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What are Post Office Boxes?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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Post office boxes may be used by people for a variety of reasons. While some people prefer to receive their mail at home, others can’t if they live in highly secluded or rural areas. Some countries don’t have mail service to homes, and even in some parts of the US that are hard to reach, mail service to a home may be unavailable. In these cases, people have a post office box, which they must either rent, or sometimes get for free, into which their mail is deposited.

Most post office boxes are small affairs, with a key lock or combination known only by the owner. They can accept small amounts of mail and small packages. If a person or business receives larger amounts of mail on daily basis, or is accustomed to receiving packages too large for the box, they may rent a larger post office box or sometimes a postal bag, or they may have to pick up some of their mail directly from the post office. The occasional large package that gets delivered to a post office box usually means that the person will receive a notice in their PO box that they have something to pick up. Pick-up has to occur during normal business hours of the post office, which may be inconvenient.

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Post office boxes are frequently available through post offices in the US. Some people also rent mailboxes at a central location through private companies. These companies may have restrictions on the reception of large pieces of mail or packages from competing companies or even from the US postal service. If you’re thinking of renting a box from a private company, be sure to check if any restrictions on accepting mail from certain sources exist.

People may wish to use post office boxes if they travel frequently or don’t have a permanent address. Alternately, many people who run small businesses, especially Internet-based ones prefer the anonymity that a post office box confers. Since the address is specifically to the post office box, it doesn’t give much information regarding where you live. People may feel more protected if they don’t use their home address for a business, or may simply wish to keep business and personal mail separate.

Access to post office boxes may change according to where you rent the box. Some mailbox stores allow people with a box to get into the store or office at any time, day or night. Others will have specific hours in which you can access your mail. In urban areas, a problem with leaving post offices or box stations open at night, and unstaffed, is that homeless people will occasionally use these areas to sleep, presenting a potential for crime. To prevent this, you may need a key or combination to get in through a door where your PO box is located.

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Discuss this Article

Spotiche5
Post 2

@rundocuri- I think that is the most important point of the story. Anyone doing business online or who needs to use a shipping address would only be asking for trouble by using a home address. Post office box fees are also quite affordable, and are usually billed quarterly or monthly.

Rundocuri
Post 1

Having a post office box is very handy if you have a small business and you don't want to use your home address. It provides a safe, convenient place for you to get your mail while you keep your actual home address private.

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