Mail Carrier Puts My Package In Someone Else’s Rural Mailbox, USPS Calls It ‘Delivered’

H. lives on a rural mail route, and her mailbox is secure, with a lock and a slot just big enough to slide letters through. When a package containing an expensive camera lens went missing recently, she learned that her mail carrier had put the package in the “parcle box.” The what? Oh, the unused but not secure mailbox on her street that some neighbor wrote “parcel box” on a long time ago. H. had no indication that her package had been placed in the box until the mailman left her a note about it. By then, the box had already been stolen. The post office, for its part, insists that the package was delivered as addressed.

She writes:

My mail carrier delivered a package for me last week on Wednesday, or maybe Thursday. The problem is, he did not deliver it to me. He placed it in an old mailbox a few mailboxes down from mine that someone had written “parcel box” on. The mailbox door has no handle and it doesn’t latch. As far as I know that box has been there for years and I have never had to use it, nor did I think that I needed to check it.

But, let’s say the mail carrier felt he could leave the package there. I would have expected him to leave me a note telling me he did so.

On Saturday he must have noticed that no one picked up the package so he wrote me a small misspelled note to tell me that I had a parcel in the “parcle” box. I take a look. Nothing in the box.

I call my neighbors – oh yes, they say, it was there a few days ago.

I talk to the carrier. He is trying to tell me that it is OK for him to “deliver” a parcel by placing it in a random box and not letting me know it is there. He suggests I talk to the neighbor across the street because he always gets his packages there.

I ask if he had a tracking number. He doesn’t know if it had a tracking number. Can he describe the package…it was a small box he says.

I have been calling the supervisors – [J] and [B] so far. They say they will get back to me or they tell me that if the package is not insured they are not responsible.

The thief that took the parcel now knows that he can drive by and check the “parcel box” and probably help himself to anything that the hapless mail carrier thinks of putting in there.
What he lost for me is a brand new camera lens. Score!!

We checked back in with H. to find out more, and she explained that the post office is now dragging its feet on her insurance claim, insisting that putting her package in a completely random box is totally okay.

So far the USPS is using the excuse that the package was delivered as addressed. I am appealing that decision to reimburse me for the insured package since it was clearly not delivered as addressed. We have since realized that it happened twice in the same week, so I am not sure the second package will get treated any better by the USPS people in charge of reimbursements.

Well, great. Now we’ve given criminals everywhere a fabulous new idea: install random “parcel boxes” in every neighborhood, then drive around to collect their goodies.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Will Print T-shirts For Food says:

    I don’t send ANYTHING worth more than $20 with USPS.

  2. Marlin says:

    I take down the “Parcle Box” asap so this does not happen again.

    • Captain Spock says:

      With a baseball bat whilst driving at a high rate of speed

    • longfeltwant says:

      I like how OP describes it as a “completely random mailbox”. Yeah, completely random, right next to your mailbox, in the same box bank, plainly labeled for parcels, and one which you were aware of. Yeah, completely random indeed. Who would ever think to look for a parcel in the labeled “Parcel Box” right next to their locked mailbox which is unfit for receiving parcels?

      You know, dude, I live in a house in a city, and sometimes the mailman puts my parcels on my porch, because they won’t fit in my mailbox. I’ve never been so dull as to insist that just because it is a few feet away from my mailbox, that I could never find it in that location. Bonus: my porch isn’t specifically, explicitly labeled for parcels, and the mailman has never, ever once put a note in my mailbox telling me to look on my porch.

      Seriously, I understand you’re bummed for missing your package, but you are projecting blame onto the postman untenably. Your mailbox bank has a parcel box. You didn’t check it for days and days. The package disappeared. That’s a shame, but I disagree that the postman is to blame. I would say no blame need be laid, except on the thief; but if you insist on blaming someone, blame yourself.

      • LadyTL says:

        RTFA, it wasn’t next to their mailbox, wasn’t numbered was broken and unsecured and just was written on to say it was a “parcel box.” If I put a box in front of your house and write parcel box on it, it still would not be a mailbox for you and you would have a right to be upset if mail was put in it and then stolen.

        • longfeltwant says:

          No, you RTFA.

          “an old mailbox a few mailboxes down from mine that someone had written ‘parcel box’ on”

          In rural areas there are banks of mailboxes (I used to have one). In this bank, just a few mailboxes down from the OP’s, there was one box designated for parcels. It’s not like the parcel was hidden under a bush two townships over.

          “I know that box has been there for years”

          The box has long been there, has always been designated for parcels, and he’s known about it for years.

          And what you said last is crazypants. If there is a box near my mailbox labeled “parcel box”, and it has been there with my knowing for years, and a parcel is placed in that box, and then I complain about it, that would make me the unreasonable person, not the postman who put a parcel into a clearly labeled parcel box.

          I think OP should throw up his hands, ask for (but not expect) insurance reimbursement, then get a new mailbox for himself which allows for parcels.

          • Audiyoda28 says:

            I also used to live on a rural route. While I’ll agree that RR’s have banks of mailboxes to make it easier for the postal delivery person to deliver and those banks generally do have 1 or more a larger boxs labelled for parcel delivery. On a RR, up to five addresses may use one box (hence the use of a parcel box) – but a signed agreement must be on file with the local postmaster – signed by all recipients that use that box. And…by rule, any parcel too large to fit in a recipients delivery box will not be left. The recipient is left a notice and the parcel is returned to the local postal unit to be held until the recipient can claim the parcel. That is, unless the recipient has a standing agreement to leave parcels in a shared box that can accommodate the parcel or has signed a waiver for delivery of large parcels which are then left of the roadside under/behind the bank of mailboxes.

            So while you did RTFA, you’re otherwise way off. Thanks for playing, take your seat.

            • longfeltwant says:

              If that rule is true, and if failure to have that signature on file is the OP’s complaint, then that would be a valid complaint. But that is not the OP’s complaint; he complained that a parcel was put in a parcel box, which doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. I’m only going with information given in the article. We’d need to ask the OP and the OP’s post office whether they have that sig on file, or a waiver or whatever, before assuming they don’t.

              If you know this guy, perhaps you can offer us insight into your assumptions about things not mentioned in the article. In this way, you can help me go from my understanding based on the article, to your apparent superior understanding, based on what must be some personal information you have about the situation. Otherwise you’re just making stuff up.

              • whylime says:

                “An ordinary (unnumbered) parcel too large to fit in the mailbox will not be left unless the customer has filed a written request with the postmaster as a release for leaving the parcels.” [USPS FAQ –

                Considering the OP was surprised that her package would be placed in that mailbox, and that she had never used it or thought to even check it, we can probably assume that she did not file a written request with the postmaster for large packages to be delivered there.

                • longfeltwant says:

                  Gosh, the OP should really stop complaining about the missing note, and start complaining about this rule breach! Why would the article take us on a roundabout discussion toward an un-complained-of rule breach? I hope we get a follow-up when the OP has used your cite to get insurance for his stolen item, which would then validate the reasonable-but-unconfirmed assumption that no sig card was on file.

                • longfeltwant says:

                  I looked closer at that section and I’m left to wonder how they define “the mailbox”. Obviously, some box banks have a common Parcel Box — as did this one. Obviously, those Parcel Boxes are for common deliveries. Obviously, those Parcel Boxes are “mailboxes”. So, it seems to me that if the package fit in the Parcel Box, then that would follow the rule (because it fit in the mailbox). I’ve never considered such things before, though, so I’d want a postal employee or lawyer or something to comment.

                  • Audiyoda28 says:

                    I’m going to go out on a limb here but IMHO “the mailbox” would be the one with numbers on it to identify the address of who’s mail to leave in that given box. Now I could be wrong and hell, maybe those postal delivery people just happen to get lucky and don’t look at those numbers. And those people that live on RRs – they’re a bit backwards anyway aren’t they? Don’t have real addresses – just something like RR 23 Box 6. Hell, maybe the postal delivery person can’t read – they thought parcel box was the actual RR address.

                    And BTW, read my post over – did I say I know the OP? Nope. Did I say I used to live on a rural route? Yesirebobby I did. I knew what the rules were and I followed them. In the five years I lived on that RR I never had anything taken – but then I didn’t share a box nor did I give the postmaster license to drop my deliveries anywhere.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              My family owned property on a Rural Route for over 100 years, before it was eventually converted to a standard road. Never was there a “bank of mailboxes,” every address on the route was a distinct address along Rural Route 5.

          • MMD says:

            You contradict yourself.

            You say in your earlier comment: “Yeah, completely random, right next to your mailbox”, then when you went back to RTFA, you quote this: ““an old mailbox a few mailboxes down from mine that someone had written ‘parcel box’ on”

            A few mailboxes down is not “right next to” the OP’s box.

            Also, from the article: “As far as I know that box has been there for years and I have never had to use it, nor did I think that I needed to check it.”

            In order for your claim to make any sense, this package would have to be the very first package the OP has ever received at this address. I think it’s safe to assume that the OP has previously received packages via methods other than the parcel box. Why was this package different?

            Finally: what Audiyoda28 said.

            • longfeltwant says:

              Yes, “a few down” is “right next to”. Anywhere on the bank, unless the bank is large enough to have two parcel boxes, is “right next to”.

              We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether or not it is reasonable to check a box labeled for parcel delivery on a box bank physically attached to your mailbox.

              if Audiyoda is right about the rule, then breaking that rule would make a reasonable complaint; but that complaint was not made by the OP.

              • MMD says:

                “Yes, “a few down” is “right next to””

                Really? And where do you get “physically attached”? Sorry, words mean something, and you’re redefining them to suit your needs as you go along.

                And you didn’t address my point about prior package delivery.

                You’re not going to convince anyone by making up details and ignoring salient points.

                • longfeltwant says:

                  Yes, really. FFS, if you can’t abide “right next to”, then in your mind imagine it says “a few down from”. It does’t make a difference. He was aware of the parcel box, that’s the essential detail.

                  That’s a good point about physically connected. I imagined a bank of boxes, which would all be physically connected, but the article merely says “on the street…a few boxes down”. I’d want clarification from the OP, but if the OP’s mailbox was in a bank of boxes, whether on one post or separate posts, then the parcel box was reasonable for delivery.

                  The question of prior delivery is interesting, but not addressed in the article. It might be a valid complaint, if the OP wants to make it.

                  I’d like to know more about this rule for having a signature on file. If that is true (cite?), then the OP should use that angle, which would be much more sympathetic than “yeah, I didn’t look in the parcel box for my parcel”.

                  • MMD says:

                    The location of the box absolutely makes a difference. If it’s not immediately next to or physically attached to the OP’s mailbox, why in the world would the OP assume it applied to his deliveries?

                    My mailbox is physically attached to my neighbor’s (it’s a standalone double box unit), but I would never presume that my neighbor’s mailbox was mine and would not go poking around in there, even though it’s “right next to” mine. Your argument regarding a bank of boxes implies that the OP is responsible for rooting around in each box in case his mail ends up in one. It makes no sense.

                    whylime has your citation for the signature rule above.

                    “The question of prior delivery is interesting, but not addressed in the article. It might be a valid complaint, if the OP wants to make it.” Except that he did in his letter to Consumerist. From the article. Again: “As far as I know that box has been there for years and *I have never had to use it, nor did I think that I needed to check it.*”

                    Again: why is he suddenly getting deliveries in this box? And why was it ok for the carrier to do this without leaving a package slip?

                    • longfeltwant says:

                      “Your argument regarding a bank of boxes implies that the OP is responsible for rooting around in each box in case his mail ends up in one. It makes no sense.”

                      Does it? Huh. Well, thanks for letting me know, because I only meant to imply that the OP is responsible for rooting around in the well-known explicitly labeled “Parcel Box” for his parcel. I never meant to imply that he should be looking in other boxes — can you tell me what I said that made you infer that, so I can be more careful next time? I don’t like to make rhetorical mistakes like that, because it would open me up to criticism from people who would twist plain statements into things not said.

      • scorpionamongus says:

        I don’t think the complaint is about the fact that it was put in the parcel box, but that there was initially no notification that it was placed there and the box is not secured. My neighborhood uses banks like that and the postal worker always leaves a note letting me know which box it is in and a key to open the box. In fact, when I lived in a different area but with a similar mailbox system, the lock on my mailbox broke and the postal carrier would not leave mail in it until the lock was fixed; the people at the post office told me it was SOP for the Postal Service, so it seems that the carrier in this case did not follow SOP.

  3. Dummy1212 says:

    What is standard protocol for the OP to receive packages? Not exactly sure how rural mail differs from suburban/urban, but it seems like with her isn’t really prepared to receive anything besides letters.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I rented a house in a rural area and though our letters would go in the mailbox at the street, the mailman would always bring packages to our door (about 200 ft down the driveway)

    • Coles_Law says:

      I’ve seen places like these. Some rural boxes do have a designated parcel box that is significantly larger than the boxes for the houses. (The house boxes were about the size of a small PO box; the parcel box was about the size of a microwave). The way it worked where I was is that the parcel box had a key and a lock. The key was stuck in the lock and could only be released by the postman. If someone got a parcel (had to be smallish), the mailman would place the parcel in the parcel box and pop the key out. He would then place the key in the house box of whoever got the parcel. Homeowner comes up to check mail, unlocks his mailbox, sees parcel box key, opens parcel box with parcel box key, gets package. The key then stayed stuck in the parcel box lock until needed again.

      It sounds like the OP’s parcel box was broken at some point.

      • longfeltwant says:

        This is the optimal solution: for the neighborhood to provide for a locked box with a key. Then the postman can use that system. Failing that, the postman does the best he can using the system available. In this case, the system was to put the parcel into the clearly labeled Parcel Box. The OP should consider this an opportunity for he and his neighbors to improve their system.

        • MMD says:

          Except that the OP has lived there for years and that system has never been used for deliveries to his address until now.

          Yes, the system needs improving. But the USPS is by no means blameless in this if the parcel box hasn’t been in regular use for the OP’s deliveries.

          • longfeltwant says:

            Agreed. I’d like to hear more about how OP normally receives parcels. I wonder why they didn’t say in their complaint to Consumerist?

  4. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    For a short bit, we were worried that a random person was coming by and sorting through our mail because almost every letter we received had one corner peeled open. Then randomly, we found our mailbox covered in Ketchup! As far as I can tell nothing has gone missing, but besides replacing my box with one of these “secure” types – what are you supposed to do? (And I live on a normal residential street).

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I live on a rural route. I have a fairly standard sized mailbox, so anything larger than a normal sized book won’t fit. I’m rarely home when the mail carrier comes by, but one day I ran into him, and he asked me if I wasn’t around if it was OK if he put any larger parcels on the front seat of the car. I told him that was fine. I think it depends on your mail carrier. Our old mail carrier was a jackass and would leave Postal Service diagrams about the height and angle of the mailbox, but not leave the actual mail. It’s tough when it’s winter and your mailbox has been struck by a plow. You can’t always make it perfectly upright when the ground is frozen. Jerk.

      In my neighborhood, I haven’t heard of anyone’s mail being stolen. You’re more likely to look out in the morning and see someone has played mailbox baseball with the box.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        That’s true – until I actually filled out an authorization with the local post office, they refused to leave any packages for me and I’d have to be late to work if I wanted to pick it up.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      We have a PO Box, although I have all of my packages either sent to work (electronics and other expensive items) or the house, where they get left on our front steps (cat food, books, other bulky and not expensive items).

  5. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    The OP’s mailbox is “secure, with a lock and a slot just big enough to slide letters through”.

    I’m wondering if the neighbor’s mailboxes are the same, and that’s why someone put up a parcel box so they didn’t get the little orange colored slip and have to either have the item redelivered later or go to the post office in town to pick it up. It’s hard to tell what arrangement the other neighbors have with the mail carrier.

    Did the OP go to the neighbor’s house across the street and ask if he had the item? Maybe he picked it up with this other mail, put it on the counter with the mail and other stuff and didn’t even look at it.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I would suggest the OP put a piece of paper INSIDE the “parcel” box that states “PLEASE DELIVER PACKAGES FOR TO DOOR.”

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        there was an <ADDRESS> between the For and To

      • longfeltwant says:

        That might work in some rural areas, but not others. I once had rural mail delivery, and there is no way the post man could have even found my “house”, let alone found a person there to deliver to.

        In any case, the rural area in this story has a designated system for parcel delivery. One resident apparently isn’t happy with the system, and has projected blame onto the wrong person (the postman). The resident should instead take action to fix the parcel-delivery system in his rural area. A locked-box-and-key system is one good way.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    According to a Wikipedia article: A Parcle Box is a new term that was coined on July 2, 2012 by and whose definition has not been definitely determined yet.

  7. polishhillbilly says:

    I live on a rural mail route as well. Our mail carrier is a moronic dolt, who can barely get the mail in the box most of the time. All online purchases I have sent here to the office. The Mail room guy gets a case of beer every month, and my package gets to me asap.

  8. George4478 says:

    >>Now we’ve given criminals everywhere a fabulous new idea: install random “parcel boxes” in every neighborhood, then drive around to collect their goodies.

    Last week, my neighbor went on vacation and asked me to sign for a delivery for her. She left a note on her front door for Fedex, directing them to me, by name.

    The Fedex lady showed up at my front door with the package, the note, and 2 police officers. They thought I had redirected the package myself in order to steal it. I spent 20 minutes with officers until they were satisfied I was not AlCapone4478.

    Yep. I left a note with my name on it, directing them to my house 2 doors away, and signed for the package with my real name while standing in the doorway of the house I’ve lived in for 20 years. They’ll never catch me since I’m a master criminal, apparently.

  9. SirWired says:

    Why is the OP messing with this at all? Isn’t all this fighting supposed to be the SHIPPER’S job? I’d be asking the shipper for a refund (and file a chargeback if not granted) and wash my hands of it. The courier service the shipper chooses to use is not the OP’s problem.

  10. jumbojeepman says:

    Different rural routes have different systems. I lived on one up until a few months ago. I had a regular mailbox at the end of my driveway, and the mailman would take packages too large for it up to my porch and leave them there (they all knew I worked at night and slept until around noon, so they normally wouldn’t knock unless they needed a signature.) Other places on the same route had a bunch of individual mailboxes mounted on a rail (like mobile homes down a dirt driveway, that way the carrier didn’t have to drive down the driveway/road.)

    The apartment complexes around here have joint mailboxes, the newer ones have 2 parcel spaces with keys. If you get a parcel, they put the key in your box so you know to open the locked parcel box if there is a package for you.

    From the poster’s description, it sounds like they have regular boxes (the poster chose one with a lock and slot common to crime ridden areas) and a neighbor put a larger box for parcels intended only for the neighbor alongside their normal box (maybe that person gets a lot of parcels, I know I do.) I would be pretty upset if the mailman placed my package in the neighbors private parcel box.

  11. and_another_thing says:

    Last week I was waiting for a parcel to be delivered by USPS. I watched the carrier drive up on the expected delivery day and put items in my mailbox. One of those items was a “delivery attempted” notice, a clear falsehood. I called the USPS to complain about this and the best they could offer was a delivery attempt the next day, to which I agreed.

    Come the next day and I watched the carrier stop, put items in my box, then return to his vehicle. I went to the curb and got the carrier’s attention. I asked if he had a parcel for me. He said no.

    I called USPS again to complain and ask them to hold it for delivery. When the agent learned that I wanted it held, she was no longer interested in pursuing my complaint.

    I collected it in person at the nearest post office on day 3.

  12. Difdi says:

    Actually, that’s a hell of an idea.

    If you put up your own “parcel box” that isn’t actually affiliated with any of the houses on the street, it’s not stealing mail to take anything you find inside your parcel box. You might get in trouble for deceptive practices, but it wouldn’t actually be mail theft.

  13. frodolives35 says:

    Just last week our postwomen honked for 5 minutes until my wife walked to the road for a registered letter for someone who did not live at our address. NO COOKIES AT CHRISTMAS FOR YOU POST LADY.

  14. Portlandia says:

    Uhm chargeback. It wasn’t received and the insurance claim protects the sender not you.