A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

23 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

Updated: Dec. 19, 2022

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

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Person Putting Letters In Mailbox
AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Mail makes the world go ’round

Ever wonder what mail carriers think about while on the job? Well wonder no more, and instead, scroll through to see inside the mind of your typical mail carrier. From dealing with dogs to battling snowy weather, the work of a mail carrier isn’t as simple as you might think. And with the U.S. Postal Service in danger of debt and decline, it’s now more important than ever to understand just how integral the mail is to our society.

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white dog front door

Maybe your dog won’t bite you

But as a postal carrier, I’m less certain. In 2013, 5,500 of us were bitten, an average of 18 bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door.

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red envelope

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).

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hands close up laptop computer keyboard

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.

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sign package mail
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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 $7.43, compared with $19.95 for a Large Flat Rate Box. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package. Check out these surprising facts about the post office.

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pennies coins money
Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock

We don’t get a penny of your tax dollars


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UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more …

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

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stack envelopes mail

We put good-news mail on top

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. We can’t just stop giving you bills altogether, but they can be a little less stressful. Just follow these 11 tips to save on every household bill.

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mail truck

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. Find out what ZIP code really stands for.

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stamps mail

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.

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ballpoint pen
Jorge Alejandro Gonzalez/Shutterstock

Use a ballpoint pen

Ink from those felt tips runs in the rain.

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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

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!

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mail newspapers box

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.

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

If you see us while we’re delivering, it’s not a big deal if 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 a postal carrier to bring it to you.

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engagement marriage african hands

Most of us love our jobs and the people we serve

I met my wife and my best friend because I was their postal carrier. Adorable, right?

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Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

We try 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.

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letters mailbox plants

We appreciate a good landscaping job

Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back.

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Zeljko Radojko/Shutterstock

Is it hot enough for me?

The heat index is 110°F. What do you think? Here are 10 of the craziest things people have ever shipped.

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snow mailboxes winter
Nick Smart/Shutterstock

Icy conditions can be a dealbreaker

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.

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quarters coins money

Out of stamps?

I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 49 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.

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Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

We form strong bonds with the people we serve

One day while I was 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.

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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. Here are 12 of the funniest summer camp letters.

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We look out for mistakes

If a letter has your name but the number is wrong and it gets to you, thank your postal carrier. We get to know our routes quite well, so we do notice if something is addressed to one house but should be going elsewhere on that route.

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shovel snow

Be considerate in snowy weather

If your carrier walks his route, it would be nice if you would sweep or shovel your stairs when it snows.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest