ICYMI: mailboxes play by their own set of rules.

Around Halloween time last year, we wanted to give our mail carrier a fun and spooky treat; just a little something to say, "thanks," you know?

So, one morning before heading off to work, we put a small present in our mailbox for her. But when we got home later that evening, we found the present at our door. In permanent marker, the mail carrier left a note on the present that said, "Thank you! Please leave this at your doorstep tomorrow. I can't accept a gift from inside a mailbox."

Shocked, we looked it up, and sure enough, she wasn't exaggerating. According to section 508.3.1.3 of the Domestic Mail Manual of the United States Postal Service:

No part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.

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But wait, there's more!

USPS takes it a step further by not allowing you to affix posters, flyers, or hanging mailers to the exterior of your mailbox. Just so we cover all the bases, you also cannot:

  • leave a note in your neighbor's mailbox;
  • leave a note for a neighbor in your mailbox;
  • tie balloons for your kid's birthday party to your mailbox;
  • tape anything to your mailbox;
  • or, modify your mailbox in a way that stops your mail carrier from depositing parcels and standard mail.

Mind Your Own Mailbox, Idaho

Here's a silver lining: if your private mailbox at your door is large enough, you can absolutely leave a gift for your mail carrier inside of it. USPS doesn't regulate what can be placed in a mail slot or box at your door. This is why businesses are allowed to leave flyers and pamphlets in them.

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