Have you ever heard of the USPS General Delivery service and wondered what the purpose of this is? It’s important to understand the various kinds of shipping that are on offer when you’re moving around, and General Delivery is extremely useful in a specific set of circumstances – when you don’t have a fixed address.
The General Delivery service is used by people who don’t have (or can’t currently use) a permanent residence but do still need to collect mail, and it’s a very important service for a big portion of the population, which depends on it heavily. In this article, we’re going to cover more about this service.
What Is The General Delivery Service?
The General Delivery service is provided by USPS, and it has been around for a very long time. It was originally started because many people didn’t have fixed addresses, and instead would go to get their mail from their local post office, rather than having it delivered to their home. This predates the current system, where a mail carrier brings your letters to your door.
Over time, the use of this pickup service has significantly decreased, but it is still very important, and useful if you find you have need of it. A lot of people in a whole variety of different circumstances utilize this service.
Who Uses The USPS General Delivery Service?
Many different people use the USPS General Delivery service, but one of the most significant groups is people who travel frequently. If you live in an RV and you are always on the road, you might really struggle to get mail when you need it, and this can be a major problem.
Things like packages, bank statements, bank cards, medical letters, etc., can all be enormously difficult to get hold of if you are constantly on the move. While some caravan parks and trailer parks will take, sort, and hold mail for guests, a large number will not do this.
That leaves travelers stuck with having to enlist family and friends to receive their mail for them, and constantly having to pick things up from all over the place. If you are in a new town and you don’t know anyone, getting mail would be almost impossible if not for the General Delivery service – because who else would receive it for you?
There is also a significant risk if you ask someone else to take your mail for you, especially if it is sensitive data. You need to really trust someone if you are going to send bank details or even bank cards to their home, and it’s better not to do this if you can avoid it.
Likewise, sending valuable items that you might buy online to someone else’s address can be risky.
Other people who can benefit from the General Delivery service are tourists who have come to the United States, and homeless people, who may need to receive benefits, government letters, letters about potential employment, etc. Having no permanent address could otherwise make it very difficult to get off the streets.
You might also occasionally choose to use this service near your fixed address. If, for example, you want a package delivered that you would rather your partner did not see (e.g. a birthday present), you can mark it as General Delivery. This will allow you to collect it from the post office at a time that suits you, rather than it arriving at your home on a random day.
In short, there are a lot of reasons for which you might want to use the General Delivery service, which is why it still exists, even though the majority of people in the US have no need for it.
What Are The Alternatives To The General Delivery Service?
Besides the option of sending mail to friends or family and picking it up yourself, you might be wondering what else you could do if you don’t want to use the General Delivery service. Unfortunately, your choices are pretty limited.
One option is a Post Office box, and many people do have these for both security and convenience. However, there are a lot of online retailers that will not deliver to PO boxes, and this is also true of FedEx and UPS, which refuse to make any deliveries to them.
Because of this, they are quite limited, especially in terms of getting packages delivered. You may be able to get normal mail this way, but if you purchase anything online, you might need to look at other options.
Apart from using a friend’s address, this takes you back to the General Delivery service.
How Do I Send Something With The General Delivery Service?
If you want to send something using the General Delivery service, you will need to address the mail as follows:
[City, State, Zipcode for the post office that is located near to your temporary residence] 9999
Do include the 9999 following the zipcode.
Note that you do not have to use uppercase for the phrase “general delivery,” but this format is preferred as it eliminates confusion and makes the instruction clearer.
It is also important to check which post offices in the area accept General Deliveries, because not all of them do. Sometimes, mail will get redirected from small post offices to the nearest large one.
The USPS website will tell you which post offices participate, and you must look into this before addressing mail to one, because otherwise the mail may get lost or misdirected.
It is usually a good idea to check with the post office itself, regardless of what the USPS website says. Find their number and give them a call, especially if you are expecting anything important in the mail.
Some will also have limited hours during which you can collect mail, so make sure you ask about this in advance as well. You don’t want to drive all the way to a post office and then find that you are not able to collect the mail as you intended.
How Much Do I Have To Pay To Use The General Delivery Service?
The General Delivery service will cost the same amount as regular mail. That means that if you want to send something via priority mail, you will pay the same price as if you were sending it to a domestic address. It is not any cheaper just because it’s not going to a residential address; the post office still has to handle and sort it.
This costs them as much – if not more – as bringing the mail to addresses, since their workers are visiting the houses anyway.
The sender should send the mail just as they would normally do, but with the information shown above. They should also pay for it as normal, or the package may incur extra charges at the post office before the recipient can collect it.
How Long Does The General Delivery Service Take?
Again, this depends on the shipping service used. If the sender pays for expedited shipping, it should arrive more quickly than if they use regular mail.
If you are traveling and depending upon the General Delivery service, it is always a good idea to build some buffer time into any expected package estimates. For example, if you believe a package will take three to five days to ship, send it to somewhere you will be staying for at least a week if possible.
This ensures that you have a bit of leeway if the package is delayed, minimizing the risk of you having to leave a parcel behind if you need to move on. The more leeway you can build into a package’s arrival time, the less likely you are to run into issues if it’s delayed.
Can Anyone Use The General Delivery Service?
Yes, anyone can use the General Delivery service, but you are only allowed to use the service for thirty days at one location. After this time, you need to move to a new area and begin collecting your mail from a different post office.
This is to prevent people from abusing the facility and having mail dropped off at a post office rather than using their address. Although this may seem harmless, it potentially creates more work for post office employees, who would need to sort and store the mail, as well as checking recipients’ identities before handing it over.
What Do I Need In Order To Connect Mail?
If you want to pick mail up from somewhere, you need to check the opening hours of the pickup service before you go, and make sure you are within these. Do not assume that the ordinary post office opening hours are the same as the pickup hours, as there may not be enough staff to handle your request and they may not have access to the mail storage area.
You will also need to take some photo ID in order to collect your mail, and it’s important to make sure that this matches the name on the envelope, or you will not be given the mail. This is to prevent theft.
Do not go without your ID, even if the postal workers know you well. They may not always ask for your identification, but they have the right to, so you should always be prepared.
Does This Work With Couriers?
In theory at least, you can use the General Delivery service if you are having something sent by a courier, and this is supposed to be one of the advantages of the service. However, some users have reported having problems with this service, despite the fact that it should work.
Problems include mail not arriving, and users being charged a “handling fee” by USPS. Some couriers may refuse to use the “General Delivery” address because it does somewhat increase the chances of packages getting lost, especially if something goes wrong on your route to prevent you from getting to the town it’s being sent to.
How Long Will Mail Be Held For?
If you are delayed on your journey, you might be panicking about arriving on time to collect your package. However, you should have plenty of time, because packages will usually be held for up to thirty days.
If you have been delayed, it may be worth phoning the post office that your parcel is due to arrive at and checking that they will hold it. Although they should, it’s still best to ensure that this happens and to inform them that there will be a delay in collecting it.
In some cases, mail will not be held for as long, so if you need it to be kept for more than a few days, make sure that you do contact the post office and ask for advice on this.
If you have a lot of packages arriving by General Delivery, it’s a good idea to pick them up promptly, as they are more likely to be thrown away if there is a lot of them.
It is a nuisance to USPS staff if people abuse the system by ordering too much mail or refusing to pick it up quickly, so be careful and make sure you’re courteous and respectful.
If you are having problems getting your mail, you may want to consider taking out a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail. This service allows you to accept deliveries at any time, whether you are home or not.
It’s the perfect alternative to leaving a neighbor to collect your mail while you’re traveling, as long as you don’t need access to it while you are on the road. It’s secure, straightforward, and requires no physical presence from you until you are ready to collect your mail, making it an ideal solution.
If, however, you do need to be able to get your mail while you’re on the go, you may find that it’s best to use the General Delivery service, since this will let you collect your mail from a nearby participating post office, no matter where you are.