To Dream The Impossible Mailbox Dream
June 5, 2012 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I moved my mailbox from the street to my front porch. This, according to my mail carrier, is "not possible", and my mail is no longer being delivered. What, if anything, is my recourse?

I called the post office that services my neighborhood and was told that this cannot be done, the reason being that once a mailbox is installed in one place, it has to stay there. I pressed for details and the response was basically, "because we said so." There are no regulations in place. Finally the dude I talked to said he'd talk to my mail carrier and get back to me.

Other houses on my street have their mailboxes mounted in a variety of locations, including my next-door neighbor who has hers on her front porch. The reason I moved mine was for both security and aesthetic reasons-- the new box locks and is visible to me from the house, unlike the old mailbox. The new box is easily accessible by the mail carrier and would add, at most, 10 seconds to his route.

Anyone have any advice on how I can convince the local USPS office and my mail carrier to let me use my new mailbox?
posted by hollisimo to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh yeah, possibly relevant: I'm in SE Portland. Like, way south in Felony Flats.
posted by hollisimo at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2012

Start with the Office of the Consumer Advocate. If that doesn't work:

A) Hire an attorney and have them send a letter to your local PO, with ccs up the management chain.

B) Talk with your local Representative in Congress's office staff and have them send a letter under the Representative's name, with ccs up the management chain.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2012

The USPS is usually okay about moving stuff up the chain of command. It's possible that there really are regulations in place but that they didn't, for whatever reason, see fit to explain to you what they were. This is a thing you could either work out with the postmaster at your local location or work or file a claim at USPS's customer service. I've had good luck with the latter, you'll get a ticket assigned and it will stay open until the issue is resolved.

Of course the issue being resolved may be "here is the rule that says you can't do that" so if I were you I'd focus on what you actually want [locking mailbox, visible mailbox] and not the thing they may feel that you're insisting on [mailbox exactly where you put it] so that there is room for compromise and face-saving. Even if your box adds ten seconds, ten seconds added to 200 stops adds up so there may be decent reasons why this is a no-go. Think about the parts that are important to you and think about what you may be able to ease up on and try to find something that is acceptable to your carrier and also acceptable to you.
posted by jessamyn at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

My understanding is they they should notify you on writing of any ways in which you're out of compliance. Call the 800 number and ask for clarification. Or take it up the chain locally.

We actually had a postal carrier "go postal" on our front door. We had a door slot that made him angry. It had always been there but he was new. After kicking our door repeatedly and swearing (we were home and opened the door) he told us it wasn't in compliance.

We called an 800 number and they told us we would've reviewed a letter from the postmaster if the door slot was a problem.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Received, not reviewed.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2012

Although it shouldn't be necessary, my aunt who lives in a sixth-floor flat with no lift would suggest tipping in this situation.
posted by Mike1024 at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There certainly is no national regulation to that effect; I replaced my stoop-mounted box last year with a mailbox mounted to a post in the ground. I did check with my local post office before proceeding, though.

The carrier even complemented me on the new box!
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:38 AM on June 5, 2012

Here is the faq about mailboxes. Most notably right now:
Before installing, moving or replacing your mailbox or mailbox support, you will need to contact your Postmaster or mailperson from your local Post Officeâ„¢
And that's if you don't fall under the rural delivery rules (I don't know enough about where you're at to say); if you do:
To request door delivery, you need to write a letter requesting this change and attach a statement from a Doctor. The Doctor's statement should indicate you are unable to collect your mail from a curb or centralized mailbox. Both your letter and the Doctor's statement must be sent to the Post Office that delivers your mail for approval or denial. Final determination on whether or not door delivery will be granted will be made by the Post Office.
posted by inigo2 at 11:40 AM on June 5, 2012

I note that they only ask for a doctor's statement, not your doctor's statement.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think part of the problem is that you moved it without asking first. In essence, the Post Office "owns" your mailbox (not really but sort of); it's not up to you to decide what size/what access/where it is.

Call, ask for the postmaster, in a cordial "How can I get what I'd like please?" kind of tone.

The postman does not have to notify you BEFORE refusing to deliver it; a snowy walk, dangerous-looking dog, or crumbling steps are reasons why he can just up & decide to stop delivery immediately.

Tipping is NOT required; it would be a serious crime for your carrier to allow a bribe to change whether he accepts your mail or not (and that would be a bribe).
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding the "call and ask for the Postmaster General" from above. That is the position that is essentially the customer service manager. It's their job to make you happy, and how the mail carrier behaves is subject to the decision of the Postmaster.

Keep in mind though, that if everybody added a 10 second delay to the 300+ existing locations on their routes, it would be more than just slightly inconveniencing the carrier.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2012

I work in construction in Central FL - a lot of towns around me have a requirement that new homes have mailboxes at the curb. Also, I have encountered issues where, if we are doing a substantial remodel, then the inspector has required us to move the mailbox to the curb.

I don't know if there is any specific code or law in place that requires this - but as a builder, if the inspector wants it that way, he gets it that way. Location of the mailbox was never worth the fight to me.

I am mentioning all this simply to say - this does happen in other places.
posted by Flood at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the post office prefers to have the mailboxes at the curb, because it is more efficient. I'm not sure how the regulations exactly work, but in newer towns and subdivisions, there are actual laws and regulations about where the box can go.

If other homes in your area have house mounted mailboxes, you might win. But I doubt it. If your carrier drives his/her route, it's even less likely. If you still have a carrier that walks the route, you might get lucky.
posted by gjc at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2012

There is actually a complex series of calculations that are done to measure each letter carrier's route and therefore their workload. The process of delivering mail is literally broken down into seconds and each task on route is assigned a "time value". Adding 10 seconds to the walk may not seem like much, but it as people have said, it can add up. I think what you are probably encountering is that your letter carrier is unwilling to add these seconds to the route without it being added to their official time values. This can only happen if it's done in some sort of official way. Also, I know that in the US the street letter boxes (ie on the side of the street and not on the side of the house) are what are supposed to make your system more efficient than here in Canada. In Canada, I know that they actually measure how many steps it takes to go up to each mailbox from the street and back and then assign that house a particular time value. Each step can add up, especially if you are literally asking your letter carrier to go up some steps.
posted by smartypantz at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2012

Another reason that they have curbside delivery is liability. If the carrier gets injured on private property they may have no recourse for workman's comp.
posted by empatterson at 6:03 PM on June 5, 2012

This is terribly anecdotal, and I apologize, but in one of Laura O. Foster's books (I'm pretty sure it's in Portland City Walks), she mentions how front porch and other non-streetside mailboxes are grandfathered into the system, but new houses are required to have their mailboxes streetside.

She has a whole little chat with a mailcarrier about it; I believe it's in the Laurelhurst chapter, because a lot of the historic homes in that area have extended stairways leading up to the front door, and the mailcarrier still went up and down all those stairs. I think it's terrific that they'll still do that sort of thing, but I kinda understand if they don't want to start adding additional non-streetside boxes to routes.
posted by redsparkler at 7:39 PM on June 5, 2012

smartypantz has it, based on my experience. When we moved in to our pad, a previous owner had placed an exceedingly lame birdhouse-shaped mailbox on the front lawn; a few weeks after we moved in, we removed it and shined up the perfectly functional brass slot that said "Mail" next to the front door. Next day, our mailman stomped -- no STOMPED -- up to the front door, banged on it, and told us in no uncertain terms that we couldn't use the mail slot. His explanation was that the USPO counts his steps, and moving the mail-delivery zone added exactly 15 more steps to his route. We told him the slot said "Mail," so that's where it should go. For 3 years after that, every day, he would STOMP those 15 steps, huff and puff audibly, and shove/mangle our mail into the slot.

Then one day, "someone" stole the cash a clueless relative had tucked into a birthday card; we complained to the USPO, and Stompy the Mailman was magically relieved of duty soon after. (Our new mailman has known no other mailbox than the current one, and is perfectly pleasant.)
posted by turducken at 9:33 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Help! Stats!   |   Help Name a Records Management Blog Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.