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.


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    Your Comments

    • Erin Cromer

      yeah this article makes me hate the post office even more. So pretentious.

    • Erin Cromer

      I don’t know when this article is dated, but they seem to have changed their policy on number 6. I just sent a letter out a couple months ago with an address that was correct except I put a zip code in my local area rather than the area I was trying to send it to. The letter went out and got returned back to me and there was a giant black line through my stamps so that I could use them again. I feel certain that the post office should have been able to you figure out that the address was not perfect when they put it into their system.

    • Katherine Goode Denman

      So as a Mail carrier I disagree with #7 and #13 We don’t have time to stack your mail with the good news on top although when casing mail I try to keep the largest piece at the back so when placed in the box it is easier for the customer to pull it all out at once. Also I am not allowed to just give mail to somebody who drives up to my truck and asks for it so I will not dig it out of the trays (at least 3 different ones) and give it to you. I don’t want to set a precedent because then everyone starts looking me up to get their mail early and I cannot stop every time. If you want your mail earlier than usual then rent a PO Box and pick it up at your convenience. The public is not aware of the time constraints we are under these days.

    • Mark Gregry

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    • MailmanB

      Lol, back in the day? Our heaviest volume year ever on record was 2006, I was there, it was rough, way less volume now, I would have loved to deliver “back in the day” it would have been soooo easy, I heard all your old timers stories about the “old times” everything is the way it is in this work because of the generations before, all the laws that exist today are because of people before, it’s no picnic at the post office like before, they cared before, you didnt have to kill yourself and skip lunch and breaks just to get back in time. Ahh the good Ol’ days!

      • Katherine Goode Denman

        when I started 25 years ago the routes were set up to allow travel to and from the route with a bit of leeway in case of heavy traffic etc. Now I don’t have time to take a restroom break let alone if I get stuck in the snow or answer a customers question

    • Bethany

      My dad has been a part of the Postal Service for almost 25 years and it has definitely taken its toll on him. Due to all the miles of walking he has had a hip replacement and needs knee surgery.

    • roboinfo_19

      “Things Your Mail Carrier…. ” was truly excellent as I have found their service. Kudos to the person putting that together.

    • Tony Martin

      8. In Goodhue County in Minnesota they pay the mail carriers a set rate for a route, regardless of how long it takes them to complete it on any specific day…

      15. Is funny because FedEx is contracted out by the USPS to transport all mail that isn’t local (for example, any mail requiring a plane trip)

      • janiezip

        those carriers who get a set rate for a route are technically Rural Carriers, regardless of whether they carry in a rural or city area. That is they way their entire system is set up. The City Carrier system is entirely different, and most if not all of the “13+ things your carrier won’t tell you” come from the City Carrier craft. We ARE timed, to the minute, while the Rural System is much more lax on time, until perhaps the end of the year.

      • Katherine Goode Denman

        Rural routes are paid by the route rather than hourly but when the mail is heavy like Mondays or after a holiday they don’t get extra pay for working a 10-12 hour day if there route was evaluated as a 7.5 hour route. USPS used to pay to ship mail in the cargo area of passenger planes but since crazy people like to ship bombs etc. that is no longer allowed so we contracted with other companies that have a fleet of planes that are not passenger planes.

    • joslyncook

      I would add – Please teach your kids NOT to run up to the mail truck. It isn’t safe. A mail truck is a motor vehicle like any other and everyone – kids and adults – need to stay back a little and wait for us to put the mail in the box and drive away before getting the mail. And one of the biggest problems we have? Insufficient addresses. Please be responsible for yourself and make sure you always always use the correct unit/apartment/suite/building number. Please help us help you.

      • Katherine Goode Denman

        agreed I have an address that has 2 houses and is 11611 and 11611B however the resident living in B said she doesn’t have to add the B since she doesn’t want people to think she lives in an apartment. She is renting from her parents so her last name is the same. She complains that her mail gets put in her parents box all the time. The former residents name is still on her mailbox. Crazy people think we are psychic!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/7H4Z55ODFFODJJFF6RJOVDMS7M John

      dont ask for your mal early its a pain