Thursday, January 15, 2009

Community mailboxes

One of the first thing I noticed when I moved to Utah is the proliferation of the community mailbox. (It is my understanding that this isn't just a Utah phenomenon, but I've never seen it anywhere else I've lived.) The community mailbox works like this: there are no mailboxes on people's houses. There is only a central mailbox, located every few blocks or so, from which everyone gets their mail. It's the same concept as the boxes at an apartment complex, only these are for individual houses. At first glance, one would think this is a very efficient way to get your mail, while at the same time saving the mailman a little time and effort. Well, it's not.

One problem with this system is that they are closed with a key lock. Every time someone moves out or in, the lock must be changed, or the keys changed hands. As you can imagine, the keys rarely change hands, so one must have the lock changed every time you move to a new place. Now that the mailman here doesn't have to go door-to-door, you'd think he would have plenty of time to change the lock for you, but they never do. Every place we have moved, it takes 2-3 days at least to get our locks changed (and a nominal fee, of course), and in one instance, between changing locks and computer glitch, it took two weeks to get our mail. (Also, it doesn't seem to save the postal workers much time going door-to-door, if they still have to replace all the locks.) In order to accomplish this, you must, of course, go down to your local post office, during office hours, fill out a form, and arrange to have your locks changed.

Another big drawback to community mailboxes is, of course, inclement weather. Rather than getting the mail off your porch, or even from the end of your driveway, you now have to walk down to the end of the street to get your mail. Now, I don't know about you, but I contribute my tax dollars to government workers' salaries in the hopes of my life being made easier by using their services. If you live in a state that is cold and snowy, like Utah, it makes getting your mail rather inconvenient. You can see what I mean by the picture below:

(Notice the sidewalks are neither cleared nor salted. That's a blog post for another day though.)

That picture also brings another point to mind: accessibility. Some of you, upon reading the last paragraph, might say to yourself, "I don't have to walk down the street, I just pick up my mail on the way home, from my car." Well, that's kind of hard to do when everyone in Utah parks in the street, and right in front of the mailbox, as is pictured above. Hrmph.

This last photo illustrates more of my complaints about community mailboxes. Notice how big the boxes are? They aren't big at all. So if you should have a package come, it gets put in one of the larger parcel boxes on either side, and then a key to the larger box is left in your mailbox. If you should get a package that is too large for the postal box, then they will leave a note in your mailbox to go pick it up from the post office. And if you should be unlucky enough to have a package or letter that requires a signature, most of the postal workers here can't be bothered to come to your door - they'll just leave a note in your box telling you to go to the post office to sign for it.

(As a side note, does anyone else think this mailbox looks, ahem, rather ghetto? Little sticky labels indicated which box goes to which residence? I guess it's better than other boxes around here, that are multiple stands of the same numbered boxes, i.e. you can have three mailbox units, all of which have numbered boxes 1-10 on them, and it's up to you to figure out which #4 box belongs to you.)

It seems very lazy and inefficient to me. Why don't mailmen just leave the mail that belongs to each house at that house? I guess because they'd have to get out of their truck and walk. Well, I suppose it makes sense in Utah, if all mailboxes are multiple units, that the mailmen here should just drive around to deliver their mail. But like the street naming system in Utah, there are exceptions to even this rule. Yes, there are the occasional houses which are not involved in the community mailbox system, so the mailman has to get out anyway and walk up to their houses.

I suppose I shouldn't complain - it could always be worse. I could live in another city, where there are no mailboxes anywhere, and ALL residents must go the post office to collect their mail. What do we pay these guys for anyway?


Melissa said...

No matter what kind of mailbox you have in Utah you are going to have problems. We had a door side mailbox but then the carrier decided she was not going to walk up to peoples doors so we had to get a curbside box and now she makes up a bunch of excuses of times not to deliver our mail. I wish the mail system would be taken over by a private company ... the government is quite inefficent.

April_Mommy said...

We have to go to the post office here as well. And don't get me started on the small town post office hours... I can get my box mail any time, but heaven forbid I get a package and have to find a way to get there during the hours of operation... urg.