What are multiple mailboxes called?
Multiple-unit (MU) or cluster boxes have been around in some form since they were first introduced by the U.S. Postal Service in 1971. The concept was developed to increase efficiency, productivity and reduce costs associated with transporting letters, packages and other items between post offices. Cluster boxes can be used as a way to distribute incoming mail from one central location to several locations within an office building, making it easier for employees to retrieve their mail without having to walk all over the facility looking for it. Each unit consists of two letter slots and three package slots that accommodate up to four pieces of mail per slot. Mail sorting occurs on site after each delivery so there's no need to ship any unopened mail back to the main processing center.
Cluster Box Units (CBU's), also known as MU's, offer many advantages for customers and property owners alike. For example, when using a single dropbox, if you only want to receive your mail during certain hours, but not others, you must physically visit the local Post Office every time those times change. With a cluster box system, you may schedule deliveries to arrive throughout the day via ePostal® software. You'll see a map showing which days and times you're set up to accept mail and will know exactly where to find your delivered mail. This saves precious time and money while increasing employee productivity. In addition, because mail sorting takes place locally, there will be less wasted time spent waiting for your mail to get processed — especially important if you run a small business with fluctuating hours. And finally, mailers who use cluster boxes save money due to postage discounts offered by the USPS.
Many cities across America now utilize these efficient systems to deliver mail directly into tenant offices instead of delivering individual mail bags to doorsteps. Property managers can choose whether they would like to rent cluster boxes themselves or let the USPS do this service. If you own commercial real estate, chances are good that you already have a mail drop nearby. However, before you decide to add another mailbox, keep reading this informative article about what kind of mailbox is right for your needs.
Are cluster mailboxes safe?
One question often asked about cluster boxes concerns safety. While they aren't perfect, most people agree that cluster boxes make life safer for everyone involved. Because CBUs are located closer together than traditional mailboxes, they provide more protection against theft. Tenants don't have to worry about getting mugged outside their office doors, nor do postal workers have to deal with dangerous situations such as falling objects. Also, because CBUs are designed specifically for use in buildings, they won't blow down in windy conditions like regular mailboxes will. Finally, because the mail is sorted centrally, rather than being shipped back and forth, the risk of contamination is greatly reduced.
Although they seem pretty sturdy, cluster boxes are still just metal frames covered with corrugated plastic material. As far as strength goes, they hold approximately 2 tons of weight. So don't try pulling off the top panel and sticking anything underneath it. It could cause serious injury!
When selecting a new mailbox, consider its proximity to busy roads and parking lots. Avoid choosing a model that has large wheels and casters, as well as ones that require special locks. These features allow them to be moved easily around the building, making it easier to relocate them later.
Another thing to watch out for is water damage. Many properties near bodies of water are prone to flood damage caused by heavy rains. Make sure the mailbox itself isn't damaged in case water does enter the frame. Look closely at the manufacturer's instructions to determine how long the device should sit empty before servicing. Some models recommend replacing loose screws or bolts once the water recedes.
So what else makes a great mailbox besides durability? Read on to learn about the various styles available today.
What are the different types of mailboxes?
There are basically five types of mailboxes: wall mount, pole mounted, ground level, free standing and kiosk style. Wall mount boxes attach to the wall surface with brackets and locking pins. They come in either square or round shapes and range in price from $50-$100 depending on size and color options. Pole mounted versions hang from poles attached to walls or ceilings. Ground level devices stand on the floor next to entrances and exits. Most of these units are made of steel and feature sliding drawers similar to safes. Free standing units are usually placed anywhere in the lobby area, including beside elevators. Kiosks resemble miniature booths found in airports. Their dimensions vary widely, ranging from 16 inches high x 30 inches wide to 24 feet tall x 12 feet deep.
Kiosks tend to cost slightly more than standard mailboxes and are commonly installed in lobbies. Like the name suggests, they usually contain electronic equipment that allows guests to access information such as room schedules, directions and even weather forecasts. One advantage of kiosks is that they can be programmed to display messages according to user preferences. For instance, someone might prefer to view sports scores and headlines at work while others opt for stock quotes and news updates. Additionally, kiosks can include video screens displaying advertisements or promotional announcements.
In terms of security, all mailboxes pose a potential threat to identity thieves. That's why it's critical to select a mailbox design that offers maximum visibility. A clear sign indicating that mail is accumulating under the machine is extremely helpful. Try placing the box close enough to windows that passersby can clearly read the message. Or, install cameras or motion sensors to detect tampering. Lastly, if possible, avoid installing lockable mailboxes in areas accessible to children. Since kids often lose things left lying around unattended, secure these machines behind closed doors.
Now that we've learned much about the inner workings of CBUs, read on to discover how to pick the right version for your specific situation.
What type of mailbox is best?
The ideal choice depends largely upon what sort of space you plan to designate as a mailbox area. Here are some general guidelines:
Smaller spaces call for smaller mailboxes. Standard sized clusters consist of two letter trays and three package shelves. If you have limited space, go with something smaller. Larger units can take up too much valuable countertop real estate.
Ground Level installations are recommended for indoor applications where the unit sits flush with the flooring. Outdoor designs should be positioned above grade level to prevent rainwater intrusion.
Outdoor mailboxes are typically larger than indoor counterparts. Not surprisingly, ground level CBUs are bigger than their pole mounted cousins. Kiosks are the largest of all, measuring roughly 14 feet tall x 6 feet wide x 10 feet deep.
If you live in a city apartment, condo or townhouse, then you'll probably want a ground level unit. Otherwise, stick to a pole mounted alternative. Although taller units are better suited for outdoor uses, they can sometimes block driveways and sidewalks.
If you think you're going to experience frequent flooding, then you may want to invest in a basement installation. But beware -- basements are generally more expensive than other types of setups.
Once you've decided on a mailbox design, check with your local USPS customer service representative to ensure that it meets all applicable requirements. Then contact a professional installer to help put everything together. To locate a reliable provider near you, search online through companies that specialize in designing and installing mailboxes. Once you've narrowed your choices down, start shopping!
Mailboxes weren't always confined to physical structures. During World War II, soldiers stationed overseas sent postcards home using balloons filled with ink. When the balloon burst, the resulting black stain marred whatever paper lay beneath it. Fortunately, modern technology came to the rescue. Nowadays, airmail envelopes float freely through the sky until they land somewhere nice and flat.
4B mailboxes are unique in nature. Instead of containing a fixed number of compartments, they can house varying amounts of mail based on usage patterns. For example, a company might purchase a series of 4B mailboxes that contains six slots, but only want to fill three of them with outgoing mail. After a week, they'd swap out the remaining 3 slots with fresh units. This method reduces overall maintenance costs and helps improve worker productivity.
If you've ever been to the post office, then you're familiar with what looks like an oversized shoebox on wheels rolling down to your local branch. Or maybe it's not so different than that—a little bit smaller but still resembling something akin to a large shoe-box on wheels.
Either way, these are some of the largest vehicles used by U.S. Postal Service employees who deliver our packages and letters throughout cities across America. These vehicles come in two types — traditional street letter carrier delivery trucks as well as one type specifically designed for use carrying items such as parcels or small shipments via backhauling service.
Street Letter Carrier Delivery Trucks (also known as "street cars") can hold up to 12 people per side plus equipment. The typical street car is equipped with three sets of double doors on each end, allowing for easier access into the vehicle while also making sure there isn't any traffic congestion when driving through city streets. Street cars have four tires, which means they roll along at about 3 mph during regular route deliveries. If they need to go faster, the driver may press the gas pedal to keep them moving.
While most street cars only carry out normal route deliveries, Special Vehicles (or SVs) are modified street cars that are able to pick up larger loads like heavy boxes or even furniture pieces off of a curb. They also allow for more efficient pickup and drop off points because of their size. For example, instead of having to drive all the way around town just to get back home, a special vehicle could be parked right outside someone’s front door, picking up incoming mail without needing to leave the area. This makes it much quicker and less time consuming for customers receiving package after package.
Backhauling, which is another name for transporting items between locations, uses specially marked street cars capable of holding several dozen packages or other objects. Backhaulers are unique in that they don't have doors on either side since everything will be loaded onto the top before leaving the station. While this method allows for maximum efficiency, it can sometimes result in delays. That said, it's safer for everyone involved since no pedestrians walking nearby will see anything being transported until its fully loaded.
In addition to those options, there are many other ways to receive packaged material delivered directly to your house. You might receive a care package from Amazon Prime, for instance, which would arrive at your doorstep with all goods intact and ready for consumption.
The Postal Service doesn't want to lose sight of where consumerism has gone, though. It wants to remain relevant to today's society and provide consumers with convenient alternatives to make shopping online simpler. Enter Cluster Mail Boxes, a new alternative to the standard mailbox unit available at every residential address in the United States.
A cluster mailbox is basically a mailbox attached to a shipping container made of durable plastic. Customers simply place their outgoing mail inside the box, attach a self addressed envelope, and stick it in the ground next to their home. Once set up, residents won't have to worry about forgetting important documents or mail going missing anymore. Clusters aren't limited to one location either. Instead, they can be placed anywhere within public property boundaries. There are currently over 75 million clusters located in neighborhoods nationwide, including major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Detroit, Nashville, Atlanta, Minneapolis/St Paul, Columbus, Orlando and Miami.
Cluster mailboxes were first introduced in 2014, but didn't gain popularity fast enough to meet demand. Now, the Postal Service is working diligently to bring the concept to fruition with plans to install 40,000 additional ones this year alone. According to Phil Vettel, vice president of customer operations, the goal is to eventually increase availability to roughly 100 percent coverage nation wide. In fact, in certain markets where high density housing developments exist, the Postal Service already offers free installation services to ensure residents quickly become accustomed to using them.
"We have seen tremendous success in pilot programs we launched last summer," says Vettel. "Many communities saw significant increases in response rates when they started offering Cluster Mailboxes."
So now that we've got the basics covered, let's take a closer look at how these things actually work.
How does a cluster mailbox work?
When setting up a Cluster MailBox Unit, the owner must apply for permission to use the space on public land. A permit application form will be required, and once granted, owners of a ClusterMailBoxUnit will agree to follow guidelines established by the community, municipality or agency in whose jurisdiction it resides. In exchange, they'll receive a pass (which includes information regarding security features, upkeep requirements and similar details needed to maintain the box).
Once permission is given, owners will be responsible for maintaining the exterior appearance of the machine. However, according to the Postal Service, there should always be a sign visible indicating ownership, regardless of whether anyone happens to notice the unit itself.
Owners can choose to purchase a preassembled version for $1,999 or assemble one themselves for $2,499. Installation fees vary based upon location and individual needs. Some municipalities require payment upfront whereas others charge monthly installments.
Although the price tag seems steep, the cost covers maintenance costs and ensures that the Postal Service remains in compliance with federal regulations. Owners will also enjoy peace of mind knowing that the device is secured properly against theft and vandalism.
Another perk of owning a cluster mailbox is that you'll never again have to wait for hours to retrieve lost paperwork that was supposed to be picked up by your postman. And unlike conventional mailboxes, users won't have to deal with finding keys or fumbling with locks. Rather, they can pull straight up and open the secure lid to grab whatever they desire.
Can you send mail from a cluster mailbox?
Yes! Although USPS cannot ship products through a Cluster MailBox Unit, it can accept outgoing mail from one. As long as the person sending mail knows he or she lives in a ClusterMailBoxUnit zone, they're good to go. Just remember to include a note stating that you live here.
Outgoing mail will typically show up in the mailbox designated for your specific unit. Residents can find instructions detailing where to locate theirs on a USPS website dedicated to explaining Cluster Mailbox Units.
This means that you can finally stop worrying that your mail will disappear forever. No longer will you need to run out of the house screaming for help every time you miss a bill payment.
Now that we've talked about why they're great, let's talk about how exactly they differ from standard mailboxes.
How do I know if USPS owns my cluster mailbox?
It's easy to tell if a particular unit belongs to you. All you need to do is check your parcel acceptance card. Most likely, it will contain a QR code linked to your account page on usps.com. Here, you'll be able to enter your physical mailing addresses, current billing information and phone numbers. From there, the site will determine whether it's possible to process your shipment.
If your parcel acceptance card shows blacked out lines, however, it indicates that the Postmaster General has determined that the ZIP Code associated with your address is ineligible due to insufficient population or low volume. At present, this prevents mail sorting machines from processing incoming mail. To avoid this issue, try updating your address information on file to match the newly assigned zip code.
Where do you put outgoing mail in a cluster mailbox?
You probably already know to stuff envelopes and paper bills inside your mailbox. But did you know that you can add dryer sheets to your outgoing mail too? This trick works best for those living in urban environments plagued by moisture issues. Simply tear the corner off a sheet of dryer, fold it in half, and shove it inside the mailbox. Then, tape the ends together and seal the taped spot with clear packing tape. When you collect your mail later, you'll be greeted by crisp fresh laundry smelling like money.
Not sure how often to toss your dryer sheets away? Check out this handy guide published by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. It provides tips for determining appropriate disposal schedules depending on the item. For example, while newspapers shouldn't be tossed aside immediately, magazines and catalogues can sit in the recycling bin indefinitely.
If you've ever worked as a letter carrier, then you know that there's nothing more frustrating than walking up to the front door with your arms full of letters only to find out it will take an eternity for someone to answer because they're in the shower or on vacation. That frustration leads us to wonder what happens when people aren't home to accept their packages.
In response to this common problem, U.S Post Office (USPS) has introduced several innovative solutions over the years including Cluster Box Units (CBU), which allow customers to receive multiple deliveries while still having flexibility of receiving all their mail through one location. These boxes can be used by residents who have no access to vehicles such as elderly individuals or those that live alone. They also help curb package theft. The Postal Service refers to these facilities as "Multiple Mailbox Installations" (MMIs). As part of our series about MMI systems, we'll explore exactly what these installations consist of. We'll start off by defining different types of public mailbox clusters and explain how they operate.
What do you call a group of mailboxes?
There are three main categories of MMI systems -- single-family, multi-family and commercial/industrial. Each type uses slightly varying designs depending upon where each unit falls within its respective category. Single family residential mailboxes typically serve a single dwelling and usually include four to eight individual mailboxes grouped together around a central post office. Multi-family residential mailboxes are similar to single-family residential mailboxes but may contain anywhere from 13 to 50 separate mailboxes arranged around a larger square area. A typical multi-family residence could use between 20 and 100 mailboxes spread throughout the property. Lastly, commercial/industrial mailboxes are designed specifically for businesses and organizations interested in maximizing efficiency, productivity and customer service. Examples of businesses using these units would be large retail stores, hospitals and universities. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on single-family residential mailboxes.
Multi-family residential mailboxes come equipped with either a vertical sliding panel or horizontal swinging doors allowing users to retrieve their mail without stepping outside or opening any locks. Residents must provide identification cards issued by the local Public Works Department before being allowed to open their mail. In addition, some communities require proof of residency prior to receiving mail delivery services. Once validated, a resident receives two plastic card holders for incoming mail. One holder allows them to view the first piece of mail delivered to their address and another holds subsequent pieces until collected. Some mailboxes even feature built-in electronic scales so that residents don't need to carry heavy envelopes back into their homes. If you want to learn more about how mail sorting works, check out How Mail Is Sorted & Delivered.
Commercial/Industrial mailboxes offer something known as a "Mail Drop", which is essentially a secure place for workers to collect outgoing mail during nonworking hours. Typically, companies pay extra money per month to rent space from the government agency, and employees sign agreements stating that they won't tamper with the mail once they leave the premises. This way, if thieves were to steal mail from these locations, there wouldn't be anything left behind for criminals to sell. It should go without saying that anyone found guilty of tampering with the mail shall face severe penalties under federal law.
A few other important things to note regarding MMI systems is that they are typically located near intersections, along streets, or near major roads. Because of their proximity to traffic lights and stop signs, most municipalities ban cars from parking overnight. Parking restrictions vary according to community guidelines and regulations. Also, since many MMI systems are placed next to busy roadways, drivers often complain about noise pollution caused by vehicle horns honking constantly. Finally, some communities prohibit trash cans or recycling bins from residing nearby due to possible environmental hazards.
How do cluster mailboxes work?
The US Postal Service began developing MMI systems after recognizing that it was impossible for traditional mailboxes to adequately meet the needs of today's society. Even though letter carriers deliver approximately 200 million parcels daily, letter carriers cannot enter private residences to make house calls. Instead, letter carriers rely on neighbors' assistance to pick up mail left at the doorstep. During peak times like holiday seasons, it takes longer for letter carriers to complete deliveries because they spend more time waiting in line for authorization to enter private dwellings. With the introduction of new technologies, however, the USPS now offers efficient methods of delivering packages directly to consumers' mailboxes instead of relying solely on neighborhood volunteers.
To accomplish this task, the USPS utilizes a system called Cluster Delivery Unit (CDU) which consists of small modular buildings containing 10 to 15 mailboxes. CDUs are strategically placed in neighborhoods across the country, and although they cost millions of dollars to construct, the USPS recoups much of its costs thanks to savings realized from reduced labor expenses associated with picking up mail manually. At present, the Postal Service owns and operates roughly 70,000 CDUs nationwide. Most of these units fall within the multi-family residential classification, although there are also instances in which a business owner might decide to install a CDU on his own property.
When a person opens a mailpiece destined for a specific tenant, he uses the postage meter to print a special barcode label. He places the enclosed envelope into the corresponding mailbox, enters his PIN code and collects the mail later that day. When collecting mail, tenants simply walk past their assigned mailbox to retrieve items. Since residents never need to touch locked mailboxes, they enjoy peace of mind knowing their mail is safe from prying eyes. Many MMI owners choose to outfit their mailboxes with electronic scale technology to eliminate the need for carrying bulky envelopes back indoors. To see how a parcel gets sorted, watch the video below.
Public mailboxes are very popular among USPS letter carriers, not just because they get to avoid going door-to-door, but because they give residents easy access to their mail. However, if you happen to notice a strange device sitting atop a mailbox, don't worry! According to USPS standards, it contains an automatic locking mechanism that prevents unauthorized personnel from accessing the lock. Letter Carriers refer to this device as a Cluster Lock Unit (CLU) or Automatic Locking System (ALS). CLU units perform the same basic functions as CDUs but differ in size, design and appearance. Currently, the USPS maintains roughly 5,500 ALS units nationwide.
Lastly, let's talk about who actually pays for MMI services. Although residents living in areas served by MMI systems are billed based on standard rates, the Postal Service itself bears the expense of operating and maintaining the MMI infrastructure. Depending on the size of the installation, the price varies considerably. Smaller installations costing less than $100,000 generally charge monthly fees ranging from $5 to $15 per household. Large, complex installations requiring additional resources and manpower, however, incur higher prices. By contrast, homeowners can purchase a mailbox for themselves for relatively low prices ranging between $10 and $40.