Is this okay, or would it be "mail tampering"?
November 10, 2022 5:06 PM   Subscribe

A letter was delivered to my building, and I'd like to send it on its way.

The letter arrived addressed like this:

Person's name
183 4th Ave
NYC, 12345

But the person lives at

183 48th St
NYC, 12345

Pretty sure it's a condolence card. If I fix the address and leave a note for the mail carrier, will it be properly delivered? Want to be sure this wouldn't be considered mail tampering. It’s undeliverable as is and will have to go back to sender, which seems quite sad.
posted by gigondas to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
hey hey pssst down here hey

if you change the address and drop it in a blue box how will anyone know it was you
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 PM on November 10, 2022 [12 favorites]

I would cross out the street address and the write next to the address: "Misdelivered. Correct address is 183 48th St, NYC 12345. Also if there is bar code printed on the bottom, be sure to cover it up with a thick black marker. Best option - it will get to the right place. Second best option - it will get returned to sender who will then be able to put it in a fresh envelope and resend it.

IANAL but I don't think you will get into trouble for tampering if you are just helping it get where it needs to go. Certainly if it were me, I would have no worries.
posted by metahawk at 5:22 PM on November 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you don’t mind spending a few cents, you could always stick the existing envelope in a new envelope with the correct address and remailing it.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:22 PM on November 10, 2022 [14 favorites]

Mail tampering is related to damaging, destroying, or stealing mail. This is none of those things. I've frequently written "not at this address" on mail and sent it back.

Yes to metahawk's advice, including covering up the bar code. I've not done that and had the same letter show up at my house again.
posted by FencingGal at 5:40 PM on November 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

The US Postal Service says you should write “Not at this address” on the envelope and leave everything else as it is.

Adding the correct address seems sensible as long as the original is kept.
posted by kyten at 5:52 PM on November 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

You cross out the old address (so you can still read it) and bar code, write "FORWARD" on it, and clearly print the correct address.
posted by XtineHutch at 6:04 PM on November 10, 2022 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I do this all the time. I think a couple of the mail carriers are dyslexic or something. I've even accidentally opened some because I'm half blind and need stronger reading glasses. I've lived in this apartment for 20+ years and know the name of the previous tenant and still get occasional mail for somebody from before them. I write a bit passive aggressive notes.... "not even delivered to the right address", "hasn't lived here form 20+ years". Haven't been arrested for mail tampering yet!
posted by zengargoyle at 8:05 PM on November 10, 2022

It's true that the law can occasionally be confusing or unforgiving.

But the world simply isn't so mean-spirited, or petty, or weird, that it would spend the time and effort to penalize you for a perfectly reasonable attempt to be helpful.
posted by foursentences at 10:01 PM on November 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Is the address some place you can deliver it yourself? That’s what I’ve done when it is. I do that when I can. I always feel like a champ when I do.

I also love that you worry this could be mail tampering because I’ve had that thought about other mail issues, like accidentally opening misdirected mail when I wasn’t paying attention to the name and then wondering if I’d get in trouble.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:33 AM on November 11, 2022

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