US mailbox history

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by kirstyinglis, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. kirstyinglis

    kirstyinglis New Member

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    You might think this bizarre, but I'm curious about the mailbox that you all seem to have in the US. I may be totally wrong but on TV I see mailboxes in peoples gardens where they have to go to collect their mail. I think, also, the mail-man collects your mail for posting from that box too if the little flag thing is up?

    In the UK we have a letterbox in our front-door where the mail-man posts our mail through and we collect it from the comfort of our own homes. To post mail, it's a little less convenient than your system as we have to go to the nearest postbox which, normally, is not too far.

    Whilst I appreciate that countries throughout the world have different ways and means of doing things, it's always puzzled me as to why Americans wouldn't prefer to have their mail delivered direct to their homes like we do in the UK. It seems to me an inconvenience to have to go outside to collect mail every day, and an inconvenience which is tolerated by a nation who are renowned for all things 'convenience'.

    Perhaps there are reasons, perhaps there's a history behind the system and why it's never changed. I'd certainly be interested to hear.
     
  2. simcha

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    I think in the movies you've seen you can notice that these mailboxes with the red flags are used in rural communities or in communities with single-family homes and yards.

    Yes, the red flag in the "up" position tells the postal carrier that there is mail being sent from the owner of the mailbox and it can be used to tell the mail box owner that there is mail in the mailbox. In short, the flag is up when there is mail in the box. When it's down, there's no mail.

    In apartment buildings, generally, we have banks of mailboxes attached to the wall on the first floor in the foyer. The mail carrier puts your mail in there and you use a key to open the mail box to get your mail. Then you must use a nearby post box or go to the post office in order to post mail.

    Some homes do have a slot in the door through which the postal carrier will put the mail.

    I think we have more of the "stand alone" mail boxes with the flags because our communities are more spread out than in Europe. It makes it more efficient for the US postal service carrier to pull up to the side of the road in specialized vehicles to deliver the mail to these boxes than for the postal carrier to walk door-to-door. In some communities they have a central location on a road where there is a grouping of these "stand alone" mail boxes where the mail will be delivered for the whole community.

    The distances are great in this country in many cases. In cities, going door to door is more practical. In suburbs and rural areas "stand alone" mail boxes by the road makes mail delivery more efficient.
     
  3. IntoxicatingToxin

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    We also have mailboxes that are attached to the fronts of the houses, usually right outside the front door. We DO have houses with mail slots, where the mail gets dropped directly into our homes, but that seems to be more rare... at least, it's rare where I live. Here, we usually either have standalone boxes by the driveway/road, or mailboxes attached near the front doors.
     
  4. JustAsking

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    There are plenty of neighborhoods where the mailbox is attached to the front door. But in rural areas, there can be a pretty big distance from the road to the house itself. In my case, the distance is 200 ft of woods. So out here in farm country, the mailperson stops at each set of mailboxes out at the road and puts mail in them without leaving the vehicle.

    As for posting a letter, the closest place I can do that is almost ten miles away, so it makes sense that I can put my mail in my mailbox by the road and raise the little flag.

    In denser residential areas, it is more efficient for a mailperson to leave the vehicle in a strategic spot walk from door to door with a mailbag depositing mail at the front door mailboxes.
     
  5. JustAsking

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    Oh yeah Kirsty, one disadvantage to having the mailboxes out at the street is that bored teenagers like to drive by your boxes at midnight and bash them up with a baseball bat as they drive by.

    If you drive around a neighborhood with mailboxes out by the street, you might see all kinds of unusual deterrences people have made against that behavior. They usually think they have the problem solved but then a snowplow might come by and wipe the mailboxes right off the map.
     
  6. kalipygian

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    The question has been pretty well answered, one other point, the Post Office, in order to increase efficiency, is trying to reduce the number of walking routes which are mostly in older urban areas, and reduce the number of stops on driving routes by clustering boxes.
     
  7. simcha

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    Some of this is just proof that mail carriers are getting lazier and lazier. Sometimes they don't bother to bring my packages to my door opting instead for giving me a notice claiming that I need to pick up my packages at the post office. That's bullocks! I have a letter on file that says if I'm not home that my packages that don't fit in my mailbox are to be left at my door. I complained recently and I was met with such attitude that you wouldn't believe.

    Others in my building have complained that they think that our mail carrier isn't bothering to bring packages to our building opting to make us go to the post office to pick them up.

    Our postal system gets more and more expensive and less and less customer friendly.
     
  8. kalipygian

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    They don't deliver to my house in any case, it is a 'highway contract route', my mailbox is in a bank at an intersection about a quarter mile away. The house didn't even have an address for the first ten years here, though the mailbox did.
     
  9. Love-it

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    Where we lived in Montana our post man drove 270 miles every day, Monday through Saturday. He had a special arrangement with an auto dealer to replace his truck every 6 months at about 100,000 miles, the trucks were sought after by ranchers as "new" trucks because they were current models. There were 216 mail boxes in our stretch of road, two small post offices and one side road of 20 miles that I think had about 15 mail boxes. There was a "ranch" that was eight miles off the pavement where their mail box was located.
     
  10. OKFarmer

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    Growing up, our mailbox was next to the front door. You clipped outgoing main below it on fair-weather days. When grandma moved in due to failing health, we put in a ramp so her wheelchair could get inside. At that point we put a mailbox at the base of the ramp to spare our postman the time to walk all the way around and up it.

    At my house the mailbox is across the road so the mail-lady can just drive up and drop it in. Her route is one of those that is a couple hundred miles of driving. How much harder it would be if she had to pull up in my drive and walk to the front door to drop mail. A locality usually does things like that because of time constraints, lack of numbers of people to afford more mail carriers, and common courtesy.
     
  11. ZOS23xy

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    In my rural area, every time that flick STAND BY ME comes on, there is an outbreak of mail box bashings, just like in that film.

    One neighbor has it solved. built a plug hole where his mailbox should be, plants it outside in the morning, and takes it in late in the afternoon.

    The little red flag here means there is mail from the owner to be picked up, or a mis directed piece to go forward.
     
  12. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
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    It's mixed service in my city. Homes closer to the downtown area have street parking and the postman hoofs it from door to door but in my section we have the mailboxes on posts out by the street so the postman (oops! sorry! letter carrier) can just drive by.

    The trouble with this mobile service is that when we get a package that won't fit in the box they'll often be too lazy to come to the door and will instead leave a notice in the box that we can come to the post office to pick up the package. That happened not too long ago. I looked out of the window to see the postman parked at my mailbox as he filled out the package notification. It took him longer to do that than it would have taken to come to my door. When I called the postmaster to complain he gave me the shoulder shrugging answer that the postman that day was a substitute because the regular carrier had broken her arm.

    I was incredulous. I said, "Well then fire the substitute and hire somebody with legs that work."
     
  13. SpoiledPrincess

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    In England if we had a mail box our mail would be stolen.
     
  14. Northland

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    Early each morning the letter carrier/ postal worker goes to the post office. They sort the mail out and place it in several large sacks. They then take 2 sacks of mail and place them in a wheeled contrivance which has 2 pouches to hold the sacks. The postal worker then heads off on the first leg of their route. The first leg for the carrier on my route is a 4 block walk before they get to the first building of their route.

    As they deliver the mail, they empty the first two sacks they had started off with and stop at a green mailbox which has more sacks of mail inside. These sacks have been dropped off by the postal truck employee (the delivery route employee has already sorted mail and placed them in the sacks before exiting on their walk). There is a seperate postal truck and employee to pick up mail from the blue box. The blue box is the one where people drop in their mail to be sent elsewhere.

    In many buildings there are several mailboxes. Using one key, the postal worker opens up the entire sleeve of boxes. In my buiding it currently involves a large metal door being opened which then reveals the 20+ separate and individual boxes for each tenant. Each one is labeled on the inside according to tenant name and apartment number. After they finish putting the mail in the correct (HA! they screw up daily) box, they shut the door, drop rubber bands on the floor, and mail that they can't figure out where it belongs (many times for another building). The tenant then opens up the smaller door for their own individual box. Prior to this set of boxes (these were installed 4 years ago), the employee would turn the key and the set of delivery sleeves would tilt forward and they would drop the mail into each slot, and each tenant opened up their own individual box (cutting their hands while reaching into the small box). I prefer our new boxes, they're larger and can hold more than a postage stamp (which was about the size of the old ones). Similar to the desire for a large penis by many women and men, their is also a desire to have a large box.

    In some places the individual door of each mailbox has been torn off by vandals-the post office is not supposed to deliver to an unlocked box or one without a door on it; but, bless them, they do and they deliver everything-especially checks, which are always welcomed by thieves.
     
  15. kalipygian

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    That does happen here, mostly by neighborhood kids. Most boxes have no lock.

    The kind of neighborhood cluster boxes the post office installs have locks, and a large compartment for packages, if you have a package they put the key to that compartment in your box with a note.
     
  16. kirstyinglis

    kirstyinglis New Member

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    Fascinating. Thanks so much for all your responses.

    From what I can gather, it appears that convenience is more on the side of the mail workers than the householders, whereas over here it's the opposite. Our postal workers walk (or cycle) to each house to deliver the mail and their route can be quite extensive.

    I can't imagine the inconvenience of having to go out of my house (even to just by the front door) to collect mail, especially as I'm never dressed when the mail arrives and I'd look a pretty picture going outside to collect mail first thing in the morning LOL

    It seems we do have things in common, however, a poor and expensive mail service being foremost! We have stories in the papers daily about mail workers discarding mail because they want to finish work early, and the likes. We've recently had our services cut to one mail delivery per day (except Sunday when there is no service) - we used to get a morning and then a lunchtime delivery. After all their promises of 'better service' resulting from the cuts that were made, some people are now getting their mail delivered late afternoon which is totally unacceptable. And the cost for the service just continues to rise!

    We have no real competition for the Royal Mail here in the UK, despite assurances from the Government that things would be changed to allow other companies to offer a mail service. As a result, the Royal Mail can do what they want and charge what they want - disgraceful, especially given the poor service.

    Thanks again for the information!! xx
     
  17. simcha

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    Yes, some things seem to be universal.

    Wow, so you had two delivery times? That's amazing. I never remember a time where we've had that.

    When I lived in France I noticed that I could post something in the morning and it would reach its destination that evening for the last delivery. And I was in Paris and this would be true for mailing items all the way to Nice in the south of France.

    Here in the USA, even if you post something to somewhere in the same city, it takes at least until the next delivery day. When my Mom mails me a letter from Chicago, IL it takes at least three days to reach me in Oakland, CA. Sometimes it will take an entire week. Packages can take longer. Of course the distance is about 2000mi.

    Oh, and my mail doesn't make it to my mailbox until at least 5pm. I don't care because I'm not home until about 6:30pm most days.
     
  18. SpeedoGuy

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    Fanatics in the Rajneesh religious cult once tried to kill a California lawyer by putting a 4 1/2 foot rattlesnake in his rural mailbox. The lawyer got quite a scare when he next opened his mailbox but escaped without a bite.
     
  19. kirstyinglis

    kirstyinglis New Member

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    It's pretty much a hit or a miss with our postal system too. One time you can post something and it's there the next day, the next time you can post something and it takes a week. If I have something that needs to get there on time I pay the extra for 'Guaranteed Next Day Delivery' which, thus far, seems to be worth the extra.

    The second post delivery was useful and it wasn't unusual to post something in the morning and see it delivered at lunchtime with the second post. Gone are the days though :)
     
  20. kirstyinglis

    kirstyinglis New Member

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    Hmm one of the downsides of having a letterbox in your front door is that kids (and some dumb adults) can post nasty stuff through it. Some kids find it amusing to post shit through people's letterboxes, whilst other more evil folks pour petrol (gasoline) through and set fire to people's homes. Weighing up all the pros and cons, I'd still opt for the convenience of having my mail through my door.
     
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