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.

    Really.

    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.

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    Your Comments

    • Eric W

      All kinds of biting going on. I even bit a dog back once. Little f***er.