A Confession – I Reported You to the U.S. Postal Service

We all hate junk mail, yet through the mail slot it comes almost daily. So I scoop it up, sort it and don’t worry about it for another 24 hours.

Except, the post man is not the only perpetrator. There’s a whole slew of folks who like to use my mail slot to deliver their mail – for free. This includes pizza shops, insurance agents, resale shops, our former State Representative, churches, and more. For the past 8 years, this has happened and I dutifully contacted the US Postal Service to report it.

Why? Because I thought it was against the law and it’s unfair – its stealing tax revenue from all of us.But I also find it “intrusive” as the Director of Manchester Citizens Corporation reported back to me recently – it seems the post master of our neighborhood gave her the names and addresses of those who complained. She brought that up in a conversation with community leaders – her organization relied on distributing flyers to inform people about their meetings. I’m fairly certain she was shaming me & blaming me for their delays informing people of public meetings. logo

Lecturing a community member for reporting an infraction of the law is akin to what? The teacher telling the student he’s a tattle tale?

It *is* intrusive because someone is reaching into my house. If I had an actual mailbox, it would be outside and it would simply be annoying to get unwanted deliveries. But putting a promotional flyer into the home to save money for your organization or business is simply going a bit too far. How about I sneak up to your home and slide my flyers through any convenient opening, including a window? No? Of course not, you’d hate that.

In an era of social media, it isn’t hard to build a web presence. I realize not everyone uses social media although I have not seen the data for Pittsburgh and a breakdown by race and age. But you can certainly use social media to reach some of the key people in a community who are going to in turn use word of mouth. And with free email options from Mail Chimp, there are even more options to get your news out. And you can offer social media trainings to build the leadership capacity of the community.

Now I have learned that mail slots are not part of that law so you are perfectly able to slide things through mail slots that you cannot put in someone’s mail box. Isn’t that weird? I asked Congressman Mike Doyle’s team to considered making that regulation more consistent. I was told we can install a mailbox. And a new door. To feel safe from our neighborhood group? Weird technicality. usps-logo

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There are other reasons this a problem. Many times the distributor recruits children to help with this task – it is not uncommon for a minivan to roll down North Avenue with both doors open and kids running back and forth to get handouts. This is unsafe. This is a real problem during election season, especially at rush hour when our local roads are flooded with traffic avoiding the back up on Western Avenue. The most recent time this happened, the business was not apparently owed by the van drive and kids – I suspect they were hired and drafted their kids and probably had to put food on the table. So there’s an exploitive element, too. I don’t want my neighbors’ kids exploited for their families to earn a living.

Since the Postmaster ratted me out 🙂 I opted for a full confession. If you shove something through my door, I got online and filled out the complaint form with all of the details. I did this for years. It was only in the past two years that the Post Office informed me that my door slot wasn’t covered. So I don’t complain any longer. I just don’t support those businesses and put it in the recycling. A perfectly valid market decision, right?

In my own defense, I also write down the plate number involved in drug deals, take photos, do extensive online research of the persons involved and share everything with the police. I track down neighbors’ relatives when there are problems with their safety. I sat outside with a young teen for an hour until his family member came home to let him back inside. I do defend parking cones for my elderly neighbor and my neighbor with a disability. I rescued runaway dogs. I used Facebook to track down a neighbor’s phone number when her smoke detector went off. I report illegally parked cars that are usually dumped after being stolen. I fought PennDOT to clean up their act and I won.

This is not an easy block to be a neighbor. Even after all of these years, a few neighbors will not share phone numbers and instead give us elaborate instructions on how to reach them (go to the store, ask for Angie, have them call her, etc) which isn’t very useful when the fire department wants to break down the door because of a gas smell. People park their cars on other people’s empty lots. The police are usually called for neighbor disputes, not strangers.

My all time favorite was the tenant who took advantage of a hole in the fence of his elderly neighbor to let his dog out at night rather than walk the dog down the street to defecate and leave the poop like all the other pet owners do. Ledcat figured it out and was absolutely livid that he was taking advantage of her. We made some calls and talked with people, but our neighbor didn’t want to talk with Animal Control so Animal Control did nothing. Landlord did nothing. Eventually, her nephew patched the hole and cleaned up months worth of dog poop.

These municipal level laws exist to protect us from predators who use child labor to save money on postage or abuse senior citizens to avoid walking their dog. But they only work if people use them. The evening news is filled with stories of abuse and horror with bewildered neighbors saying “They were a little odd but I never expected this.” Expect it. There are scam artists on the street every day and all it takes is one resident to give good info to the police to get that person off the block.

I don’t know why this community leader turned on me  – one day we are setting up a meeting, then … radio silence. But I wanted to acknowledge publicly that she was right  – I did report MCC among many others for violating postal codes. The good news for them is that they can use mail slots and not worry about legal consequences.

I’d start to wonder if the post master is *supposed* to disclose names of people who complain, but …



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  • the postmaster should not give out the names of people who report violations to one of the violators…that’s just darn common sense. ugh.

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