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March 2, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

I want to receive letters at my personal residence that are addressed to an art project of mine, and will not have my name on them. Will these letters be delivered, or do I need to take extra steps to ensure they won't get returned to the original senders?

I'm starting up an art project in April, to coincide with National Poetry Month. Long story short, I'm going to get a ton of stickers printed up... and then give them away to anyone who sends me a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

Rather than use my own name, I'd like to use the name of the project. So people would use this as the "To" address:

Art Project Name
123 Fake Street, Apartment 2
Chicago, IL 60647

Do I need to be registered officially as a business or non-profit, for this to work? Or does the US Post Office not care, so long as the address itself is a valid one? Again, I'm doing this as a personal project and am not selling anything or taking donations or whatnot. You send me a SASE, I send back some stickers.

It dawns on me now that I could just send myself a letter titled in this way, and see if it works. Just curious if anyone's done this before, and could add a little insight.
posted by avoision to Law & Government (19 answers total)
Do you have your name on your mailbox? That is all you need.
Your mailman wants to deliver it correctly.

Tape a little, tiny sign on your mailbox, that says:
John Doe
Art Project Name

After a week, you can take the sign down. Your mailman will get the message.
posted by Flood at 6:47 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've sent birthday cards to my sister's cat addressed to
123 ICan'tBelieveI'mDoingThis Street
Tragicville, NY

and never had a problem with delivery. I also receive mail *all the time* addressed to previous tenants at my address. The name line doesn't seem to make a lot of difference.
posted by apparently at 6:51 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience, whether the name matters depends on the postal worker. Several items got returned to the sender at my last apartment, before I put my name on the mailbox; at my current place, I can't get them to stop delivering mail for old tenants. I'm not sure what the official USPS stance is, but that's my experience, at least.
posted by divisjm at 6:55 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

the postmaster at my local usps and my mail carrier both say that the mail is delivered by address unless a change of address form is filed. they say that it doesn't matter what name is on it, it's going in the box. my mail carrier is also a totally sweet old woman who admits that's how it should be, but you know, sometimes she goes by name because she remembers those easier, and oh she's so sorry that the other nadawi in the building got my 30 dollar coffee and she'll try to do better in the future.

long story short - talk to your carrier and your local post office. it should be totally fine, though.
posted by nadawi at 7:01 PM on March 2, 2012

Yeah, I address letters as "Ma and Pa G" or "Grandma Mabel G" without problems. I think it's a good idea to put your art project name in parenthesis on your mailbox too, though, as Flood suggested, and talk to your mail carrier if you see him or her during the day.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:06 PM on March 2, 2012

Art Project
C/o 123 Main St
City, Mn
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:11 PM on March 2, 2012

I also get plenty of mail addressed to previous tenants of my house, and I've had mail addressed to just my first name or a nickname - not my first and last name. As long as the address is correct you should be fine.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:38 PM on March 2, 2012

I address letters to my mom as Mom (with the address). I've pushed it a bit, actually, futzing with the spelling of the street and even the city name. The only time I've had trouble was when I substituted Charbroiled for Charlotte, and that surprised me, since the zip code was correct. I have gotten Secret Quonsar gifts addressed to MrMoonPie. I think you'll be fine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:21 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shouldn't be a problem. I don't think my daughter has ever sent me mail with my proper name on it and it's never been an issue.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:33 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never even considered that it might be an issue. I've been getting mail delivered to me under my online name for years. My feeling is that the US Post office doesn't know who is living with you or not. Especially in an apartment where there's bound to be high turnover, and if it's obvious it's the name of a Thing rather than a Person.

FWIW, I doubt Frank took any precautions prior to starting the Postsecret project.
posted by Phire at 9:02 PM on March 2, 2012

I actually have twice had the post office decide I no longer live at my house. To fix this (or avoid any confusion in your case), there is a really easy form you fill out with the postal office that lists the current residents. This is the official version of talking to your letter carrier.
posted by lab.beetle at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2012

I would put the name of the art project on the mailbox just to make sure.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2012

They pretty much only need street address and zip to get to you.
posted by rhizome at 9:20 PM on March 2, 2012

I have successfully received mail in my regular mailbox that was addressed to "elizardbits lolbutts of the lancashire lolbuttses" in fancy copperplate script so I assume YMMV.
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely put your art project's name on the mailbox so your carrier knows it's supposed to be delivered to you. It won't hurt and may clarify that you want this mail delivered to you.

Individual carriers all have different standards. I've gotten mail at some places just fine no matter what name was on them as long as the address was correct (including mail for former tenants).

Then there was the place where I had just moved in with my boyfriend and the mail carrier would write a big question mark on almost every piece of mail addressed to me, even though it was always addressed correctly. He was still doing it years later. (Same guy once delivered a letter to us that was addressed to someone way across town, totally dissimilar address. He got all up on his high horse about the name being wrong and once again felt the need to write the question mark on it while never even noticing that the address was also completely wrong.)
posted by i feel possessed at 11:49 PM on March 2, 2012

I only provide my username and address for MeFiSwaps, and the packages get to me just fine. I also still get mail for former roommates pretty regularly, as well as mail addressed to my DBA name. And my post office is a black pit of despair...
posted by limeonaire at 7:51 AM on March 3, 2012

Absolutely put the project name on your mailbox. I was grumpily told to do this by a letter carrier.
posted by bink at 11:34 AM on March 3, 2012

I had never written a letter to anyone outside of school assignments until my online buddies and I started trading mail, and none of us ever used our legal names. I have sent letters to and received letters from such personages as "Moo", "Bunny-chu", and my personal favorite, "Beelzebub Jones" (I can only imagine what our carrier must've thought about that one). These letters always arrived at their destination, whereas the USPS has lost plenty of mail that was actually addressed to me by my legal and proper name. Go figure.

I never even realized that you might need anything other than a correct address to receive mail. After all, who's that postal worker to say that someone surely wouldn't have actually named their child Beelzebub, and that said Beelzebub is not, in fact, living at your address? A project name wouldn't even give them pause, I'd think, but from other answers it seems like it's down to the individual carrier. I guess I learned something today!
posted by the liquid oxygen at 2:38 PM on March 3, 2012

Nthing what's been said above. The post office delivers mail to addresses, not people. People move, move in together, stay with friends temporarily, have weird nicknames, change their names, start businesses, get mail addressed to their kids, who may not have the same last name as the person who usually gets mail there if their parents are divorced.

If you live in a rental unit, you'll get lots of mail for people who used to live there which you have to send back. My house-mate regularly gets mail addressed to his business which he runs from home part-time that doesn't have his name on it, just the name of his company. There's no problem with this.

The post office assumes that mail sent to a street address in a certain zip code was intended to go there and that the people live there know if they live there or not and will return mail addressed to people and entities who don't.

As others have said, add your project's name to your mail box. This will help with mail that's incorrectly addressed, but close enough to make it to your local post office (transposed numbers in a street address, Dr. instead of Ave. or St., wrong zip, but the street–city combination does actually exist in another zip code). Correctly addressed mail will still get there regardless, and doing this doesn't guarantee that incorrectly addressed mail won't be sent back. But at this level, human intervention in what's otherwise a mostly automated system can actually help.

(For what it's worth, I briefly worked for the US post office, in the automated sorting side of things. Not long enough to make me an expert in how mail gets delivered, but this my understanding of how it works.)
posted by nangar at 9:58 PM on March 3, 2012

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