General Question

Les's avatar

Why are mail boxes "approved" by the postmaster general?

Asked by Les (9591 points ) June 10th, 2008

On my walk back from work yesterday, I was walking past a row of free standing mailboxes, all with the phrase “Approved by the postmaster general” on them. It got me thinking, are there any mail boxes that are not approved? And if so, does the postal service reserve the right to not deliver to those boxes? Why does a box have to be “approved”?

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12 Answers

seVen's avatar

those are the cluster boxes that mailman has access to them by same key throughout the area.

robmandu's avatar

@seVen, actually, it’s on any given standalone mailbox… not just the “cluster boxes”.

Can’t find a reference yet, but the reasons why are simple:
– standardized build quality and components
– standardized dimensions to ensure adequate volume
– standardized appearance and functionality

The idea being that your mail carrier can deliver mail most efficiently if mailboxes are similar in appearance, how they open, the amount of mail they can hold, their height off the ground, etc., etc.

And yes, the postal service does indeed reserve the right to not deliver to any non-approved container. Rain, sleet, and dark of night might not stop the mail from going thru, but an un-approved cutsie mickey mouse mailbox, well… no way!

Les's avatar

Thanks rob! But this also make me think, back home in Chicago, most people have either mail slots or mounted boxes near their front door. And these all vary in shape, size, cute-factor, etc. So why do the free standing ones require approval, and the wall mounted ones don’t?

waterskier2007's avatar

those are probably boxes that are delivered to on foot, if im thinking of the ones you are talking about. in urban areas mail is not delivered by truck, but by foot, so the boxes are not the same

Les's avatar

@waterskier: I guess. Although, postal workers in the city do drive trucks, they just don’t go door to door in them. But I don’t think that can be the only reason. I mean, it is the same mail going in the boxes. “Rural” (free standing) boxes have to be approved, but “urban” (wall mounted) don’t?

robmandu's avatar

@Les, Grandfather clause… chances are, you’re talking about homes well over 50 years old.

The postal regulations only are in effect based on the year of your home’s construction. Many urban areas, like Chicago and New York, have the walk-ups and mail slots in the door.

As you can imagine, having to individually walk up to one house at a time is way less efficient than plugging mail into a set of “cluster boxes”. So you can see why they’ve implemented postmaster approval over the years.

I still prefer the old way.

waterskier2007's avatar

I really have no idea i was just guessing. im not sure how mail gets delivered in urban areas, but i have to imagine that on crowded streets like new york or chicago mail trucks cant drive around, and people dont have much of driveways and mailboxes because it would interfere with sidewalks so i thought delivery personnel would go door to door

AstroChuck's avatar

Because we are the United States Postal Service and we are God to all things mail related. We get to decide everything! If you don’t like that, go ahead and use a different mail service. Oh yeah, we’re a monopoly. Buwhhahaaaa (evil laughter)

Dog's avatar

Perhaps it is to ensure that the box is in use for postal delivery and that it is not fraudulent The mail personell will know they are delivering to a valid mailbox

Les's avatar

@dog: I like that. I agree with robmandu about the whole standardization thing, but you make a very good point.

1moretime's avatar

Postal Approved means conforming to dimentions provided by the P.O. so their serviceable locks will fit into various mailbox manufacturers boxes. The USPS uses ONE key type nationwide for all mailcarriers,therefore, while every tenent of a Bldg. has there own mailbox key,the carrier has one that opens the entire box. For you Rural Folk.

Les's avatar

@1moretime : But the boxes I’m talking about have no locks. Like these

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