Should The USPS Open Up Mailboxes To All Kinds Of Deliveries?

Image courtesy of (Mike Matney)

What are mailboxes? What are they used for, and what should they be used for? In the delivery biz now, companies are wondering what goes in our mailboxes, what a mailbox should be, and who should be allowed to have access to them. Now, only you and your mail carrier are legally allowed to use your mailbox. Should that change? Should package delivery companies have access? What about grocery deliveries? What about your dry cleaning?

Of course, what a “mailbox” is depends on where you live. You could have a small, locked box in the lobby or common area outside of your apartment building, or a slot in the front door, or a massive plastic rural-route box at the end of your driveway. UPS and FedEx would be delighted to leave packages inside our mailboxes instead of dumping them at the curb.

In a blog post for the USPS Office of the Inspector General, Keith Kellison, UPS’s senior vice president for Global Public Affairs asked whether the idea that only USPS should access our mailboxes is obsolete. Our mailboxes are larger now, and we are the ones who purchase and maintain them: shouldn’t we be allowed to let UPS throw some small Amazon packages in there sometimes?

“Customers would benefit from reduced delivery costs, additional flexibility, and the knowledge that their packages are safe,” Kellison wrote. He also suggests that mailboxes that send automatic notifications or are refrigerated for food deliveries could work.

The U.S. Postal Service responded in a post of their own, because of course the postal service has a blog. Media representative David Partenheimer explained the reasons why USPS doesn’t want to give up exclusive access to our mailboxes:

Security: USPS representatives have security concerns, apparently forgetting that most suburban mailboxes don’t lock, and many of their doors don’t even close properly. Letting anyone access mailboxes poses a threat to customers: it “would increase criminals’ opportunities for mail theft, identity theft, and explosive attacks.”

What’s this? When you leave something in your mailbox, the carrier understands that to mean that it’s outgoing mail, whether it’s a prepaid package or a stamped letter. If they open up the box and find three packages and a bag of vegetables, the USPS argues, how will they know what is what? What happens if there is no room left for your mail?

First-Class Mail: The USPS is very understandably worried that allowing other carriers to use mailboxes could lead to the postal service losing its exclusive right to deliver the items on which it still has a monopoly: first class mail and advertising flyers.

USPS Makes Argument for Exclusive Mailbox Access [eCommerceBytes]
Response to OIG Blog Article from UPS on Mailbox Access [USPS]
Rethinking Mailbox Access [USPS OIG]