13+ Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

Postal workers from around the country reveal the secrets of their profession and why mail is still the country's best bargain.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | February 2011
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    1. Maybe your dog won’t bite you.

    But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door.

    2. Remember this on Valentine’s Day:

    It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).

    3. Why stand in line?

    At usps.com, you can buy stamps, place a hold on your mail, change your address, and apply for passports. We even offer free package pickup and free flat-rate envelopes and boxes, all delivered right to your doorstep.

    4. Media Mail is a bargain!

    But most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.

    5. We don’t get a penny of your tax dollars.


    6. UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more...

    ...if you mess up an address. Us? Not a cent.

    7. Paychecks, personal cards, letters—

    anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else.

    8. Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry,

    but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.

    9. Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps,

    but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. If we don’t charge you, that’s because we like you.

    10. Use a ballpoint pen.

    Ink from those felt tips runs in the rain.

    11. Please dress properly when you come to the door.

    A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked!

    12. We serve 150 million addresses six days a week,

    so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more.

    13. Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks

    while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.

    14. Most of us love our jobs

    and the people we serve. I met my wife and my best friend because I was their letter carrier.

    15. We go to great lengths to deliver to every address,

    no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries.

    16. Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful,

    but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back.

    17. Is it hot enough for me?

    The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)

    18. Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto,

    we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions.

    19. I have people who leave a letter in their box

    and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.

    20. One day while delivering to a woman

    who had been very sick, her daughter met me by the mailbox and asked me if I wanted to say goodbye to her mom. She was unconscious and didn’t know that I was there, but I held her hand and said a silent prayer for her and her family. It wasn’t even an hour later when another customer met me at his door. He was a new father, overjoyed, telling me that his wife had just given birth to his son. The whole cycle of life, in just one day.

    21. It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier:

    Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox.

    22. If a letter has your name

    but the number is wrong and it gets to you, thank your carrier. We still sort our mail before we hit the street.

    23. If your carrier walks his route,

    it would be nice if you would sweep or shovel your stairs when it snows.

    24. Sometimes, when my wife and I are shopping or out to dinner,

    I ask if they give discounts to people in the “service.” They usually say “yes,” then ask “What branch are you in?” I reply, “postal.” I usually get a funny look and a little snicker… I guess that means I’m just going to have to wait for my senior-citizens discount.

    Sources: Letter carriers in Missouri, New Jersey, and North Carolina; Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers; and a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.


    Your Comments

    • Wind Dancer

      I feel bad for our mailman. It gets bloody cold here where we live and yet there he is, day in and day out, wearing just a thin looking post-office coat and having to open his door at every stop. He works his butt off, and my family for one really appreciates it!

    • Jerry

      I love mail carriers and all, but saying that you’re in the “service,” as though grouping yourself with people who brave front lines of getting shot at and bombed, is a bit ridiculous. Weather and dogs are small potatoes compared to military service.

    • Kris Bright

      Things that look like good news go on top, great so in order to find the important stuff I have to sift through more of the mail. I would rather have my bills on top where I can easily find them, than ooh you won 1,000,000 dollars.

      I dunno, maybe it’s just my opinion, but I would rather be able to find my bills easier and get them out of the way than have to worry about whether or not the bills got stuck between coupons and advertisements.

    • hangman

      “Most of us love our jobs and the people we serve. I met my wife and my best friend because I was their letter carrier.”
      There is a reason you get bit by dogs. Hurry, hide your wives and daughters!

    • hangman

      I love the one that says they do not use tax dollars. Well, like everything that the government does has always been in the red and the USPS is no different. Who bails this government agency out when they are in the hole? I will tell you, the American people and the idiot countries who keep buying our debt. They run at a deficit and they have used or borrowed from the tax payer. They should be abolished since they cannot compete.

    • Buck Disqus

      USPS dot com is a joke in NYC.. Make an online reservation to have your outgoing packages picked up and wait all day for them and they never come. File an online complaint and no one ever responds. File another days after you take your own packages to the local PO (where you fret the privilege of standing online till you get to the front to be greeted by some scowling over paid metal studded Michelle with the dragoon glare who acts like every question you ask is worthy of a Jerry Springer audition) and you finally get a notice THATVYOUR PACKAGES WERE PICKED UP.

      Not only that but if you drop your packages off at the local PO, they are not immediately scanned and you have no receipt.

      There’s a reason the USPS is a ” great bargain”. Their service is weak.

      And these bureaucrats now will do this to our health care.

    • Stephen Powell

      Well I am disabled and I can’t even get my mail carrier to bring my mail to my mailbox. He said it would disrupt his routine. If I get a package, which I do many times a week, instead of him bringing it to my house, which is 3 minutes away right around the corner from my “cluster box”, he will leave a notice and take it back to the Post Office. So 3 minutes out of his way causes me a 15 mile round trip to get it plus it is delayed by another day. I just figured if we pay for shipping then we should have that extra trouble or expense. I know FedEx and UPS have no problems bringing packages to my house. I am sure this is not the norm for all postal workers but it sure makes you look bad.

    • Doug20377

      This was a fluff-piece if ever there was one.

      My letter carrier ROUTINELY misdelivers mail that is properly addressed. It’s become a running joke in my neighborhood. In addition, on two occasions in the last six months my letter carrier has put a “Signature Required/Return Receipt Requested” letter in my mailbox. He was too lazy to actually, you know, get the signature that was requested and in fact required?

      And in addition to all this, I’ve noticed that routine mail is taking a LONG time to be delivered these days. Four times in the last six months I’ve had regular ol’ first-class letters (properly addressed) take anywhere from between 2 to 6 weeks to reach me! Where in the heck does this mail sit for that long?!?

      I’m sure there are good letter carriers. I’m equally sure the USPS employs more than a few lazy, shiftless people who personify the stereotype of union employees who know that it’s almost impossible to get fired for being bad at their job. And honestly, it seems like a growing problem at the USPS.

      • Stephen Powell

        I feel your pain. It is the same way in my neighborhood also.

    • hwy505

      My carrier seemingly could have worked in a concentration camp – she’s a freaking Nazi!

    • Ssidk

      If the post office wasn’t forced to hire people just looking for a handout they would be a lot better off. Racism is out of control and it costs them money. The EEOC should have their headquarters there. My wife has worked there for years and there are a significant number of postal employees that work harder at getting out of work than actually getting something done