American mailboxes

I don’t know if this is a universal thing, but from what I’ve seen on TV and in films, American homes seem to have mailboxes attached to poles in their front gardens.

  1. Is there a reason that it’s done this way? It seems quite inconvenient to go outside to get your mail (here in the UK, mail is delivered through a covered slot in your front door).

  2. Doesn’t everyone’s mail get stolen? It seems that a thief could get his hands on all sorts of credit cards, cheques, birthday cards with cash inside, etc. Or do the mailboxes have locks, and the mailman has a master key?

Thanks if you can help to clear up my confusion!

It is done this way so that mail trucks (which are right-hand drive) can pass by each house and put the mail in the box without leaving the truck. Newer neighborhoods tend to have blocks of mailboxes so that 20 or so houses will have a group of boxes along the sidewalk (pavement) somewhere nearby.

While we’re on the subject…

Is it true that the mail men pick up outgoing mail from your mailbox before they put the incoming stuff in? Because, man, that is an awesome idea. If there’s one custom I wouldn’t mind importing from the US to this country, it’s that.

The legal penalties for stealing mail are rather severe.

It’s true.

Thanks, we’d be happy to share! And have you tried our delicious California wines? :smiley: ::d&r::

Mail does sometimes get stolen, that’s why they say never to send cash through the mail. Not only for thieves in your neighborhood, but also to keep your letter from ending up disappearing while in transit. Credit cards come in the mail unactivated. You have to call a number on the card and verify all your account information before it’ll work. New debit cards that come in the mail have the PIN mailed separately, about a week before the actual card arrives. Or, you can have it changed at the bank.

Mailboxes can have keys. Apartment complexes are essentially mini-post offices, where all the boxes are locked with individual keys, and the back side is unlocked with a master key the postal worker has. For houses, there are mailboxes available with a lock on them. Stealing mail is a class A misdemeanor if the value is less than $1000. It’s a felony if it’s worth more than that. In 1792 Congress imposed the death penalty for stealing mail. Americans don’t fuck around with the mail system. Cite [PDF] Not sure when it was repealed though… if it was. It keeps us honest. :smiley:

Aspidistra, I’m not sure if the mailman picks up mail anymore. I know it used to be like that at one time, but I haven’t mailed a letter from the house in years and I don’t know if they do that anymore.

Houses in the city get delivered to boxes on the house or through a door slot. The houses with motorized carriers use curbside boxes. Some places are only serviced by boxes in the Post Office building. The mail is still picked up by the carrier. They are at your box, so why not? It defeats the purpose of home service if you have to run to the post office to mail out an item. You can also purchase stamps from the carriers by leaving the money in your box or going out and talking to them. They will not put postage on your mail for you. You have to do that after you buy the stamps from them.

With the individual curbside boxes, you raise the little red flag on the side of the mailbox to let the mailman know that you put mail in the box to be picked up. Otherwise they wouldn’t stop if you didn’t receive any mail that day.

a carrier will pickup outgoing mail from any household mail box. the individual roadside rural mail box, with a red flag, is most common for this. a front door urban mail box (on the wall of a house) can have mail picked up, people will clip it to the front of the box. if you had a mail slot in a door they would probably pick it up if you taped it to your front door.

Curbside or doorside delivery depends on the neighborhood. In my little suburban town we have both, in adjacent neighborhoods. Generally neighborhoods with curbside boxes on post are easily accessible by car so it’s not a big deal to pull up to your own curbside box in your own car and fetch your mail. It becomes part of the daily routine.

It’s the homeowner’s choice whether or not to have a locked box. All mailboxes are required to meet USPostal regulations. Installation of curbside mailboxes is also very specific.

If the homeowner wants mail delivered into a curbside box with a slot with only the homeowner having access to the locked box, that’s fine, as long as the mailbox otherwise meets approval.

In many–perhaps most–neighborhoods with curbside post-mounted mailboxes at the curb, an open hinged door readily accessible by all is used. Ours has a red flag for mail waiting to be picked up by the postal worker and another yellow flag which alerts us that the mail has been delivered that day.

Sensitive mail can be marked separately for delivery, including marked for a requisite signature by recipient, for an additional fee.

It’s a fairly big sin and also a crime to dink around with mail delivery, so a suspicious individual poking in mailboxes for stuff is not generally getting a very good return on their investment of risk. And such petty thieves don’t typically have the wherewithal for serious identity-theft sort of crimes, I’d suggest.

The mailbox on a pole is pretty common but not completely universal. My Sacramento neighborhood has the equivalent of door slots, and the mailman has to do a walking route where he comes up to every house. I’ve seen pole mailboxes in similar suburban areas to mine but I think it is even more standard in rural areas where the distance between neighbors makes a walking route impractical - pole mailboxes are situated such that the postal worker can stay in the little truck.

My house has the mail slot in the wall near the front door, and the mail is retrievable from a little mailbox inside the wall in the living room. It is the ultimate in convenience for Netflix, in theory I’d never need to leave the living room. I can just return them by leaning out the front door and clamping them in the mail slot, although this dreadful inconvenience more and more is eliminated with instant streaming. :slight_smile:

Everyone in the UK lives next door to everyone else. A chap with a mail bag is a pretty efficient way of stuffing front door letter boxes on a terraced street. Everyone in the US has a huge mansion with a front yard at least 50 yards square. A man with a van is a pretty efficient way of stuffing curbside mail boxes.

NB I used to live in a US neighbourhood where the mail carrier deliverd to the front door, and a UK housing estate where the postie dropped everyone’s letters in a multi slot communal dealie. Plus ca change as they say.

the ones i’ve seen with the yellow flag are set by the mailbox owner, the spring loaded flag comes up when the door is subsequently opened. this requires no action by the postal carrier other than opening the door. is yours like that?

As a side note, older houses around here (Boston, MA area) had fairly small slots that were sized to accept a standard letter-envelope. Newer ones are much bigger to accomodate all the new and larger stuff we get.

That’s how it works in the UK - the postman walks or cycles, either carrying a big heavy bag or pushing a trolley. Here’s a demonstration courtesy of Postman Pat. I used to have a post girl who ran the whole way around her round, as postmen generally knock off work when they’ve finished their round. In rural areas the postman will do his round in a van, but he will still get out of the van to post the mail through the letterbox on the front door.

We have to post our own mail though. Home collection would be brilliant!

Eh, I don’t trust it. Anytime I’m sending something out, it is usually money. I just can’t leave the house with that check waiting for the mailman all day out in that box. :eek: Maybe I’m paranoid, but then I’ve never lost any mail.

I just take my mail to work and it goes out there.

current rules need a 7 by 1.5 inch slot. the carriers probably dislike feeding each piece through singly.

do they fold larger stuff, especially solicitation advertisements, or do they make you pick it up at the post office?

In my house there’s a closet next to the front door, and that’s where the mail slot opens into. Anything that doesn’t fit in the slot is placed between the door and the storm door. I associate an outdoor box on a post with more rural communities.

Yes, you can leave outgoing mail in the box, but I’ve never done it.

Generally, if it can be folded or squashed into a slot or box that’s what the delivery person does. If they have a box they’ll try to deliver it in person once or twice, leaving a notice stuck to your door if you don’t answer, after which you’ll need to go to the post office to pick it up.

My parents have a mailslot in their front door, and sometimes leave envelopes sticking half-way out of the slot. Their carrier always picks it up.

To the OP, those mailboxes are found in rural and some suburban areas, not in cities and towns and not in all suburbs. But apparently something about them appeals to Hollywood because, I agree, if you watch American movies and TV shows you’d think everyone in the country had one. I’ve lived in a row house (your terraced house) in a city and a ranch house in the country, and both were served by a mail carrier on foot delivering to a mailslot in the door.