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View Full Version : Can you put a note in your neighbor's mailbox?


Kalhoun
02-18-2004, 12:17 PM
My dad wanted to give his neighbor a gift for plowing his driveway. He said he's just going to mail it to them because it's illegal for anyone but a postal employee to put anything in a mailbox. Is this true? I mean, if it was a bomb, I guess I could understand the rule, but it's a gift certificate for Outback. Anyone know the straight dope on this? I looked around on line, but couldn't find anything.

lieu
02-18-2004, 12:23 PM
According to this (http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3018), your Dad is right.

pcroughn
02-18-2004, 12:23 PM
According to this (http://pe.usps.gov/text/dmm/d041.htm#Rbi31049), it's OK as long as you put a stamp on it. Doesn't say what value of stamp, though.

Except under 2.11, 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. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.

Chastain86
02-18-2004, 12:24 PM
I don't know anything regarding the legality of the issue, but why not just hand the neighbor the gift certificate?

Or, if he wants to give it to him without being there, there's nothing wrong with taping it to the front door.

Gary T
02-18-2004, 12:26 PM
Your father's right. I've seen carriers remove non-U.S. mail items from mailboxes. They're not going to pursue prosectution for isolated incidents, but there's a definite risk that the item won't reach the intended recipient.

The same law applies to mail slots through buildings or doors, but practically speaking the non-mail item will get to the intended. There wouldn't be a problem unless said recipient complained to postal authorities.

zimaane
02-18-2004, 12:27 PM
Yes it's true. For a neighborly note, I think the relevant authorities would overlook it. If you were to go about distributing advertising, then you could be fined.

Kalhoun
02-18-2004, 12:42 PM
Well, why he's so concerned about this silly little law is beyond me (he's been known to blow a spliff if someone passes it his way -- at the ripe old age of 74!), but I guess I have to tell him he's right. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. They can bite me.

lieu
02-18-2004, 12:48 PM
(he's been known to blow a spliff if someone passes it his way...)Is this why he wasn't up for plowing the driveway?

Kalhoun
02-18-2004, 01:03 PM
Lieu said, "Is this why he wasn't up for plowing the driveway?"

Too plowed to plow, I guess. :)

cold frisson
02-18-2004, 01:23 PM
While the law seems silly for a home mailbox, one must consider the origins.
Before Franklin and his postal monopoly, boxes were set up at various locations, such as outside hotels or at crossroads. Some were for specific routes and carriers only, the equivalent of Wells Fargo. Some boxes were open to all travelers, such as those outside a farmstead. Anyone who wanted to carry a piece of mail would be paid by the recipient. Not good for secure things like payments, but serviceable for things like requests going to the local vet.

Philster
02-18-2004, 02:27 PM
A local landscaper used to put ads in mailboxes. One day his crew put ads in the boxes as they did their rounds. Many people (cleaning companies, yard sales ads, Mr Fix Its) used to do the same thing.

So when there was a widespread identity theft/lost mail/lost credit card/lost everything scam going around the local postmaster almost went insane trying to track down the perps, since people were in/out of everyone's mailboxes.

Seems Mr Landscaper's crew stole mail from many people, and stole their identities or tried to activate credit cards. The credit card companies track the call when you call to activate the cards, and several calls came from the same number on the same day and all were non-matching to the application's home adress.

Much of this nonsense happened only because people tolerated the practice of having the public at large go into their mailbox.

Do not tolerate it when you see it, And don't do it. If anything is missing, you had your hands in their pot and you put yourself at risk.

Mops
02-18-2004, 02:43 PM
As a non-American I must admit to severe puzzlement.

What do the following items get put in in the US, then?

- newspapers delivered by the newspapers' carriers
- free newspapers
- promotional flyers
- hand-delivered mail by local associations/businesses who are saving postage
- "I called but you were not in" notes from repairmen/deliverymen/friends?

Gary T
02-18-2004, 03:17 PM
As a non-American I must admit to severe puzzlement.

What do the following items get put in in the US, then?

- newspapers delivered by the newspapers' carriers
In the city, thrown onto the front lawn, walkway, or porch. In rural areas, in a separate receptacle on a post, which resembles a mailbox but is marked with the paper's name.

- free newspapers
In the city, as above. In rural areas, I don't know.

- promotional flyers
Between the storm/screen door and main door, if accesible; stuck into the crevice around the door if possible; or attached to the doorknob with a rubber band.

- hand-delivered mail by local associations/businesses who are saving postage
Probably like flyers above. Generally this is not done, probably because the labor cost to do so doesn't compare favorably to the cost of postage.

- "I called but you were not in" notes from repairmen/deliverymen/friends?
Most repairmen/deliverymen use self-stick forms printed by their companies. Otherwise, like flyers above.

If people want to install a "note box" for such things, they're quite welcome to. But mailboxes are for the U.S. Mail only.

toadspittle
02-18-2004, 03:18 PM
As a non-American I must admit to severe puzzlement.

What do the following items get put in in the US, then?

- newspapers delivered by the newspapers' carriers

Tossed on the doorstep/driveway or occasionally placed into a separate, dedicated, open-fronted plastic mailbox embossed with the newspaper's name that is attached to the pole just below the official mailbox

- free newspapers

Tossed on the doorstep/driveway

- promotional flyers
- hand-delivered mail by local associations/businesses who are saving postage

Stuffed into mailbox anyway, or else tucked into the crack of the front door or under the windshield wiper of someone's car

- "I called but you were not in" notes from repairmen/deliverymen/friends?

Taped to/tucked into the crack of front door.


This is for suburbia, mind you--cities would be different, since mailboxes there are usu. only accessible by key, so everything non-USPS would end up on the doormat/tucked into the crack of the apt. door. Free papers sometimes have sidewalk distribution boxes, which look like newspaper vending boxes, only they open freely (w/o having to insert coins).

Lambo
02-18-2004, 03:29 PM
As a non-American I must admit to severe puzzlement.

What do the following items get put in in the US, then?

- newspapers delivered by the newspapers' carriers
- free newspapers
- promotional flyers
- hand-delivered mail by local associations/businesses who are saving postage
- "I called but you were not in" notes from repairmen/deliverymen/friends?

I'm sure someone will post the answer before me, but I'll do this anyway:

1. Newspapers delivered by newspaper carrier are often placed/thrown near the front door of the house, or another popular option is to have a second, usually plastic and doorless, box on the same pole as the mailbox. This second box often has the name of the paper on it, and I think they are often free from the paper/carrier, as a form of advertising, probably.

2. In the country/suburbs, and even urban areas I am familiar with, the rest of the items you ask about are often stuck in between the door frame, if they can get to the door (a lot of restaurants will have their menus printed on a piece of paper pre-cut to hang over a door knob). Also, promotional flyers can be mailed cheaply as unsorted bulk mail.

Rayne Man
02-18-2004, 04:55 PM
What happens if you are away from your house for a few days?. I would have thought that this accumulation of papers and other material stuck round and in front of your door is the perfect advertisment for every burgler in town to come and help themselves to the contents of your house. At least with the system we have here , with everything pushed through your door slot , there are no outward signs that the house is unoccupied.

Slartibartfastt
02-18-2004, 05:28 PM
What happens if you are away from your house for a few days?. I would have thought that this accumulation of papers and other material stuck round and in front of your door is the perfect advertisment for every burgler in town to come and help themselves to the contents of your house. At least with the system we have here , with everything pushed through your door slot , there are no outward signs that the house is unoccupied.


The post office will hold your mail at the office if you request it and you can request newspapers not to be delivered. The other stuff is rare and I doubt that it would pile up enough to be a problem. If you're in a place where you think it could be ask a neighbor or family member to check every couple of days and pick up any accumilated stuff.

fortytwo
02-18-2004, 05:30 PM
Are the mailboxes supplied by the Post Office, and therefore their property? My impression of them (seen in films etc.) is that they have a standard and common shape.

Gary T
02-18-2004, 05:35 PM
What happens if you are away from your house for a few days?. I would have thought that this accumulation of papers and other material stuck round and in front of your door is the perfect advertisment for every burgler in town to come and help themselves to the contents of your house. At least with the system we have here , with everything pushed through your door slot , there are no outward signs that the house is unoccupied.
If you're going to be gone for a while, you either have newspaper delivery stopped for that time or have a neighbor gather them for you. If you have a mailbox, you either have mail delivery held or have a neighbor pick it up. If you have a mail slot, that may not be necessary unless there's a view through a window of the mail piled up on the floor. As for flyers, delivery notices, and such, having a neighbor get them is probably the only feasible approach.

Advertising material can be particularly irksome. Mail and paper delivery can be stopped while you're gone, without requiring someone to come to your house to take care of them. Likewise, most folks are aware if a delivery would be scheduled, and can do something about that without soliciting a neighbor's help. But there's really no way to know if or when some promotional material might be left on your door. Most people don't want that stuff anyway, and are somewhat annoyed to get it at all. If its presence also thwarts one's efforts to avoid the appearance of being away, annoyance can escalate to fierce anger.

R. P. McMurphy
02-18-2004, 05:36 PM
What happens if you are away from your house for a few days?. I would have thought that this accumulation of papers and other material stuck round and in front of your door is the perfect advertisment for every burgler in town to come and help themselves to the contents of your house. At least with the system we have here , with everything pushed through your door slot , there are no outward signs that the house is unoccupied.

Yes, it is an advertisement for burglers.

Solution: Have the Post Office hold your mail. Temporarily cancel the newspaper delivery. Have a trusted neighbor watch your house and remove any flyers from view.

R. P. McMurphy
02-18-2004, 05:46 PM
Are the mailboxes supplied by the Post Office, and therefore their property? My impression of them (seen in films etc.) is that they have a standard and common shape.

Mailboxes are NOT supplied by the Post Office. However, the Post Office has some very specific requirements that mailboxes must meet. When you buy a mailbox (at the hardware store for instance) there will be something on the box that says it is approved by the U.S. Post Office. There are also installation requirement such as height off the ground. While the Post Office doesn't go around with measuring tapes, if they find a box that is non-compliant and is a problem they will refuse to deliver to it.

The postal regulations can get troublesome in an apartment building. The boxes have to meet certain requirements as to size, height off the floor, accessibility and master keys. An apartment building can't just install or replace mailboxes without being certain that they are approved.

Gary T
02-18-2004, 06:04 PM
Are the mailboxes supplied by the Post Office, and therefore their property? My impression of them (seen in films etc.) is that they have a standard and common shape.
Most of them look alike or similar for the reasons Spartydog mentioned. However, occasionally you see a fanciful one. It still has to meet specifications, but it might be decorated to look like a locomotive engine, or an animal with a big mouth, or a car (http://www.rjays.com/Collectables/collectables1_images/mailbox-lg.jpg) .

ltfire
02-18-2004, 08:17 PM
I'll give you another quirk of the USPS. The carrier cannot HAND you your mail. It has to go into the box. My neighbor and I were resetting a bank of four mailboxes at the end of my driveway, that had been knocked over by a snow plow. As we were working, the mail truck pulled up, and my friend and I jokingly held up the 4x4 that the boxes were attached to. The mailman said, as humorous as that was, truth is, I have to deliver it to the box. In fact, If you guys weren't here, he stated, I would have held your mail until tomorrow, or until you fixed the boxes.
I've encountered this numerous times since then when I'm having a package delivered, along with the lettered mail. He'll put the letters in the box, and then come up my driveway to hand me the package. :rolleyes:

MLS
02-18-2004, 08:31 PM
As to the OP, although it is technically forbidden, as many others have said, if you wait until after the USPS delivery is made, but before the person has picked up the mail, you are unlikely to get in trouble for it unless the recipient complains.

Reeder
02-18-2004, 08:37 PM
You buy your mail box..you set up your mailbox..but when it's set up to receive mail it doesn't belong to you anymore.

It belongs to the usps.

I'll give you another quirk of the USPS. The carrier cannot HAND you your mail. It has to go into the box.

That may be true but it's certainly not practiced everywhere. I get mine handed to me all the time.

Bryan Ekers
02-18-2004, 08:45 PM
I get mine handed to me all the time.

Maybe you should stop picking bar fights.

Oh, wait. That's your ass. Never mind.

dire1973
05-11-2011, 05:17 PM
I got into an argument the other day because the mail lady that delivers my mail removed a flyer from my box.

I was under the assumption that the box belonged to me and therefore the contents belonged to me as well.

I guess technically she was right and I was wrong although I still think it's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. Luckily for me the post office is a ghost in the wind shrinking and going bye bye.

Qadgop the Mercotan
05-11-2011, 06:11 PM
Zombie RFD.

cochrane
05-11-2011, 06:19 PM
If you put a note in a zombie's mailbox, is it a grave violation?

Ba-da-bump!

Ignatz
05-12-2011, 09:57 PM
There's a current (week of 5/9/11) campaign to have you put food items in, or on, your mailbox this Saturday, to be collected by the postal carrier and donated to the hungry poor folks. How does that compute?

johnpost
05-12-2011, 10:02 PM
There's a current (week of 5/9/11) campaign to have you put food items in, or on, your mailbox this Saturday, to be collected by the postal carrier and donated to the hungry poor folks. How does that compute?

the plastic bag provided by the letter carrier says; "1. leave non-perishable food by your mail box".

MsWhatsit
05-12-2011, 10:05 PM
Welcome to the Dope, dire1973. In case you were wondering, the zombie references are just because this thread was started several years ago (and now has risen zombie-like from the grave).

Re the food drive, you're allowed to put items in your own mailbox. Otherwise nobody would be able to put outgoing mail there.