When you’re planning to buy and move into your first home, you get a lot of friends and family giving you advice about what to do as a new homeowner: invest in quality door locks, segregate your trash, and find ways to keep your utilities low. But I bet that you’ll rarely or probably never hear advice regarding your mail and dealing with your mail carrier.
As a new homeowner, you might have a lot of questions about your mail: what time does the mail come? Am I supposed to register with the United States Postal Service (USPS) before I can get my mail? Am I obligated to tip my mail carrier? You might know a bit about etiquette having grown up and experienced receiving and sending mail in the US, but for new homeowners and people new to the mail service, here’s everything you need to know about dealing with the mail.
How Does Mail Delivery Work?
Before email, fax machines, and commercial package deliveries like FedEx and DHL became popular in the 2000’s, early Americans got mail and parcels delivered by friends, merchants, and Native Americans willing to act as a courier for payment. Eventually, the government established an agency that soon became what is known today as the USPS. However, it exists independently from the US government, which means it does not receive any tax dollars and operates as a business.
So, how does your mail and parcel get from Point A to Point B? After the USPS receives a mail, they are sorted at a processing plant before being taken to individual post offices and then sorted to individual vehicles out for delivery.
Mail carriers are assigned to deliver the mail to your doorstep either by walking around your area or using one of the USPS’s vehicles. They have a plotted route on where to go, so you might find that, assuming they don’t come across any delays, they may almost always arrive at your home within the same timeframe.
What Time Does the Mail Come to My House?
It’s hard to determine what exact time they come, but it is possible to estimate. On your first few days in your new home, you may find that your mail carrier arrives within a certain timeframe. On a good day with a normal amount of mail volume, your regular mail carrier should arrive within the same time. If they come across a reason for the delay (e.g. maybe their vehicle broke down), your regular mail carrier is unable to deliver mail and your mail is shouldered by another carrier, or your mail carrier has to shoulder the mail of a sick colleague, then you can expect your mail will arrive much later than expected.
Contrary to Vernon Dursley’s iconic line in the Harry Potter franchise, it’s possible for mail to arrive on Sunday. Mail carriers get one day off and, on that day, another mail carrier will handle your mail for that day. Expect that the usual time of your mail to change.
The only way to be sure what time your mail will arrive is if you have a P.O. Box in your local post office. Having a P.O. Box ensures your mail is in before 10 in the morning. Simply go to the post office closest to your work or home address (whichever is more convenient for you to pick up; you can also get a P.O. Box in a different state or city), choose your P.O. Box size, and apply for one.
Etiquette When Dealing with the Mail
Now that’s you can expect when your mail arrives, how do you handle your mail and when you have to interact with your mail carrier? Usually, your mail carrier will just slip your mail into your mailbox or at the mail slot at the door, but if you want to be a polite homeowner, here are some things you should practice.
Write legibly or computerize your address.
This isn’t just for the sake of your mail carrier and those who have to sort the mail you’re sending, but also for your sake. If your handwriting is difficult to read, it will take time and effort for them to get it to the right place it needs to go.
And if, for example, it reaches a point in the sorting station where no one can understand both the receiver’s and return address, they may have to get rid of the package seeing as they can’t return it to you or find out who you’re sending it to. If you don’t have the best penmanship, it’s best to type the address, print it out, and then attach it to your mail.
Be kind to your mail carrier.
The USPS mail carriers have a motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Regardless of the weather conditions, they will try to get your mail to you on time. This means walking around your area or driving a vehicle with no air conditioning in hot temperatures or during heavy rains. As a homeowner, the least you can do is be considerate when they do their job.
One thing you can do is make sure they can do their job safely, which means putting a leash on your dog when you know the mail carrier is arriving. While your dog may love you and wouldn’t bite you unless provoked, some dogs are territorial and won’t be as lovable to your mail carrier. In 2013, over 5,000 mail carriers were bitten, with an average of 18 dog bites a day.
While offering them water or a quick refreshment is polite, don’t insist on letting them stay to make conversation – even with the promise of more filling food. While it’s a kind gesture, a 30-minute conversation messes up their timeline and causes them to be late with the mail for the rest of their houses.
Dress Properly When Dealing with a Mail Carrier
While you may be at home, that does not mean you are allowed to greet the mail carrier in what you would be comfortable wearing in the privacy of your own home. You wouldn’t go to a meeting with a banker in your boxer shorts, so why would you treat your mail carrier any less and answer the door half-naked? It’s disrespectful and gives the wrong message that your mail carrier is so insignificant that you don’t care if they feel uncomfortable seeing private parts of your body.
When you hear your mail carrier at the door and you’re fresh out of the shower or are in your underwear, quickly put on a bathrobe or your clothes. Better yet, ask someone else in your house to receive the mail for you.
How to Deal with Junk Mail (and Why It Benefits Your Mail Carrier)
If you’re tired of receiving junk mail (brochures and ads from companies who target your area or your home as a potential customer), don’t get angry at the mail carrier. As the saying goes: don’t shoot the messenger – literally. It’s their job to deliver junk mail because the USPS were paid to do so. If you want to end the junk mail you’re receiving, you have to personally contact the company that sent you mail and then ask them to stop.
However, if it’s only a minor nuisance to you, let them continue sending junk mail as it actually benefits your mail carrier. While parcels are still a regular feature of the USPS, thanks to technological advancements, though, there has been a significant decline in mail volume. Since it is much easier to go online and contact distant relatives, check out store catalogs, and receive bills, the USPS has lost billions of dollars ever since the decline began in 2006.
But some businesses still insist on using traditional postal mail and pay the USPS to send out first-class mail to a select area. If many homeowners were to request that they stop sending their homes junk mail, businesses would send out less mail, which means they pay less. Since the USPS isn’t funded by tax dollars, a decrease in sales may lead to more layoffs.
Dealing with Mail When Going Out of Town
If you’re going out of town, it’s important to notify your mail carrier. One sure sign that nobody’s home is a mailbox that’s filled with unopened mail – it’s a sign that no one has been around to get the mail for a long time. Talking to your mail carrier ensures that they can either put your mail on hold, send your mail to a trusted neighbor, or arrange your mail so that it won’t be easily spotted by potential burglars or trespassers looking for signs that you aren’t home.
While you may only have to interact with your mail carrier from time to time, it’s important to be polite and show some respect to them if you want a good homeowner and mail carrier relationship. Expect that any delay on your usual mail time isn’t intentional, and when it comes to saying a quick hello when they drop by, a little kindness can go a long way in the years to come living in your home.