Postal "Myth-Understanding"


   Everyone knows that anyone using the mailbox other than the USPS is subject to fines. According to the Mailbox Rule, even though you paid for and installed your mailbox yourself, by eminent domain, it remains the property of the Post Office and only items bearing U.S. Postal Service postage may be placed there.

   Since the establishment of the “Mailbox Rule” in the 1800s, the monopoly has become outdated, inefficient, and inconvenient.

   The Postal Service makes the unsubstantiated claim that their "mailbox monopoly" protects our privacy and the integrity of the mail by guarding against theft and destruction. A study conducted independently by Rand Research back in 2008, before the current postal crisis the nation is facing, concluded the following: Overall, we find that relaxing the Mailbox Rule could have a moderate negative impact on public safety and security of the mail and would increase the cost and complexity of IS investigations.The impact could be reduced depending on degree of relaxation and whether only the major couriers or a range of different types of couriers were allowed to enter the postal market. 

   According to its inclusion, the Rand study all but admitted they did not have the evidence to fully substantiate the claim that relaxing the mailbox rule, especially for a different range of private couriers, would have a negative impact on consumer safety. Most of the research was based on anyone in the public that had access to the mailbox. Since an actual study allowing private couriers access to the mailbox for delivery of items other than First Class has never been attempted, any claims by the USPS about privacy and safety remain conjecture.

   This is the 21st Century and not the 19th. In this day and time, if you own and maintain your mailbox, should a government agency really have the right to tell you how you can and can't use it? The President Commission on the Postal Service in 2003 didn’t think so. The Commission proposed that consumers should choose whether or not to allow private individuals or delivery companies to access their mailboxes, "so long as it does not impair the universal service or open homeowners' mailboxes against their will."

A 2007 report by the Federal Trade Commission agreed with the 2003 President’s Commission on the Postal Service, citing the postal service's monopoly on mailbox use "limits consumer choice and artificially increases the costs of private carriers.” In addition, the FTC reported on eight countries without mailbox monopolies and reported that none had noticed a significant loss in postal revenue. Six reported little or no problem with theft from the mailbox.

   The United States is the only country in the world with a monopoly on mailbox use. The reality is that the monopoly is more hindrance than protection for consumers, and any advantages that it offers the postal service are highly outdated and overrated.

   One example of that is that he mailbox monopoly is particularly inconvenient to those who live in urban apartment buildings without a front desk or in rural areas. If consumers are unable to sign for delivery, their only choice is the post office. So, it should come as no surprise that most Americans believe that major delivery companies should have access to their mailboxes, according to the General Accounting Office (GAO).

   The U.S. Postal Service has repeatedly claimed that it would "foster growth and innovation in the mailing industry" and "find new ways to make the mail work better for our customers, large and small." By maintaining strict adherence to anti-competitive measure like the mailbox monopoly hardly sounds innovative nor does it make the mail “work better for customers, large or small.”

   According to Don Soifer, Executive Director of the Consumer Postal Council, lifting the monopoly would not require drastic changes. “In the beginning,” according to Soifer, eligible private delivery companies could be required to register to use the mailbox, with the approval of individual customers. This should allay any consumer concerns of theft or abuse and maintain some accountability.” He concludes by saying, “Consumers ought to be able to retrieve all of their correspondence from their mailboxes, not just some of it.”