty of people do it, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re not supposed to.

    (For the record, I wouldn’t care if he had dumpster dived and used the boxes for moving or for packing up some personal stuff for storage. But using it for cheaper mailing is the bad part).

  104. Mary says:

    @wildness: Thanks for working to make priority mail more expensive for all of us who like to use it. I salute you, way to stick it to the man.

    *sigh* The post office gives those boxes out free to be nice to the people using their expensive services. When you abuse it, it’s like stealing software, all it does is hurt other consumers.

  105. jswilson64 says:

    Is it legal to order up a bunch of USPS boxes and turn them into furniture or clothing??

  106. packetsniffer says:

    The postal service is worthless and outdated? What’s the matter with you?

  107. ThoraBunting says:

    Comment on Don’t Didn’t they do something like this in The Simpsons where Bart ordered
    thousands of Priority Mail boxes and supplies and built a giant fort?

  108. wesrubix says:

    @APFPilot: that’s right. you have every right to re-use a USPS box if you pay for USPS services to ship it with. otherwise you are violating USPS policy and federal law for the courtesy of the free box.

  109. frogman31680 says:

    well, I have done this. I sell on ebay and all I had left were priority. The buyer didn’t pay for priority, so they didn’t get it.

    I hate my PO. The people are real bitchy and whine a lot. Problem is there is only about 500 people in our town, so it’s not like they are that busy.

    Do what I do…. Pick up used boxes at dollar general, buy some sharpies, and since you can’t ship anything with writing on it… get high from scratching it all out!

  110. Softly-with-a-Big-Stick says:


    Same thing here. I received a box (eBay) the idiot sender sent Parcel Post. Took 3 weeks to get here. Priority Box turned inside out and a 30 cent additional charge *I* had to pay! Can’t remember whether the box was stamped or how I was told, but I was clearly told this was illegal and Priority USPS boxes are for use to send Priority mail ONLY.

    For true recycling believers, why can’t we just return the boxes to USPS and they give you a choice of either “new” or “used” boxes for free? If we truly believe in keeping this stuff out of the landfill what’s wrong with a used box? (Just make sure to remove any identifiable addresses, etc from the box before returning to USPS.) Probably a liability issue…

    Personally, I break them down and save them to reuse (as Priority).

    BTW, I just heard the priority tape they used to give out for free is no longer free. Too many people abusing it.

  111. Softly-with-a-Big-Stick says:

    So has anyone tried to figure out how to pay/print shipping labels online? What a disaster! I must be the stupidest person around if this makes sense to anyone else. I HATE going to our PO—no matter the day or time there is a half hour or longer wait.

    I receive bubble envelopes in the mail sent First Class or Priority all the time and they cost around a dollar. I try to send the same thing using online postage and it ALWAYS comes up almost $5! They sucker me every time because I’m usually in a hurry and after trying multiple combinations it still comes out the same. After spending too much time, I just go ahead and spend the $5. Maybe that’s the point???

    While I’m bitching, this new “zone” thing sucks! I’m on the west coast and it seems like almost everything ships from the Midwest or East Coast. I pay unreasonable (IMO) shipping compared to something being shipped from a closer destination. I know on the surface it probably makes sense, but with the volume they do, doesn’t it balance out? Hot Button!

  112. jbohanon says:

    This story is quite hilarious given the other stories I’ve read about people trying to figure out just how crazy of a thing you can send through the mail, like a Kleenex with an address on it.

  113. RinaldoTweedy says:

    HOLD ON! Most of you are making assumptions! The boxes we RECYCLED already
    had been USED, sent Priority Mail & paid for! The outer portion of the boxes
    had postage & mailing labels attached. The employees at 2 local post offices
    have been saving USED boxes for our nonprofit for years. The recipients of
    these boxes emptied them, leaving them in the garbage. These are USED Priority &
    other USED boxes left in the lobby of the post office for trash. Some were
    even given to us by local merchants. USED postage labels were removed for
    privacy of the recipients & the boxes turned inside out for reuse. NO ONE is
    stealing new, unused postal service boxes,or taking them by the stacks! The
    postal regs states that these priority and express boxes can only be utilized to
    ship priority & express mail, however the regulation does not state that USED
    boxes in the GARBAGE can’t be REUSED. IN FACT-the boxes are clearly marked
    “PLEASE RECYCLE”. The postal service got their Priority money on the box the
    first-time around, and were receiving additional money the second-time around.

    By the way, edited out of the news story was the fact that the postal
    service opened 2 boxes in transit, (one first-class, the other air-mail), shipping
    paid for by us, returned by them, and not refunded, (as they refused). The
    postal service felt the boxes were suspicious as they looked like the same size
    as their priority box, so they opened them and returned them. We researched
    their regs and could not find anything stating that they can search sealed,
    accepted over-the-counter, paid shipping, solely to check out the “BOX”.

    Yes, we are eBayer’s, selling sports related goods to raise funds for
    charity. Check out our eBay store at Pro Players Association Sports Plus.

    After viewing the news story, several postal employees have shared their
    thoughts with us. All of them stated the issue is idiotic and suggested we
    continue recycling the boxes by wrapping brown paper around them.

    We’re a nonprofit, and would rather use our donations to help charities,
    mentor youth, provide sports clinics for at-risk kids, hold holiday parties for
    the disabled and seniors, provide financial assistance to military families
    in need, then spend the funds buying new boxes.

    Pro Players Association will continue to do our part in Recycling USED boxes
    to help save our environment.

    Gary R. Adler
    President & CEO
    Pro Players Association – National
    _www.proplayersassociation.org_ (

    **************Wondering what’s for Dinner Tonight? Get new twists on family
    favorites at AOL Food.

  114. TracyMaynard says:

    As many have stated… a box is a box is a box. Now if you are using
    their materials to ship through them regardless of the shipping method
    should not be illegal. Now I understand sticking a media mail or parcel
    postage on a box that clearly states priority might cause conflicts and
    may sneak by as a higher rate service. But as it clearly states on the
    USPS website that boxes can be reused as long as all previous labels,
    postage etc are removed or covered. If it is such a problem why dont
    they offer plain mailers for people to use for parcel or media rates?
    Also if you were to look at shipping supplies on the USPS website and
    search for ‘media’ they have a media mailer listed that is not intended
    for media mail postage. So in my opinion it is that the well paid
    monkeys at the USPS are sorting packages based on box size, shape, or
    familiarity rather than the postage clearly stated on the shipping
    label. Solution: Get employees that can read and take the time to sort
    by postage paid and not by what they guess it is. It seems to me that
    the extra couple dollars to ship a 1lb item media mail compared to
    priority is all in the cost of their packaging if you use it or not.
    Because I have shipped both media mail and priority on same weight
    packaging and it seems to get there when they get around to it. Not to
    bash the government but these people and this service is paid for by us
    not only in taxes but in postage and they still find ways to be a pain.
    UPS, FedEx, DHL, and others…. lower your rates on lower weight,
    smaller packages and make our government employees actually work for
    us. If you dont agree.. I dont care.

  115. Anonymous says:

    I had a disagreement today at the post office about using an old priority mail envelope with “Priority Mail” blacked out by a marker. I spoke to a supervisor. Later, I called a postal inspector.

    Now I have discovered that when you order free boxes on-line from the USPS website, here is what you have to agree to –

    “Terms of Agreement

    “I understand that Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Global Express Mail and Global Priority Mail packaging is the property of the United States Postal Service and is provided solely for sending Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Global Express Mail and Global Priority Mail. Misuse may be a violation of federal law.”

    The key phrase is “packaging is the property of the United States Postal Service.” This is similar to the old days when the phone company owned your phone.

    However, I never “agreed” that the envelope I tried to use today is not my property. I received it in the mail and consider it to be mine.

    What if I pick up the free boxes from the post office without “agreeing” that I don’t own them? There would be no contract. The boxes have nothing written on them regarding who owns them.

    The solution to this is simply for the USPS to STOP GIVING AWAY BOXES.

  116. Anonymous says:

    6.1 Express Mail and Priority Mail Packaging

    Domestic Mail Manual 601:
    “Express Mail and Priority Mail packaging provided by the USPS must be used only for Express Mail or Priority Mail, as applicable. Regardless of how the packaging is reconfigured or how markings may be obliterated, any matter mailed in USPS-provided Express Mail or Priority Mail packaging is charged the appropriate Express Mail or Priority Mail price. “

    As stated by others, boxes are shipped FREE to customers with absolutely no charge for Priority Use only. The boxes are not free of cost for the USPS and are recognizable, even turned inside out.

    As far as privatization, do you really want to pay the charges other shipping companies charge? Others charge more than USPS in almost all cases, and many times they charge over ten times what the USPS charges for the same service.

    Can you get your package to its destination at the same cost without the USPS? Just something to think about.

    • Anonymous says:

      The USPS has to limit use of the boxes, the lowly untrained postal worker would get easily confused if their little minds saw what appeared to be a Priority mail box sent as some other service. This question is all moot, as the USPS does NOT STOCK anything other than flat rate at their post offices any more. Several window agents have told me they receive their flat rate supply orders, but the general, non-flat rate supplies never show up. The USPS is trying to throttle customers into paying for the higher flat-rate service. So I just order 4 times what I need off the web site. Oh, the stupidity, the waste. It makes me feel just like one of them!

  117. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Uh-oh, last time I went to the USPS, I took one of those priority bags and turned it inside out right in front of their faces. The ladies behind the counter, who spoke with very heavy Chinese accents didn’t mutter a thing.

    Odd, though, my package never made it to its destination and wasn’t returned.

    Down with the USPS!