10 Surprising Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Mail Carriers

6 min read
Mail Truck

Here are some little known facts about mail carriers that might surprise you.

10. They Don’t Have to Deliver Your Mail

No Delivery
Source: Pixabay

Even though the unofficial postal carrier motto is “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” that motto goes out the window if you haven’t cleared the snow and ice from around your mailbox. Your aggressive pet is another reason why you may not get your mail. Unsafe porch steps can also prevent your mail from being delivered. Basically, if there’s “anything which presents a hazard to the carrier, the carrier is within his rights to not deliver the mail. That would also apply to a customer who was harassing a carrier. But in that case we’d call the police. It’s a fairly serious crime to interfere with a mail carrier doing their duties,” a carrier in the Northeast told Mental Floss magazine.

FUN FACT: The postal service motto came from a 5th-century BC book by the Persian historian Herodotus that, obviously, had nothing to do with U.S. postal workers. It was referring to messengers in the ancient Persian Empire.

9. Dogs Aren’t the Only Creatures They Have to Worry About

Aggressive Dog
Source: Pixabay

While it’s true that dogs chase and bite mail carriers, cats can be quite aggressive, too. “On my previous route, there was a cat which would strike through the mail slot. I had to be careful putting anything into it. My current route has a cat which purrs and meows playfully through a screened-in porch window until you get close, then attacks,” another Northeast mail carrier told Mental Floss magazine. But, wait there’s more. Did you know that some insects like to make their homes in dank, dark mailboxes? Yep, it’s true. In fact, mail carriers get stung quite a bit by wasps who’ve built their nests in there. And, sometimes mail carriers have run-ins with wild turkeys, too!

8. They Want You to Dress Properly

Woman Opening Door
Source: Pexels

When answering the door, that is. Imagine if you were to go to someone’s home and they answered the door in a towel, in their underwear, or nothing at all? You–well most of you anyway–wouldn’t like that too much. In fact, you’d probably feel very uncomfortable. Now, think about your mail carrier. Don’t you think he or she would feel that same discomfort? Exactly! So, from now on when your mail carrier comes knocking on your door, make sure you’re dressed appropriately.

7. They Like Junk Mail

Junk Mail
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Pretzelpaws at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

In fact, they don’t even call it junk mail. “We call it job security mail,” a postal carrier in the Midwest told Mental Floss magazine. That’s likely because they don’t get one red cent of our tax dollars. Even when you mess up an address, the postal service won’t charge you. UPS and FedEx, however, will charge you–$10 to be exact. So, just how, then, do they stay in operation? The U.S. Postal Service relies on product sales (stamps, shipping boxes, etc.).

6. They Know Personal Details About You

Birth Certificate
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Your mail carrier knows your age, hobbies, relationship status, and credit score. They also know if you’re pregnant, if you’ve broken the law, and if you’re on vacation. And, they know all of this just by looking at your mail. For example, voter registration letters, college enrollment packets, AARP letters and Medicare associated mail give your postal carrier a general idea of the ages of everyone in your household. And, those credit cards offers you get in the mail lets them know you’ve got good credit. And, if you and your significant other break up, your mail carrier will know since your significant other will stop getting mail at your house.

FYI, they even know about your “discreet” purchases, too! To the untrained eye, it’s just another package. But, to seasoned mail carriers, that unmarked box tells them there’s something in there you don’t want others knowing about. What’s more is that many of these mail carriers know the return address of these so-called “discreet product” companies. So, unfortunately, you won’t be able to hide those purchases from them.

5. They Have a System for Arranging the Mail in your Mailbox

Letters In Mailbox
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Oran Viriyincy from Bothell, WA, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Mail carriers will often sort your mail in this fashion: the good news (paychecks, Social Security checks, birthday cards, personal letters, etc.) goes on top. Next comes the First Class mail–you know, bills and insurance information. Then, bulk mail comes after that. And, they’ll even sometimes sort your catalogs and magazines according to size so that the largest items are on the bottom. Still, other carriers may put the bills on the bottom to make your daily trip to the mailbox a little less stressful.

4. They Want You to Take Special Care with Your Letters

Letters Mail
Source: Pixabay

Here are some tips from mail carriers to ensure your letters reach their correct destinations:

-Use a ballpoint pen instead of a felt tip pen. The ink from felt tips runs in the rain.
Write legibly.
Keep your envelopes simple. In other words, avoid using staples and paper clips on your envelopes (staples and clips on the mail inside the envelope is fine), seal the envelope firmly, be sure to put your return address in the top left corner and the recipient’s address in the center, and don’t forget the ZIP codes.
-Beware of sending mail in red envelopes, when, for example, you mail out birthday and Valentine’s Day cards. And, don’t write on them in colored ink. It takes the machines a lot longer to read the addresses on them.

3. Their Satchel Doubles as a Self-Defense Weapon

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Flickr: pedrosimoes7 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

According to Mental Floss magazine, postal carriers are taught during orientation that “the satchel is their first line of defense against aggressive dogs.” In fact, there’s an entire training program on it, a Midwest mail carrier told the magazine. You try to keep the satchel between you and the dog, however, in extreme cases, pepper spray, which is issued to the carriers, may need to be used. “I hate to use it, but sometimes you have to,” the carrier said.

2. The Postal Service Takes Full Advantage of Technology… And You Can, Too

Source: USPS

You can use the U.S. Postal Service’s website to purchase stamps, create labels, get free flat-rate boxes and envelopes delivered straight to your door, track packages, schedule a pickup, change your address, place a hold on your mail when you’re on vacation or a business trip, and even apply for a passport. There’s even a feature that lets you check your mail before you get it. Informed Delivery, as it’s called, “allows you to view greyscale images of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces and track packages in one convenient location.” To use this feature you’ll need to sign up for it through an app.

1. They’re in a Hurry

Source: Pixabay

And, rightfully so. After all, they’ve got a lot of ground to cover–150 million addresses each week, to be exact. Not only that, but their supervisors give them explicit instructions on when to deliver the mail, how many letters to deliver, and when they are expected to return to the post office. Their progress is even monitored using the barcodes they scan along their delivery route.

FUN FACT: The USPS is the largest retail network in America. In fact, they’re larger than McDonald’s, Walmart and Starbucks combined!


Are you a mail carrier? Do you have any little known secrets of your own to share? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!