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More E-mail, Fewer Mailboxes 235

mikesd81 writes "Over at the Baltimore Sun there is an article about the post office removing those blue corner mail boxes because of e-mail. From the article: 'As more people send e-mails and pay bills online, the decline in first-class mail is forcing the U.S. Postal Service to remove tens of thousands of underused mailboxes from city streets.' The article goes on to say that the boxes were an American icon: 'You recognize them in Chicago, you recognize them in D.C., you recognize them in Florida, you recognize them in Montana,' Pope said. 'It's a piece of American iconography that has a wonderful history behind it.'" What the article forgets to mention: they're like an American TARDIS for children.
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More E-mail, Fewer Mailboxes

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  • Mailbox Graveyard? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <semi_famous@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:44PM (#16445347) Homepage Journal
    What TFA doesn't address is what they'll do with the mailboxes. Will they auction them off to collectors, recycle the metal, or will there just be a huge stack of retired mailboxes three rows over from the Ark of the Covenant in some warehouse somewhere?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:49PM (#16445385)
      They will melt them down for scrap. They won't sell them because thieves would use them for nefarious purposes, and outside of collecting mail they have little other possible use.

      I know every hacker on slashdot will post and tell me how they can turn one into a wet bar, but I doubt if the post office will sell them unless its to somebody who will scrap them.
      • by rm999 ( 775449 )
        "They won't sell them because thieves would use them for nefarious purposes"

        Can't a thief already just vacuum mail out of one? Seems easier and less obvious than lugging a 300 pound steel mailbox into the middle of the street, waiting for someone to put their mail into it (without becoming suspicious and calling the police), and then lugging it back to your hideout to read birthday cards and bills.

        I don't think anyone really expects 100% safety using those public mailboxes. For example, a prankster could st
      • Stick computers into them and turn them into municiple WI-FI repeaters....

        Turn them into bill-pay points, to do something similar to the pay-your-bills-at-Mini Stop, like in Japan. Hell, with a camera, a keyboard, a card swiper and an LCD, those with no fixed address, those who are issued government subsidy/food cards, and the like can update their whereabouts, pay bill, and more. Would be low-tech, low-level terrestrial grades stuff, tho.....

        Hell, even the government could put background radiation meters (
    • Top men (Score:4, Funny)

      by BeeBeard ( 999187 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:57PM (#16445453)
      Interesting problem. I hear that top men are working on it now.
    • by Bombcar ( 16057 )
      I'll bet they destroy them; there have been problems in the past with people using fake mailboxes to get letters such as bill payments, etc.
      • by Atario ( 673917 )
        I'd like one just to use as my house's mailbox. They're a darn sight more secure than any you can buy normally.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by reklusband ( 862215 )
      They'll use them for making a giant mailman eating machine. This will take care of the extra postal employees as well as the extra mailboxes.
    • As other poster stated they will probably be melted for scrap. And if you think about it, these mailboxes have been around for sometime I'm sure they already have a system in place for scraping the old rusted ones. The backlog could be large though :)
    • by mbstone ( 457308 )
      They'll put 'em in a big pile next to the Phone Booth Graveyard.
    • by CharlieG ( 34950 )
      probably werehouse a lot of them - mail boxes DO wear out, get destroyed - pull one of the old ones out of stock, put in in the place of the one that just got creamed by the car....
  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:46PM (#16445361)
    When was the last time you saw a (pay) telephone booth?
    • infact I just saw one at work in the break room...3 of them actually. And there's one at the local Burger King. and the gas station down the road......
      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:38PM (#16447843) Homepage
        Not a pay-phone mind you...he said a pay phone booth which is quite a rarity these days.

        About a year ago my roommate was interviewing for a job and one of the questions they gave him was "how many phone booths are in manhattan." I think they may have told him how many blocks tall and wide manhattan is but that was it. Being the very mathematical person he is he simply took the area and guessed at how many phone booths there would be per square block.

        When he told me this though, my initial response was zero--they have gotten rid of them all since everyone has cell phones and its cheaper to maintain payphones that are not inside booths (like those in building lobbies). We did some quick research on it and found a site where soemone had documented the last remaining manhatten phone booths...there were 4 of them. 4 in the largest city in the country.

    • You must live in a nice part of town. There are at least 5 pay telephones within a minute's walk of here. Pay telephones aren't going anywhere just yet. Incidentally, I also live close to a heavily used urban bus line. Not everybody has a cell phone and a car (just all Slashdot readers?).
      • Actually I live in a very rural area. Mostly farms. That's why so little phones.
      • by nmos ( 25822 )
        There are at least 5 pay telephones within a minute's walk of here.

        I think you just made the parent posters point. You see, there used to be this thing called a phone booth. It was fully enclosed and ... Well you've seen Superman right?
        • Ah, a semantics troll. The breakdown is 2 official booths and 3 pay phones with the little metal privacy hoods. And that means what, exactly? Thank you, come again.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            It means that a tiny Superman would not be inconvenienced, but the regular-sized version might be.
    • There are many around where I live, including some full-size phone booths; those with the original fold-in door attached are a rare sight, because often the door has long since been removed for security, maintenance, etc reasons.

    • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )
      Last time I saw a pay telephone booth ?? On an episode of Firefly [wikipedia.org]. . . .
    • I saw one last weekend at my hometown's regional park. It even takes coins. Oh you mean with a booth and doors? In Rhein, SK, a couple months ago.
    • *Booth*? Rarely. Pay telephones, though -- I see all the time. I can't imagine they're only around out here (near Chicago) -- maybe you just aren't aware of them. They are one of those things that's so ubiquitous that you hardly notice them. Then again, there certainly are less than there once were; it used to be unthinkable that a gas station wouldn't have a pay phone.

      Here's what's interesting, though -- I encountered a pay TOILET less than four years ago, at a Metra station. Ten cents if you'd like t
    • When was the last time you saw a (pay) telephone booth?

      About an hour ago.
    • by HUADPE ( 903765 )
      Full booths were removed for reasons having nothing to do with cell phones. What happened (at least in NYC) was that drug dealers used them as offices. This was when they could recieve calls. So, out with the booth, in with the little metal awning. Though where I am now (Montreal) there is a phone booth about 60 feet from my front door.
    • Yesterday actually, they still have pay phones at every gas station I've seen around Markham, Ontario. Pay phones will always be around for emergency purposes, and the fact that not everyone owns a cell phone.
  • Or is it one of those bullshit things that you turn into if you ask what it is?
    • Ask the doctor [bbc.co.uk]. He should be able to explain it.
    • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Good luck... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jb.hl.com ( 782137 ) <joe AT joe-baldwin DOT net> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:49PM (#16445387) Homepage Journal
    Good luck paying bills, sending letters or doing quite a few long distance things if your Internet connection fails, or there's some kind of Internet-killing catastrophe...

    Redundancy is sometimes a good thing.
    • Re:Good luck... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michael@@@michris...com> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:56PM (#16445447) Journal
      Except that mail is also accepted at my home, at the post office, at the remaining blue boxes, many people's workplaces, etc. I won't worry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Redundancy is also usually an expensive thing. They can take it out of your taxes, not mine.
    • Yeah, cause if a nuclear holocaust comes and destroys the Internet, having to go an extra couple miles to mail out my bills is going to be the first problem I'm going to worry about.

      Actually, nevermind. If a nuclear holocaust comes and destroys the Internet I'll just mail stuff out from work, which is what I do with my Netflix DVDs now.
    • The ones out in front of rural homes? That had a red flag that one would put up if to flag the delivery person that there is some outgoing mail?

      If you have a mailbox to receive mail, the letter carrier will take away outgoing mail.

      I had a package that was damaged in shipping, customer service sent me a pdf in email, to print out a return address label that the USPS would pick up and deliver to them postage due.
      • i still have that, and so does everyone I know.
      • by mrbooze ( 49713 )
        Not everywhere. Where I live in Chicago the mailperson does not pick up mail at your home. This was a big surprise to me after moving out here from California where we always just left mail to be picked up in our mailbox. But in contrast my wife the chicago native had never heard that in some places the mailperson will pick up your outgoing mail from your house.
    • stop the drama (Score:2, Informative)

      by dammy ( 131759 )

      Oh please, spare us the drama. Zip *g* is going to happen when the last collection box is removed and sold for scrap metal. Except it's one less thing to do on a mail route then having to dismount the vehicle to go to the collection box and scan/service it. USPS still picks up letters from curbside deliveries (ie your typical mail box sitting at the street) and any given single or grouped CBU (Cluster Box Unit) has an out bound mail slot you can use, regardless if you have a box there or not. You want t
    • by pe1chl ( 90186 )
      Until a few decades ago, there was a worldwide system of shortwave radio stations sending telegrams and international phone conversations.
      With the advent of satellite (and later optical fibre seacable) links, those were one by one decommissioned and now there are only a few museum stations and some empty buildings remaining.

      A sad thing when you visit one, but technology advances. Keeping old systems for redundancy is costly and will not really work when the service is called upon.
  • No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGreatHegemon ( 956058 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:51PM (#16445419)
    When you think about it, the first truly tech saavy generation (as a whole, not just a select few) is starting to come to maturation. Snail Mail will always have a roll, I think, for things that you can't give over e-mail (that handmade card or nice drawing by your grandkid), but it will definately become less and less prevalent.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Skadet ( 528657 )
      When you think about it, the first truly tech saavy generation (as a whole, not just a select few) is starting to come to maturation. Snail Mail will always have a roll...
      And you inadvertantly proved an important point with your use of "roll" instead of "role": even with all the tech we have, kids growing up will still need to learn old-school fundamentals. I don't know of a spell checker that would have caught your error.
      • by hab136 ( 30884 )
        I don't know of a spell checker that would have caught your error.

        Probably would be a grammar checker rather than a spell checker.

        The sentence is valid anyways. Snail Mail could be the name of the band, and for some reason they'll always have rolls. Perhaps they own a bakery?
  • by BeeBeard ( 999187 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:54PM (#16445439)
    Calling those children 'tards won't solve a thing. Oh no, I think I've misread something...
  • Character?!? (Score:4, Informative)

    by RealGrouchy ( 943109 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:58PM (#16445463)
    Yeah, I've seen the blue mail boxes that they have in the US. They look pretty flimsy and ugly if you ask me. Heck, the ones here in Canada do too.

    You want a post box with character? Here [google.com] is a post box with character. Those red UK ones were made to last long after e-mail renders them useless. Heck, we have one in our downtown just sitting there because it wasn't built, it was designed.

    - RG>
    • You want a post box with character? Here is a post box with character. Those red UK ones were made to last long after e-mail renders them useless.

      I saw one in Dublin last time I was over in Ireland. Right outside the Post Office, scene of the equivalent in Irish national mythology of the Alamo, is a British post box with the initials V.R. (for Queen Victoria) on it in great big letters.

      You'd have thought they'd have destroyed it. Symbol of the Empire and the British state and all that. But no. They didn'

    • A couple of decades ago, they were used by terrorists on occasion. The scumbags put bombs in them but I think at least one of them just needed a new door and a repaint.

  • In Canada our postal service is SO much cheaper than UPS or FedEx that it's ludicrous. Unfortunately medium companies don't use it even though it has all the functionality of UPS or FedEX.

    Plus as privately managed companies they have all kinds of fun stuff like this http://http//www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentSer v er?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article &cid=1160776234367&call_pageid=970599119419 [http] which I suppose is exactly why the Republicans are "cutting costs" in this area.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @04:12PM (#16445555)
    Of course 1st class letters are dropping, who sends letters these days besides junkmail and bills? Not many. I can only think of birthday/holiday/invitation cards being the only regular use these days.

    But the sending of priority mail and boxes must be up with ebay and all that. I wish the post office opened more small kiosks around the place, in strip malls, supermarkets and such, every time I go into a main branch it is a long wait. It would be profitable for them, especially as they are cheaper than the competition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BinaryOpty ( 736955 )
      I know in my local post offices they have automated package centers that let you mail anything from normal first class letters to large packages without having to talk to a human being. It seems very few people use this service even though it can do most everything a human being at the counter can do. Also, the kiosk is open 24 hours as it's in the lobby with the PO Boxes so if you want to mail a package at midnight you can.
    • Canada Post has little kiosks everywhere. Mostly in pharmacies. It's kind of a waste of money for them to pay for something that's exclusively a post office. Yet most businesses with a little extra space would love to make a little extra money selling boxes, envenlopes, stamps, and having a garaunteed way of getting people to walk all the way to the back of the store, so they may end up buying something else. Plus it's good for people to be able to pick up packages close to home instead of having to go
    • by reemul ( 1554 )
      Why on Earth would the USPS care about convenience? If they started to go with kiosks, they might have trouble justifying the nearby full-service office. Which would result in postal employees getting laid off, which would reduce the tiny empires of the pocket dictators who have no other purpose than to justify their *own* existence. Which can never ever be allowed.
    • But the sending of priority mail and boxes must be up with ebay and all that. I wish the post office opened more small kiosks around the place, in strip malls, supermarkets and such, every time I go into a main branch it is a long wait. It would be profitable for them, especially as they are cheaper than the competition.

      I wish they'd start letting us put packages in mailboxes again!

      I wanted to mail a book to a friend of mine. I slapped the proper amount of stamps on it and swung by the nearest mailbo
    • every time I go into a main branch it is a long wait

      Complain. It worked for me.

      At the time, I worked near the Byron Rumford station in Oakland, CA, which has three windows and a long, narrow lobby. Every time I went in there, the line was nearly out the door, and only one window was open, or, rarely, two. So I went outside, called the USPS main number (800-ASK-USPS) on my cell phone and complained that that particular office never had enough windows open, so the wait was interminable.

      I came back a week

  • If you have an IP address, why do you need faxes, or letterboxes?

    On a similar note, phoneboxes in the UK are disappearing, as there are more mobile phones in the UK than people now.
    • The good old USPS runs a really cheap "sneaker net", and despite all the jokes I have found it to be quite reliable and timely.

      I often I drop a DVD or two into an envelope and mail my off-site backups for the price of a .63 stamp. I usually use a scrounged envelope. Seems like a good deal to me.

      You could argue, that for work related stuff, I could set up an over-the net sync, and sometimes I do. For personal items, there are multiple benefits for using Grandma as an off-site backup for photos and videos

  • Everything I've read on the subject identifies increased security as being the primary reason for the reduced number of postal mailboxes.

    I realize that the "Email is obsoleting the Post Office!" angle makes for good copy, just like it did 20 years ago or so when the Post Office was supposed to go the way of the dinosaur, but it just ain't so.

    Here, this is what I found with 30 seconds of Google searching:

    http://www.standardspeaker.com/index.php?option=co m_content&task=view&id=3222&Itemid=2 [standardspeaker.com] (sec
  • Aside from the somewhat mystifying sprig of editorial colour, the American TARDIS would likely get our progeny promptly arrested for "breach of Homeland bullsomething" if they actually tried to climb inside.

    Have YOU ever been inside a mailbox? I haven't.


  • Where in the world can you see the red British ones?

    The most exotic location in which I've seen one was Jerusalem (with a metal plate over the slot, leaving only a thin slit through which letters, but not bombs, could be posted) ... but there must be others?
  • What the article forgets to mention: they're like an American TARDIS for children.

    Does this mean that pedophiles use them to hide their dungeon of abducted kids? No wonder they want to remove them.

  • by darthwader ( 130012 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:10PM (#16447641) Homepage
    When I first moved to the 'States from Canada, I spent about a week trying to mail a letter. OK, I wasn't working on that 24x7, but I had the letter with me, and I was aware that I needed to stop at the first mailbox I saw.

    And I was getting annoyed that there just wasn't any mailboxes anywhere.

    Eventually I realized that in this country, mailboxes aren't big red things with round tops, they are smaller blue things with flat angled tops stuck to posts. And I realized that I had looked past many of them, because my idea of what a mailbox should look like didn't match the current reality I was in. It was one of those "we're not in Kansas anymore" moments (which is a rather ironic phrase, but still applies).
  • Why can't they just reduce the number of pickups at these boxes to save money? They've identified which boxes are underused, but that doesn't mean that in 10 years the box will still be so. Couldn't they just make those boxes like a M-W-F or M-Th pickups, so that the post office saves money by not servicing it as often, and people still have box access for routine mail, and should in the future the box become more popular, they can easily ramp up service?
  • The mailbox in our neighborhood has been gone now for the better part of a decade, and from talking to the mailmen, they got everything from vomit (from passing drunks) to dog poop in them, but less and less mail. I'm sure the problems of maintaining these boxes, combined with post-9/11 scares, times the decrease in first-class mail, really contributed to the decision to pull these boxes.
  • I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago. I was driving a 9th-grader, the son of some friends, to camp. I asked him to hop out and mail some letters for me in a USPS street corner mailbox -- and he didn't know how to open the box to put the letters in! He's an A student, so it kind of reminded me of the Far Side cartoon "Midvale School for the Gifted", where the kid is pushing on the door clearly marked "pull". Humor aside, though, he'd obviously never used a mailbox before.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?