In today’s mobile society, people socialize, shop, work, and play anywhere and everywhere. Yet even as many aspects of communications and commerce have gone mobile, the physical address has remained static. Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could direct your mail to meet you wherever you go? So, instead of going to your mailbox, your mailbox came to you.

In our recently released white paper “Virtual Post Office Boxes”, we consider a concept that would offer portability to your address, just like email and phone numbers. The Virtual Post Office (PO) Box gives customers control over where, when, and how they receive their mail and packages. Much like the venerable PO Box service, the Virtual PO Box would provide users with an alternate address instead of their residential address. Virtual PO Box customers could log into their www.usps.com accounts to link this address with any physical address, including a home or business address, a nearby Post Office, a physical PO Box locker, or even a gopost® parcel locker.

The paper suggests users could accept or redirect letters, flats, and parcels online or from their smart devices to an alternate address, a temporary address, or even a parcel locker in their desired location. Customers could receive immediate notification via email or text message when new mailpieces have arrived. They then could determine where they wanted them delivered. For example, a person on vacation may request that his or her packages be delivered to a nearby gopost parcel locker. In today’s increasingly digital and mobile world, the service would provide a “just in time” element to the flow of mail and give customers numerous options. They could choose from many delivery options, however, destruction of the mail would not be an option.

The capabilities and features of a Virtual PO Box could:

Give a physical dimension to email and smart devices by linking a customer’s email addresses to his or hers Virtual PO Box address and residential address for parcel fulfillment and other activities.
Validate the identity of users for merchants and in peer-to-peer sales, while concealing home addresses and personal information.
Allow foreign customers to shop online and provide merchants with a U.S. address for parcel delivery and returns.
Provide small businesses the ability to possess a vanity address and use the Virtual PO Box as a micro-warehouse.

Some challenges of a Virtual PO Box, range from operations and technical issues to preventing fraud in international shipments. The paper also contemplates some possible future enhancements and best ways to pursue the concept, such as partnering with companies that now provide similar services.

 

If offered, which services would you use? Would you be willing to pay more for premium services, such as international shipments and returns? Do you see any problems with offering or implementing such a service? Share your thoughts below.

Comments (189)

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  • anon

    As a writer, I pretty much need to have a newsletter to send out to my fans. The companies that provide newsletter services require a person's address be on the newsletter. This can be a p.o. box. I'd rather work with the USPS on something like this, rather than some other company. I would also hope the cost wouldn't be prohibitive. I'm a small time writer and the p.o. box cost will come out of my pocket until I begin to make a decent income from my writing.

    Aug 11, 2017
  • anon

    This would be perfect!! That way i can recieve packages from people online without having a po box i need to go to every day & never having to give out my actual adress!!!

    Aug 08, 2017
  • anon

    This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for. A forwarding "vanity address" that can be given out publicly without disclosing my home address, without needing to constantly check or drive to pick things up from a PO box!

    Jul 12, 2017
  • anon

    As much as the USPS suffers from competing mail services, its too bad that it can't remain competitive in the virtual business address/mailbox marketplace. Not that the traditional P.O. box system isn't effective. Clearly, it works for many customers. But, what gives private mailbox services that offer physical addresses an edge is the fact that their addresses are acceptable for use as virtual business addresses (for registrations, licenses, commercial package deliveries, etc.), unlike standard "P.O" addresses! USPS has the distribution infrastructure already in place. If local post offices could correct this problem, and lower their pricing to be more inline with commercial mail services, USPS could clearly take command of the virtual address/mailbox space!

    Jul 02, 2017
  • anon

    I would sign up for this! Sad that it's not already available through the postal service :( I take it there is no update?

    Jun 15, 2017
  • anon

    If a virtual PO BOX or virtual address were available to access I would most definitely use and recommend this service. I would very much like to see the idea of a virtual address/PO BOX become a reality.

    Jun 06, 2017
  • anon

    Agree with most of the comments below?!? Where is the USPS with development of a 501c3 organization and we need these services as our executive team lives all over the US! Why are we posting anything here?? It appears no one is reading or responding from USPS!?!?

    Jun 02, 2017
  • anon

    IT WAS APRIL 2013 WHEN THIS WAS POSTED UP AND ITS NOW 2017.... USPS STILL DONT HAVE ANYTHING LIKE THIS TO OFFER... LIKE COME ON YOU GOTTA CATCH UP.. THERES BUSINESS POPPING UP ALL OVER THE PLACE SINCE 2007 AND WE NEED USPS (WHO WE CAN TRUST) TO GIVE US OPTIONS LIKE THIS. PLEASE AND THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!!!

    May 26, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, I now have a PO Box that was used primarily for billing and receiving payments. We are moving to online billing and will not be needing the big PO Box that we now have. I am currrently checking into virtual services.

    May 03, 2017
  • anon

    What I think would be a great idea is a virtual address/virtual PO box service. A place where letters, packages, etc. could be sent, and someone (a service of sorts) would mail the items to you while you travel from wherever to wherever, but don't have a permanent address.

    Apr 02, 2017
  • anon

    Did this ever happen?

    Mar 06, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, long overdue. Would love this service at a very reasonable rate.

    Mar 03, 2017
  • anon

    I have been looking for something like this for a while. I would LOVE to be able to have something like this.

    Feb 17, 2017
  • anon

    Have used existing services that previewed envelopes, scanned letters and forwarded selected letters/packages to where I was currently at. This was back in 2006. So it's not like the post office is inventing anything new. Just look to existing, successful services, some which will even scan and EFT checks to a bank account. So, since there already exists such services, I would expect the USPS to simply try some and copy the features. Certainly, being able to use one to register to a single county and not be disenfranchised because I don't possess a permanent street address would be nice.

    Feb 16, 2017
  • anon

    I am curious if this four-year old idea has gone anywhere. I am exploring a concept of a mail-based service which would rely on volunteers across the country. Using a "Virtual" PO Box where incoming mail could be directed to any volunteer sounds like the perfect match! I hope this is something the USPS can do (or has already done!).

    Feb 11, 2017
  • anon

    Yes Absolutely!

    Feb 11, 2017
  • anon

    Long overdue.

    Feb 03, 2017
  • anon

    I'm happy to see that my question of January 20th was posted, but it's now February 3rd and nobody has acknowledged it or provided a response. Is this survey a waste of time, or is someone actually paying attention to it?

    Feb 03, 2017
  • anon

    Yes!!!

    Feb 02, 2017
  • anon

    As a small home based business owner, I SO NEED THIS! I don't want to use my physical address for my business (security issues) but I don't want a physical PO box that has to checked. In a quote from a Rocky movie "what er we waitin' fur?"

    Jan 31, 2017
  • anon

    This would be so perfect. And timely.

    Jan 25, 2017
  • anon

    YES! I just asked about whether or not such a service existed while at the post office last week. It would be INCREDIBLY helpful to be able to sell things online without revealing our personal information. YES, please create this service!!

    Jan 25, 2017
  • anon

    YES, YES, YES!!!! This would be perfect for small businesses which need to save time and money!!!!

    Jan 22, 2017
  • anon

    This survey has been here a long time and has a lot of positive responses. Could you give some indication as to whether anyone is reading them, and whether (and when) you plan to proceed? Just so we know we didn't waste our time. Thanks!

    Jan 20, 2017
  • anon

    Y E S ! ! ! ! I need this service yesterday!

    Jan 17, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, this service would be ideal provided it costs less than a physical PO Box. I manage registration for a youth sports organization, and with online registration and uploading of documents we only receive a few documents by mail each season - but we still have to pay the full cost of a PO Box. I don't want to publish my own address, because when I'm away someone else needs to be able to collect the mail, and eventually someone else will take on the role. Having a low-cost virtual address with the ability to change the physical recipient as needed would be ideal.

    Jan 13, 2017
  • anon

    This is exactly what I need.

    Jan 12, 2017
  • anon

    Yes. I actually need this service now.

    Jan 07, 2017
  • anon

    Why isn't this done yet? I work virtually and need an address for my business, but don't want to use my home for email blasts that go out to anybody who signs up. There are lots of options out there, but few with the kind of trust the USPS has built up by handling mail. If your prices were competitive, I'd go with you without hesitation.

    Jan 07, 2017
  • anon

    YES! Godspeed.

    Jan 03, 2017
  • anon

    YES! I need this service NOW!!! Please move forward with this!!!

    Jan 02, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, I'd be very interested. I like having mail delivered to my home, but as an author who works from home, I'd rather not list my physical address.

    Dec 26, 2016
  • anon

    Yes, it is very helpful for a small business owner who wants to protect his/her privacy. How to apply a virtual PO box and what is the rate? Thanks.

    Dec 16, 2016
  • anon

    How to apply for a virtual PO box and what is the rate for renting? Thanks.

    Dec 16, 2016
  • anon

    YES!!!!

    Dec 06, 2016
  • anon

    I have an electric company that I run out of my home. I would love to have a PO Box listed as my mailing address so strangers do not have access to my home address. It would also save me the hassle of having to actually travel to the post office, thereby also saving the planet from excess C02 emissions. The USPS could market this as "going green"! This would be quite simple to implement: My PO Box could be "PO BOX 1404742" for my home address of 1404 Shxxxxx Dr., Bxxxxxx CA. "1404" is the home numerals. "7" is the telephone numeral for "S" which is the first letter of my street name, "4" is the second letter "H", and "2" is the first letter of my city "B". You could easily add some code to the existing sorting equipment software that each office uses every day. I'm sure it would be quite inexpensive to make this a reality and the income generated from this service would be quite profitable! I'd definitely pay up to $5 a month for a service like this.

    Dec 03, 2016
  • anon

    Thanks a lot for this post. It’s very timely for me, How about Post Scan mail ? It will help a lot to make the right decision, if you can mention a list of details to pay attention to when selecting a parcel forwarding company.

    Nov 13, 2016
  • anon

    I can't believe it's 2016 and the USPS offers no virtual PO box services. And if such a service is offered, a key part must be the scanning, online viewing and secure shredding of the physical mail, to believe otherwise is the definition of being a Luddite. You could offer this service on a per-mail or with a monthly subscription charge that would more than cover whatever you're making from the spammers now. As a business, we already pay $250/month for such a third party service. If the USPS offered this directly, businesses and private persons would be all over it!

    Oct 27, 2016
  • anon

    Yes, please do this. I am very mobile. I move constantly because of my job. Having a physical P.O box limits me and also makes it a hassle to continuously establish and dis-establish P.O box accounts. I'm in the 18-35 age range and I believe this is the next "big thing" within the postal industry.

    Oct 22, 2016
  • anon

    MOST DEFINITELY!

    Oct 19, 2016
  • anon

    I use a private virtual mail box now --- and I would consider a USPS virtual mail service even more trustworthy. YES I would use a USPS Virtual mailbox.

    Oct 17, 2016
  • anon

    We change offices occasionally and this would work great for our company. We would send any mail from our PO Box to our then current office.

    Oct 14, 2016
  • anon

    The world is progressively going digital and this will eventually change the face of our national postal service and products. Hundreds of thousands of postal workers who trust our government and pledge their allegence will be displaced. The time to implement a conversion that provides for an honorable transition from postal work into other civil opportunities is now, so that the process occurs gradually and no one is hurt. We don't need physical mail anymore. But we do need legal and fair virtual solutions to replace certain systems, if for no other reason that to contain deceptive practices. The virtual establishment filling the need now is not all that straight. In the age of mobile business and virtualization, I still need a legal presence in my business and holdings. I can do much to protect my domain ownerships just by registering these at legal addresses, for example. And I should not have to pay opportunism for non-utilized real estate holdings or exaggerated parcel costs. You can make a big difference out there just by establishing a strong social presence and doing the right thing solely because it is the right thing to do. Manage packaging both here and overseas with precision and dignity and pick up on all of the various trends conscienteously in honorable service, such as warehousing, with sincerity and true allegence to our American standards, and both customer and country will be indebted to you.

    Oct 09, 2016
  • anon

    The world is progressively going digital and this will eventually change the face of our national postal service and products. Hundreds of thousands of postal workers who trust our government and pledge their allegence will be displaced. The time to implement a conversion that provides for an honorable transition from postal work into other civil opportunities is now, so that the process occurs gradually and no one is hurt. We don't need physical mail anymore. But we do need legal and fair virtual solutions to replace certain systems, if for no other reason that to contain deceptive practices. The virtual establishment filling the need now is not all that straight. In the age of mobile business and virtualization, I still need a legal presence in my business and holdings. I can do much to protect my domain ownerships just by registering these at legal addresses, for example. And I should not have to pay opportunism for non-utilized real estate holdings or exaggerated parcel costs. You can make a big difference out there just by establishing a strong social presence and doing the right thing solely because it is the right thing to do. Manage packaging both here and overseas with precision and dignity and pick up on all of the various trends conscienteously in honorable service, such as warehousing, with sincerity and true allegence to our American standards, and both customer and country will be indebted to you.

    Oct 09, 2016
  • anon

    i am blind and i as well as the rest of the blind and visually impaired community would greatly appreciate a service like this so our mail can be read out loud by our computers just like email, this would be extremely helpful for many of us blind people who dont have a reader or assistamt to open and read ourmail, i would be definitely be willing to pay a premium for this service.

    Oct 08, 2016
  • anon

    Even if was just implemented so all mail to the PO box was automatically forwarded to a physical address (that could periodically be changed) that would be great for the many non profit organizations that don't have a physical business address.

    Oct 05, 2016
  • anon

    Please introduce this service ASAP it is great for a small home business where you don't want to use your address on invoices and credit card receipts and also don't want to have to go to the PO for mail pick up

    Sep 30, 2016
  • anon

    Definitely think this is a good idea - would rather support USPS than a commercial virtual mailbox provider!

    Sep 29, 2016
  • anon

    Absolutely.

    Sep 26, 2016
  • anon

    YES definitely my "snow bird" parents and in-laws would definitely use this service! The $18+ WEEKLY fee for forwarding is ridiculous so this could potentially be a much better alternative.

    Sep 25, 2016

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