Is it illegal to put mail in someone’s mailbox

because it is against federal law to put anything in a mailbox, “postage unpaid,” and if caught doing so, a person could be fined up to $5,000 and a $10,000. called mailbox restriction law, most countries do not have such legislation. But there’s more. In the United States, people who receive mail must pay for mailboxes, and these must meet government specifications, or provide slots in their front doors through which mail carriers deliver mail. The postal service also “owns” our mailboxes and sets all the rules that affect them. why?

if you visit the usps website, the answer you get is that mailboxes can get so crowded with other items and paper that there would be no room to put mail in them. Second, the USPS says it wants to “ensure the integrity of our customer’s mailbox,” meaning that only postal workers can place or remove mail from our mailboxes. history teaches us that while all this is true, there is always more to the story.

The use of first-class mail and package delivery expanded greatly in the early 20th century. Business users of postal services found the cost of postage to be higher than if they delivered their own mail, such as utility companies delivering water and telephone bills, newspapers the daily newspaper and department stores their advertisements. so they started using their own carriers to deliver what would otherwise be largely first-class mail, avoiding paying us postage. at the time, the biggest source of revenue for the post office was first-class mail, so private carriers were reducing the revenue coming into the postal agency. The United States Post Office went to Congress and called for a law to restrict this competition by making it illegal for anyone else to use a mailbox. in 1934, the new deal democratic congress delivered, as the postal system had enormous political power within the democratic party because every town and city had postal clerks and they voted! the “mailbox restriction” law, as it is often called (18 u.s.c. 1725) gave the post office what one government official observed was “a virtual monopoly on mailboxes.” Also, if you find any flyers or other items in the mailbox without postage, the post office may require the person who deposits it to pay the postage even if it is not delivered by mail carriers.

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did it work? Yes, more or less. it seemed that the post office had crushed its competition, at least for a while. flyers, advertisements, and newspapers continued to be handed out, now stuck inside front doors, under welcome mats, and left on stairways and front yards. first-class mail still had to go through the post office.

Then came email in the 1980s, followed by online shopping and banking in the 1990s and early 2000s. The volume of first-class mail decreased each year, and as As the quantity decreased, the United States Postal Service increased the price of a first-class stamp, prompting people to use email more and start paying their bills online, further reducing the demand for first class stamps Increasingly, those utilities that had created the problem for the post office in the first place made online payment more and more possible. Package delivery services, which offered better services and often cost less than the post office, became widely available in the 1990s. This took more business out of the postal service.

Until the advent of the Internet and email, the US postal system was the largest and most sophisticated information delivery infrastructure in the country. its role remained central to the movement of facts and all kinds of paper reading materials, so its power was enormous. his legacy is too. for example, a postal worker designed those round “tunnel-like” mailboxes in 1915 that were used in front of homes and businesses. a century later they are still the most used. today, the postal service still delivers to more than 150 million addresses, but on average American adults also have nearly two email addresses, outnumbering their physical addresses. Still, the United States Postal Service remains an important part of the nation’s information infrastructure.

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In 2016, it handled 154 billion pieces of mail, employed 600,000 people and operated from more than 31,000 post offices. total revenue for the US postal industry was $1.4 trillion. Of that, $71.4 billion came from the US Postal Service. first-class mail generated $27.3 billion, still the bulk of its revenue. As the Postal Service likes to point out, “If it were a private sector company, the US Postal Service would rank 39th on the 2016 Fortune 500 list.” The humble mailbox remains an integral part of our 21st century information infrastructure, even if the post office no longer has a block on mail delivery. and you still can’t fill mailboxes with neighborhood yard sale flyers or other things you want to conveniently drop off for a neighbor.

Featured Image Credit: Moosealope Mailboxes via cc by-sa 2.0 via flickr.

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