Mail in Your Future

Photo courtesy Nate Bell on

I occasionally like to use this space to inform the wonderful folks who visit here on a frequent or occasional basis about new tools, grand and small, that come to my attention, whether they are writing aids or life hacks or whatever. What I have for you today is something brought to us by the United States Postal Service (USPS) called “informed delivery.”

There are times that ebooks don’t satisfy the craving for a weighty, paperbound novel that you can throw at a spider without risking seventy dollars worth of plastic and electronics. The same is true of email. While email (and texting, its illiterate cousin) is quick and convenient, there is something about receiving physical mail that remains appealing, if you are throwing ninety percent of it into the paper recycle bin. The feature which I recently discovered allows you a daily, somewhat imperfect peek into the future of what you will be getting.

I am referring to “informed delivery.” It is free (ah! Now I have your attention!). It is also easy to sign up for it. Go here, see if your zip code and address are with the program (more are added on a daily basis), and set up an account. Within a day or two, you will start receiving a daily email from the USPS which will include embedded images of the envelopes which you will (well, which you should) receive in the mail that day as well as notification of any packages which will be (um, are supposed to be) delivered. It isn’t perfect. You will only see letter-sized envelopes that are processed through automated equipment. Sometimes something slips through that isn’t pictured and other times something that is pictured doesn’t show up for a day or two. For the most part, however, it works as advertised. It is particularly convenient for those of us whose mail delivery occurs so late that we need a flashlight to navigate our way to the box. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it and informed delivery will let you give you at least a hint of a thumbs up or thumbs down.

For those of you who have never heard of this and decide to try it out, enjoy. If you have been using informed delivery, do you like it? And for everyone: have you encountered a technological life hack recently that hasn’t received a lot of notice but that has been helpful to you? If so, please share if you are so inclined.

And thank you for stopping by and letting me be a part of your day and for being a part of mine.

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

27 thoughts on “Mail in Your Future

  1. Pretty cool… Though there’s something about the surprise of familiar handwriting on an unexpected envelope that still gives a (usually), pleasant rush… similar to the turning of pages and the weight shift from right to left of an “analog” book…

    As always, though, thanks for “heads up…”

    • Goerge, you’re welcome. I certainly take your point about the (usually) pleasant rush…I, alas, have reached the stage in life where I want to at least hear the whine of the mail bullet before it hits. I have to say it’s kind of fun to see what’s coming…

  2. Would this work for people who travel a lot and want to know what is being held for them at the post office?

    • Nancy…I’m not sure. I think it would since the mail is scanned after it is sorted but before it goes on the truck for delivery. Good question! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I thought you were going to say that then you can let the post office of any mail you don’t want delivered (all those things that as you mention go in the recycle box), just cutting down on what the postman needs to lug around. Now that’s a service I’d like. Otherwise, this sounds like a waste of the taxpayer’s dollars for what?

  4. I like that idea, Maggie, though it would never happen, since we pay for individual mail we send as opposed to paying for mail we receive. A substantial amount of mail would never get sent — and thus not paid for to be sent — if the odds were that it would never be received or even seen. Heck, the IRS would be awash in unused envelopes. As far as it being a waste of taxpayers’ dollars…that’s an interesting issue. One could certainly argue your position, but also argue that if it’s a service that people utilize (and another reason to use the mail) that it pays for itself. It’s a topic above my pay grade, but thanks for raising it.

  5. Had to laugh. “…paperbound novel that you can throw at a spider…” Knowing your love of spiders, I bet you really enjoyed the movie “Arachnophobia”.. I keep a couple of old bound volumes near my desk that could kill a cat.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Actually, Dave, I’ve never seen that movie. The scene in the trailer where the spider drops on the guy’s hand as he turns off/on the lamp was enough for me. I in fact still look first before turning on a lamp (I check with a flashlight before turning a lamp on) because of that. I know. There is something seriously wrong with me. Or maybe serious right. Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad I could give you a laugh!

    • I saw the movie in the theater. It was actually a pretty good movie. But there’s a scene in which spiders get loose in a movie theater and one gets in a popcorn bag. When the patron grabs a handful of popcorn and puts it in his mouth, I could hear screams all over the theater I was in and popcorn boxes drop all over. I put my bag down after that. I still look before I eat popcorn at a movie.

      Pure genius on Spielberg’s part.

      • Argh!!!!!! When I was a kid my dad and his buds would play golf at a local course. One of the guys was even more scared of spiders than I was. On one outing the guy went to get a drink from a water fountain and inadvertently kissed a spider. He jumped back and swung at it with his golf club. He missed the spider and hit the fountain — hard — and knocked the fixture off, turning the fountain into a geyser. Sounds like something I would have done…

  7. Good morning, Joe. Yes, we use informed delivery during extended absences from home and have found it helpful. Our neighbors collect our mail and forward the first class stuff to us once a week. That delay means sometimes it’s ten days or more before we actually receive bills, leaving little time to pay w/o late charges. When the bill shows in informed delivery, we can figure out if there’s enough time to pay it w/o penalty. If not, we look up the balance online and send a check.

    Yeah, we’re old-fashioned middle-class folks who still pay with checks. Weird, huh?

    Informed delivery also shows unexpected packages so we know to ask our neighbors to check the front porch.

    Have a great weekend.

    • Good morning, Debbie! You pay with checks?! Paper ones?! That’s really living off of the grid. Good for you. I imagine that eventually banks will force their customers to go electronic but until then you can fight the good fight. I’m glad you’re already a fan of informed delivery. Thanks for mentioning the package feature!

  8. Very cool, Joe. I was surprised to see my zip code qualified. In the country, usually we’re the last to receive these types of things. I’m all signed up. Thanks for sharing this hack!

  9. Good morning Joe,

    Thanks for the tip on “informed delivery.” I always appreciate your news of new tools and changes in the publishing industry.

    I am so buried in junk mail daily (physical letters and email), that I’m like Maggie, I would only be interested if it were a way to divert trash to the trash (directly, without going through my mailbox and across my desk).

    Thanks for the post and the tip. Have a great weekend.

    • Good afternoon, Steve. Hope you are catching up on your summer projects. I’ve been thinking about what you and Maggie posted and I’m wondering if there would be some way to institute a program where a household could for a slight fee — say $1.00 per month — exempt itself from receiving third class or presorted mail. I’m not sure if it would ultimately fly as a practical matter but it’s interesting to think about. Thanks as always for stopping by.

  10. I told Halloween stories at a country club, outdoors. There was a bonfire, but I opted to set up on a nearby patio so I could use my sound system and actually be heard. I noticed a lovely big spider web and stopped the person helping me from clearing it away. Instead, I asked for a light and we made it a part of the event. I don’t know if the spider enjoyed the stories; I’m sure she was glad to have her web intact, and the children liked seeing it.

    • Mary, what a lovely story. Thanks for sharing. When you said “I asked for a light” I thought things were going in a different direction, as in spider flambe! What a lucky spider that it was you and not me at the country club!

  11. UGH! That would drive me nuts. It’s bad enough having to personally retrieve all the junk mail without having to know in advance that it’s coming. Though I can see the benefit of using it if you are traveling & want to know what’s waiting for you.

    • BK, that’s especially true in my case…I like to know what’s coming. Today, for instance, I learned I had two different solicitations from local upscale managed care facilities and a coupon from a dentist for a free electric toothbrush if I came in and submitted to a cleaning and x-rays. I wonder what will happen when proctologists learn of this marketing ploy. Anyway, it saved me a trip in the rain to the mailbox. Maybe Monday.

  12. I’ve had this for a while, and it works great for me because I don’t get mail at the house, only at my POB. So it really helps me calculate when I need to get there to pick it up, or when it can wait another day.

  13. Thanks for this information, Joe. My zip code qualifies and I signed up for it. This will work great for me because it is nice to know if packages are coming. We don’t hear the knock at the door all the time and the neighborhood isn’t the best so it is good to have the heads up on what to expect. I share your feelings toward spiders and for me, snakes too! Remember that song, I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes? That is my theme song! Ha!

  14. Rebecca, the package notification, which I neglected to mention, is a definite plus. Around here (and I assume elsewhere) there are folks that follow delivery trucks at a discreet distance and then remove packages from front porches. I saw a classic video a few weeks ago captured by one of those devices. Truck comes and drops off a package on a porch. The driver hurries back to the truck because it’s raining. A car pulls up a minutes later, driven by a male, with a female passenger. They stop. The female gets out of the car, runs up to the porch, grabs the box, and cuts across the lawn towards the car. She slips on the wet grass and sustains a demonstrable open leg fracture. The husband of the year gets out of the car, helps the woman to the car, and drives off without the package. Priceless.

    I can deal with snakes okay. Maybe someday I’ll tell my North Caroline snake story. Spiders…spiders…I’ve got a great spider story too, but it might be a little too delicate for this forum. We’ll see…anyway, thanks Rebecca. Remember that a grenade against a spider is not an overreaction, but a rational one.

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