A neighbor has stolen an unknown number of magazines from me...
August 13, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

I live in a converted house with three apartments. When taking out some extremely old trash the other day, I noticed that one of my neighbor's trash bags contained one of my old issues of the NY Review of Books. That is, the magazine went from the mail in the front area to his apartment without passing through mine. How should I address this? Angry letter? Passive agression? Calling my landlord? Postal Inspection Service? Just let it slide? (Since the mail is collected by whatever tenant takes in the mail, a secure mailbox system seems infeasible.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Shit happens. Let it slide (unless it happens again and again).
posted by mattbucher at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it someone you have a decent relationship with? Could you just speak up about it? Maybe offer to give them your copy after you've read it?

I mean, we're talking about someone who reads the New York Review Of Books. This confrontation is unlikely to get violent.
posted by Sara C. at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2013 [31 favorites]

Since the mail is collected by whatever tenant takes in the mail, a secure mailbox system seems infeasible.

I've lived in/known of many converted or multi-family houses that had secure mailboxes for each unit. It is far from infeasible. I'd talk to your landlord first. They may be very amenable to it.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

It would be worth letting your neighbor know that you are onto them.
posted by grouse at 7:41 AM on August 13, 2013

I think you are seriously overreacting. It seems way more likely that this was just an honest mistake (he grabbed it accidentally and kept forgetting to give it to you or something) than malice. Let it go unless it becomes a pattern.
posted by almostmanda at 7:44 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

My response would be, next time I saw the neighbour, to ask something like "by the way, do you happen to have got any of my mail? I've been expecting some magazines...".

But secure mailboxes are totally possible.
posted by katrielalex at 7:44 AM on August 13, 2013 [14 favorites]

It's unclear from your post whether this was a one-time occurrence or happens regularly. All you've seen is one magazine. If this has just happened once, I think you'd sort of look like a crazy person if you "confront" your neighbor over this. Maybe he picked up a stack of mail, didn't look at it for a while, then tossed it just thinking it was his.

How many of these magazines have you noticed missing? If you haven't noticed it before now, I might suggest that either this isn't a regular occurrence or you don't care enough about actually reading the NY Review of Books to continue your subscription.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:46 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe offer to give them your copy after you've read it?

I agree with this.

Also, maybe you can put out a magazine bin for all the tenants to share. Throw your old issues in there, pick up some ones you haven't read.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm the type of person who automatically assumes everyone is on their best behavior and I'd think this was an honest mistake. But if it has happened more than once, and you have a reasonable relationship with them, you could drop a note saying you noticed your magazines in their trash, and if they'd like to read it, you're happy to share when you've finished reading it first.
posted by kinetic at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think if someone is taking your magazines from your mail without asking you/without your knowledge, they are likely to take other things from your mail that wouldn't be noticeable, like coupons. I wouldn't confront them in an angry way, but I'd ask how katrielalax suggested above. That way, they know that you know that they are taking your magazines, and they might be less likely to take other mail, too. In my opinion, it's worth addressing in a way that lets your neighbor know that you know that he/she has taken your magazines.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Know when your issue is due. If you don't see it when it is due, knock on his door.

I would not ask as katrie suggests. That's too passive for this situation.
posted by megatherium at 8:02 AM on August 13, 2013

This is NOT an honest mistake.

It is actually a crime and one that is taken seriously by law enforcement in just about every modern country. Postal Service depends on trust and your neighbor is betraying that trust.

An honest mistake is taking someone else's mail, realizing it and then giving it to you in person with an apology.

Throwing someone else's mail in the garbage is flat out not a mistake (actually it would require at least two mistakes - the initial taking and the subsequent discarding and possibly three 'mistakes' if there is the intermediate 'accidental' reading).

There are things worth being a hard-ass about and this is one of them. Your mail is your property and there will be things more valuable than magazines in it.
posted by srboisvert at 8:03 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Did you notice the magazine missing originally? Are you sure you hadn't put it in the recycling? I have lived in multi-family/mail situations before and when I was missing magazines I would do two thigns at once

1. take it up with the magazine "Hey I never got this" so I'd get another copy (they will generally do this)
2. take it up with the post office "Hey my mail may not be getting to me"

And as a part of #2 I'd also speak to my neighbors "Hey my mail is not getting to me and I have let the post office know, could you keep a special eye out for any of my mail that may have gotten mixed in with yours?" This way people know what's up, no one feels accused and you can see if the problem stops. If the problem does NOT stop, then I'd work on maybe talking to this one neighbor specifically, and even then I'd still do something like "Hey I want to be able to read my magazines, if you're also into NYRB, I can give you my copy when I'm done but please don't borrow it before I've seen it" Assuming good faith is a good way to stay neighborly. Starting a neighbor war with people who can steal your mail is a bad idea. Worst case, move or get a PO box for important stuff but I don't think this is something that seems super problematic at this early stage.
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

It was probably not a mistake. This happens a lot in my apartment building with magazines, netflix DVDs, etc. We have individual mailboxes but they are small and the postal carrier leaves larger items in the lobby. And they tend to disappear. I called the post office and complained to them that I want all mail in my mailbox even if they have to force it in the box. This cut down on theft a lot.

I think you should ask the landlord for individual mailboxes. Or get a PO Box.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I believe postal laws don't require a secure mailbox for each apartment, but I would ask your landlord to have them installed.
posted by Gungho at 9:00 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would make an index-card-sized note: I've been missing mail and magazines. Please be careful when you pick up your mail. If you want to read my NY Review of Books when I'm done, I'd be happy to share. Thanks, Anon. in apt. 3 because maybe it was a mistake. If it continues to happen, I'd ask the landlord to install separate lockable mailboxes. A friend of mine had her credit card applications stolen, then the credit cards arrived and were used. She didn't have to pay, but it was a hassle. Most magazine thieves probably don't commit further mail and credit fraud, but why accommodate a thief?
posted by theora55 at 9:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived in several apartment buildings like this that had secure mailboxes for each apartment.

If your mail is delivered on foot to your house, each apartment can have a box attached to the wall. If your mail is delivered by truck to the end of your driveway, you can have multiple boxes. Check with your post office but this should be do-able and would solve your problem going forward.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:47 AM on August 13, 2013

Well, I am going to echo that there's no way this is a mistake. One issue, maybe. All of the issues, no. However, you can't entirely rule out that it hasn't been delivered to the wrong address and they were just too lazy to ever give it to you, so I'd tread carefully with accusations. But it seems pretty likely your asshole neighbor was taking your magazines.

Agree that you should talk to your landlord and maybe the post office about it. You should be allowed to get your mail without it being stolen. Magazines are one thing. But a way identity thieves operate is by taking those free credit card offers and stuff you get in the mail and throw out, and then opening cards in your name. Also, my friend once ordered some nice pots and pans >$200 and one of his neighbors just flat out stole the box off his door step.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:49 AM on August 13, 2013

I've had mail, including things like magazines, misdelivered to me. I've also had magazines that I don't subscribe to correctly delivered to me, as sample copies. I've also immediately thrown out magazines that I don't subscribe to that have been delivered to me. It's entirely possible that I've immediately thrown out magazines that I don't subscribe to that have been misdelivered to me, without realizing that they've been misdelivered.

I'm not saying it was definitely an honest mistake. But I do think that the people who are saying that it could not possibly have been an honest mistake are overstating their position.
posted by Flunkie at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, if hypothetically I were to decide to steal my neighbor's mail and then throw it out later, I am pretty confident that I would not throw it out in such a way that my neighbor could casually see it when throwing out their own garbage.
posted by Flunkie at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2013

I would tape a note around the mail area/front door that is not at all accusatory and instead says something like "Hey, has anyone seen my NY Review of books? It's not getting to me consistently and I miss it! Thanks, Anon from apt #."

Someone who is stealing NYRB probably only needs to know that it is being noticed and it makes you sad. I bet that will do it and it will go straight to you from now on. If it doesn't work, then I'd confront in person next time you see them in passing and say "Hey, I think I saw one of my magazines in your trash, could you please make sure that you aren't picking them up by accident?"
That let's them know you are on to them but lets them off the hook and excuses them from any malice. It also saves you from any retribution magazine stealing if you are mean when confronting them.
posted by rmless at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2013

Talk to your landlord and get secured (locking) individual mailboxes, stat. The problem isn't this one magazine, it's the basic theft --- and if this guy took one item he's willing to take more. Things like credit card offers leave you open to identity theft, for instance. Not that I'm saying this guy has criminal intentions, but your two neighbors won't be the same two people forever, will they?

Don't bother talking to this guy (he knows darn well he took something that was not his), don't bother posting cute little notes: just get those individual mailboxes right away.
posted by easily confused at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's worth noting that least where i live, it's actually illegal/against city ordinances/etc for a multi-family dwelling like this to not have separate mailboxes. It's one of those basic things you have to have. Even if it's a place where you just rent a room and share bathrooms you still have to have your own mailbox. Even the most sketchy duplexes i've ever seen have had multiple ones, to the point that i'm pretty sure even those next to the college flophouses in my town where they turned a two-story house in to like 30 rooms have a wall of little mailboxes.

It's not even an expensive thing for the landlord to do is the most pathetic part. $30 a mailbox at home depot for locking ones. That's less than $100 even with little "1, 2 ,3" stickers, and maybe an hour or two of their time to screw them to the wall.

Not dealing with this on their part is a really disturbing kind of cheap and lazy that i'd be concerned about if i was a tenant at that place. I'd be wondering what other corners were cut and what types of penny wise, pound foolish "There i fixed it!" shit was going on in the house.
posted by emptythought at 3:57 PM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Heck, if you're willing to do the installation yourself, ask your landlord if you can pick up some of those Home Depot boxes emptythought mentions --- save the receipt, he can either pay you back or ask if you can deduct the price from your rent.

The point is, immediately get *something* to secure your mail.
posted by easily confused at 5:17 PM on August 13, 2013

It's a little weird to title this "a neighbor has stolen an unknown number of magazines from me." Stolen, on purpose? Not a mistake or oversight?

More likely that your neighbor accidentally intermingled one piece of your mail within their own mail items and didn't realize it until an embarrassingly late date and then just threw it out, passively figuring that if you had missed your delivery you would call and complain (which would have gotten you comped for that issue) or ask around the building or something.
posted by desuetude at 11:50 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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