Jane Smith lives in 3A and everyone knows it
July 4, 2008 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Does everyone really have to know who lives in my apartment?

I just moved to a new building. The mailboxes are the standard metal ones in a row on the first floor with the apartment number scribbled on the front. On my first piece of addressed mail, someone (I assume the mailman?) had written "Please put your name on the mailbox or no mail can be delivered." I never had this problem in my old place- doesn't the postal service drop mail in based on the address and not the name? I guess it's a little out of my comfort zone to have my name displayed down there for all to see. What can I do? I live in New York. Thanks!
posted by pinksoftsoap to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
just put your last name on the box. i once had mail not get delivered because i didn't put my name on the box, but a last name is enough.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2008

In both of the buildings that I've lived in, the postman as put a label on the inside back of my box. Most of these banks of mailboxes open and slide forward so the mail person can stick the mail in from the top... they can see the label, but no one else can unless your mailbox is open.
posted by kimdog at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2008

You can just have your last name on the box. In some places, particularly apartment buildings, the post office will not deliver to people whose names are not on the box. I don't see this on their long list of delivery rules but I'm familiar with the post office doing this in many places, especially areas that have a lot of students.
posted by jessamyn at 10:49 AM on July 4, 2008

That's crazy. Call the post office. Of course, I'm in Canada, but to my understanding people in the USA also gets lots of mail for *@&$* previous occupants, so whoever scribbled that note is not making sense. Privacy, the final word. Stand your ground.
posted by Listener at 10:50 AM on July 4, 2008

Listener, I think the point is that this keeps people from getting mail for previous occupants, or keeps someone from using their apt box as a mail drop for a lot of people.

I'm not arguing that it's good policy and that privacy isn't important, I'm just saying there's a very real possibility that this is something mandated by the post office. We have much less in the way of privacy laws that protect us in the US compared to Canada.
posted by jessamyn at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2008

My postman put a sticker with my last name on my apartment mailbox. I imagine it's mainly because it's easier... he could sort all the mail using apartment numbers, but that's mistake-prone since all the numbers he's sorting are consecutive, and it's a lot easier to sort by name. Also, the number of pieces of mail that are sent to me that somehow lose my apartment number is pretty shocking, and those are quite hard to deliver by number.
posted by smackfu at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2008

The advice above is good. Put your last name on the box - Doe, or put first initial and last name on the box J. Doe. If you don't feel comfortable with that, then at least tape your full name inside the box, near the top. As Kimdog says, most of these banks of mailboxes open and slide forward so the mail person can stick the mail in from the top... they can see the label, but no one else can unless your mailbox is open. Mine works this way and my husband and I have our full names inside the box.

Also, it is kind of helpful to have at least your last name on the box. We have great mail delivery people, but I sometimes get my neighbors mail by accident and since they have their last names on their boxes I can actually give them the misdirected letters myself.
posted by gudrun at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2008

Is your name on the bell? If so, your privacy is already shot. Put your name on the box for the poor mail carrier. No one else cares who are.
posted by nax at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2008

I live in a flat with two mail boxes, and even here we had to put our last name on the inside of the mailbox. Your regular carrier may know who you are, but they also get a decent number of vacation days.
posted by drezdn at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2008

For what it's worth, I've had to do this at all the apartments I lived at since college. Before then, when I lived with my family, we did not have to do this. Not sure why this is the case, and I'm not saying it doesn't kind of suck, but that's how it is.

The place we're currently living at has the name on the outside of the mailbox. It doesn't bother me, but I hadn't given it much thought. Now that you mention it, I'd rather it weren't so public. At our other apartment, it was on a little sticker inside the mailbox.
posted by Nattie at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2008

Is it possible that you could catch the mail delivery person while they have the mailbox bank open for dropping in mail?

I caught mine once in Seattle when he had inserted the key and opened the whole thing, and he had put little labels with names on the inside, readable from his point of view. I took my name off the front after that, everyone happy.
posted by ctmf at 11:14 AM on July 4, 2008

The apartment I'm currently living in has a given name by which we call it and to which mail is occasionally addressed (rather than to an one inhabitant). We could theoretically make a habit of always putting the apartment's name on the "Address 2" line (as if it were some important building) and then put that name on the mailbox in place of our own. It's more college-y than professional, so you may not want to go that route - but the postman probably won't mix your mail up with anyone else's!
posted by bubukaba at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2008

Yeah, I had put a thing on the front of the box with my & my roommates last names, and then the mailman just put a white sticker (Avery label type sticker) on the inside of the box saying "AlisonM/Roommate, apt X" (where X is my apt #) on the inside of the box, even though we had labeled the front of it. If you have the same type of mailbox that I do (there's a few across, and it pulls out from the top, so it's kind of angled out and they drop stuff in from the top when they're delivering mail), it's easier for them to read that way, plus the only people who will ever see it are you and your mail carrier. (I'm in NYC too.)
posted by AlisonM at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2008

Our postpeople won't put mail in our box that isn't explicitly addressed to the last names on the box. This has led to huge problems for me, and they say that it is policy, though I've never asked to see the rule in print.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:18 AM on July 4, 2008

that's really, really, really weird—i live in new york and none of the mailmen i've ever had in any zip code have ever demanded this (none of my mailboxes have ever had names outside them), or have ever not delivered mail addressed to the apartment, whether the residents are current or not. i call bullshit on this being policy. tell your mailman you are happy to place a sticker with your name INSIDE the box but not out for privacy reasons.
posted by lia at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2008

In addition to all that's been said, may I suggest that you either put both your first name and last name on your mailbox, or just your last name - and instruct everyone to make sure mail addressed to you always includes your last name.

My sister one tried to send me a thank you note for a birthday gift to her son - it was addressed to "Aunt Firstname" - my mailman probably sorts on name rather than # (or maybe that day someone was filling in for our regular mailman, because I occasionally get mail for former tenants) - this is the only reason I can think, concerning the thank you note being returned to sender.
posted by raztaj at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2008

Sounds like the building manager to me, not the postman.

A delivery person is supposed to make every attempt to deliver the mail. If the address matches but there is no name, they will have to put it in that box or return to sender. They had return to sender. Costs them money. So they put it in the box. (Unless you have the same last name of another tennant, then they'll probably get your mail.)

Having a particular name on a box has never made any difference to any of the mail I get. I'm pretty sure the postmen at all of my apartments never read the top line. At my current place I have a note inside the box that says "Do not deliver mail to anyone but Ookseer", and 18 months later 1/2 the mail in my box is still for previous residents.

At my previous place the guy was doing good to get it to the right building. It was a good way to get to know my neighbors because we would regularly meet to take care of delivered mail.

Putting your last name on there has some benefits. For example when mail gets misdelivered a friendly neighbor will slide it under your door. Another one is that you don't look like a paranoid recluse to your neighbors by being the only one without a name on your box.
posted by Ookseer at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2008

If you're worried about your privacy, just solve the problem outright: get a PO Box, pay to have your mail forwarded to it for at least six months, gradually replace your address on all your important correspondence with the PO Box address, tell your friends and put it up on your Facebook etc, print up some "RETURN TO SENDER - LEFT ADDRESS, PLEASE REMOVE FROM MAILING LIST" stickers, and slap 'em on all junk mail, credit card offers, etc. Treat it as a change of address without actually moving house.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:58 AM on July 4, 2008

It might be so that when something gets addressed to "Jane Smith, 123 Whatever Street #3, New York, NY P0L 1W0," it doesn't get returned because they don't know that you live in #3A. When you have 3A, 3B, etc., in your building, and someone leaves off the letter, it can be problematic.

I think a lot of people from outside New York think that letters in apartment numbers are typos.
posted by oaf at 1:16 PM on July 4, 2008

NYC, this applies to my mailman too.

In New York, do you know how many people have your same last name? About a bazillion.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2008

The post office had that rule when I lived in State College, PA which obviously is full of college students. They would not deliver anything to a house or apartment if it didn't have the names of all the renters on the mail box. This was always an issue because you usually had more people than the lease allowed living in the house so you had to put up a label that said something like, "John Smith, Paul Jones, Mike Adams and accepting mail for Bob Williams", since Bob wasn't on the lease.
posted by octothorpe at 8:36 PM on July 4, 2008

Has nobody suggested renting a post office box? They're fairly cheap.
posted by white light at 12:02 AM on July 5, 2008

Ugh, I can't imagine having my mail delivered to my home address anymore. Who wants to let everyone in the world know where you live? Get a private mailbox.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:27 AM on July 5, 2008

Has nobody suggested renting a post office box? They're fairly cheap.
Oddly enough, yes. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:38 PM on July 6, 2008

You think that's bad? In Switzerland, we have our names: 1) On the mailbox 2) On the outside doorbell. 3) Inside each elevator 4) Outside our apartment door. Every one of these is professionally engraved brass plate, and we had to pay for it. Looks too office-like to me, but that's their way. Oh, and it is socially incorrect here to answer your phone 'hello?'. You are expected to answer with your name. (to which I say: "Okay, when you pay my phone bill, I'll do that your way." Too much parental training to the contrary)
posted by Goofyy at 5:13 AM on July 8, 2008

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