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 (220)

  • anon

    Thank you for your comments on our 2013 blog. Though we have closed the comment section on this page, the Office of Inspector General is continuously conducting staffing reviews of the Postal Service. Also, we ask you to please visit the “Contact Us” page on this website for information on where to file formal complaints with our agency or the Postal Service as well as other common activities. Thank you again, OIG Blog Moderator

    Feb 20, 2018
  • anon

    I have an online business and putting my home address is not ideal. My local hectic post office charges $99+ for the smallest 3"x5" mailbox. Having an online po box would be awesome. If mail could get forward from the virtual PO box to the personal home would be great. Premium features could be scanning of the mail and shredding it and being able to view on a smart mobile device or desktop computer. When would this be a reality? It would definitely alivate the madness of every Saturday morning at my local post office where I have to stand in line for an hour to pick up my mail. It's 2018 and this post was written in 2013. How come is it not a reality yet? I'm a computer and electrical engineer and currently doing Android app developing. If help is needed I'm able to provide my services. Let's make this a reality.

    Feb 19, 2018
  • anon

    Yes. I have a new business opening and I'm looking for this service for my method of doing business. I think this is a great option for a mobile consultant such as I.

    Feb 19, 2018
  • anon

    I'm in the process of starting a new business out of my home. Starting to conceptualize my website. However, putting my home address on my website is not appealing to me. Having the option of a virtual PO Box at my local Post Office that can redirect all my mail to my home address in the same city would be extremely appealing. Since my business will be community oriented having a PO Box in my city is preferable. Since this service is not yet available I will have to get a physical PO Box, which means a daily truck to my local office. Although other virtual PO Box services are available, the advertized address is in some city far away. From a community business standpoint this is very unappealing or desired.

    Feb 12, 2018
  • anon

    I have been a customer of VirtualPostMail.com for several years. They scan the front of my incoming postal mail and email me the scan. I can then ask them to scan the contents or forward the physical mail to me. I am satisfied with their service. Several companies offer such services. The main issues I have encountered when evaluating them are: - They offer many addresses, but only process/scan mail at a single central location. So if someone from CA sends mail to my CA "virtual address", it goes to CA, then gets forwarded to Michigan, then gets scanned. That takes too long. - The scan quality is lower than ideal. They offer 200 dpi B&W. Some companies offer 300 dpi color (preferable). - They charge a per-item fee for storing physical mail after 30 or 90 days, but no option to have the mail automatically shredded before incurring such charges. - Customer service needs to be accessible via email/online, and respond with a non-canned reply to my actual question within 24 hours. Also: - I pay $30/month for all the mail I get (about 12 monthly pieces), scanning all of them. I would like to be able to add 2 addresses for a nominal per-address fee rather than needing to pay separate accounts for each address. - I live in the U.S. and do not need mail forwarded internationally. But that could change, in which case I would want it. - I don't have packages sent to that address. So from my perspective, all packages could be refused. Nonetheless I would prefer a street address over a PO Box number. - For legal reasons, the address may need to be in a specific state. - Aside from VirtualPostMail.com, the most promising services for this (as of 02/2018) are: physicaladdress.com, postscanmail.com, travelingmailbox.com, earthclassmail.com (very expensive, however), and mailboxforwarding.com. Note that I'm only interested in companies that a) offer a California address and b) process/scan their mail without delaying it getting to me (i.e. don't need to ship it to another state to scan), so I've left out some companies that may be viable for others.

    Feb 02, 2018
  • anon

    This would really help me with my home business. Please make it happen!

    Jan 29, 2018
  • anon

    There are many companies online offering mail virtualization at a virtual but fake address. Good on USPS to offer it from the legitimate PO Box service. Our nonprofit would use it.

    Jan 27, 2018
  • anon

    I need a service like this and am looking to commercial providers. I am looking to this for a home business, which mostly has an online presence, to keep it separate from my home address. I would MUCH prefer the services through the USPS, as they are trustworthy. I would mostly use the service of receiving mail and having it scanned to my email. I would pay to have certain mail items forwarded to my physical address.

    Jan 26, 2018
  • anon

    This is very useful. I run a small annual charity event and get little correspondence, so renting a physical box and having to check it all the time is not easy. This would make life simple and save me a ton of money in gas and time. Are you guys close to offering this?

    Jan 17, 2018
  • anon

    Yes please. I would love this kind of service. I've wanted this for a while now. Just found this blog post. Please, please do this. It's time for some innovation for classical mail.

    Jan 11, 2018
  • anon

    I'm very interested in this service.

    Jan 09, 2018
  • anon

    I love this, I would definitely recommend it and use the virtual mailbox myself.

    Jan 04, 2018
  • anon

    I will need a virtual mail address as my wife and I plan to RV for the next 2 or 3 years but want to maintain an Ohio address for a number of reasons.

    Dec 28, 2017
  • anon

    Since my physical mailbox is being broken into regularly, I am definitely moving to a different solution. Since the services that offer virtual po boxes are less expensive and more convenient than USPS physical po boxes, I would suggest that USPS get on this bandwagon in a hurry.

    Dec 26, 2017
  • anon

    I think this would be a good move for USPS and I would definitely consider using it since I am looking for a virtual PO/mailbox myself.

    Dec 26, 2017
  • anon

    I would use it

    Dec 26, 2017
  • anon

    I would use this service in my business. I audit prisons and jails, and I need a way for inmates of audited facilities to reach me without giving them my home address.

    Dec 23, 2017
  • anon

    I would consider the use of a virtual PO Box for both personal and business related mail. I just didn't understand if you cannot destroy the mail - what happens to it after you scan it and send it along?

    Dec 06, 2017
  • anon

    I just found this white paper commentary after calling our local USPS office to see if they offer a virtual PO Box. I would pay for this service. I have a legal practice that is very busy but which I can do 90% of the time at a very comfortable home office; however, most of my trips to my downtown office are necessary just to check on the mail received from our law office PO Box. If I was assigned a virtual PO Box, but that mail was delivered to my home post office box, that would be worth paying a monthly fee of $6 - $10/month. I hope this happens! Alan

    Dec 06, 2017
  • anon

    This would be great, I already scan, shred or trash as soon as my mail comes in the door. If I could save time I would would totally pay for this

    Nov 14, 2017
  • anon

    Having a Virtual PO Box is great! I’m surprised USPS doesn’t offer it yet. I’ve signed up for one a few months ago with PostScan Mail; I move around a lot because of work and needed a good mail forwarding service with a stable street address. I get a notification with all new mail and get free physical storage space the first 30 days for my packages. All my important mail is scanned and sent to my account, I access it from my phone and can even set filters and folders for my mail, and it’s a great service to try.

    Nov 14, 2017
  • anon

    I want this service and this should be pursued. Yes I would be willing to pay for it. Your smallest POB is $45 for 3 or 6 months - I believe. I guess one question would if customers could pay the USPS to get the forwarding address as my business is out of the home and my market is Inmates so I really do not want them to have my physical address. So, how would that work? The plans available with private companies have fairly expensive prices for over scans of the plan you choose. I believe the POSTAL SERVICE would have a edge about the competition on this. You probably do what private companies. They can deposit checks, open letters and scan them as I was thinking that the privacy laws would cause an issue.

    Oct 28, 2017
  • anon

    Yes this is something I think my professional chapter would welcome! We need an address due to the business we conduct but most of the items we get are junk and no one ever checks the physical box because we are scattered all over the area it is rarely in convention for any one of us

    Oct 27, 2017
  • anon

    For those of you with physical PO Boxes, you can get something called "Street addressing" if your post office supports it, you sign a form, and your post office box gets a street address, the street address of the post office followed by # and then your box number. This also allows you to, according to USPS, receive packages from other couriers like UPS, FedEX, etc.

    Oct 21, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, with either a PO Box address or the ability to get street addressing (A physical street address with your name, like you can right now with physical PO Boxes) in multiple states, and the ability to receive letters and parcels from all US carriers (UPS, FedEX, DHLUS, etc), be notified when you receive them online, and either get them opened, get a scan of it done, pick it up in person, or have it forwarded to your address for you to receive it there. Competitive rates would also be nice, and plans for storing the mail over an extended period of time, or for people who are temporarily abroad having packages they receive at their virtual PO Box address forwarded and shipped internationally to the country they're in.

    Oct 21, 2017
  • anon

    Such a service would be welcome. It would free travelers like me from having to deal with private companies. How soon can we subscribe?

    Oct 11, 2017
  • anon

    Yes, USPS please do this. I would like a virtual po box where everything mailed to the po box just gets delivered to whatever physical address I link it to. This would allow me to use a virtual po box for my home business without having to list my residential home address publicly.

    Oct 05, 2017
  • anon

    A virtual mail box would be something I would seriously consider. I truly wished the USPS PO BOXES would accept shipments from all delivery services. I would be willing to pay more for THAT service. I have had a number of problems with packages being stolen off my porch.

    Sep 30, 2017
  • anon

    I can't think of a better place than USPS being the main provider of expats or people in service to have a this. A virtual PO BOX along with a physical address of the last known Post Office that serviced the last know address of the person who is requesting this service would be great. Given that some people go live abroad and don't have a physical address but need one for several ties they have in the U.S.

    Sep 30, 2017
  • anon

    Yes definitely I don't want to use business. I would much prefer to have a virtual PO Box with the USPS.

    Sep 28, 2017
  • anon

    You do not need to wait for USPS to offer this as services like this already exist in the current market. For example, we at Virtual Post Mail offers a fully managed mail solution by giving you a mailbox address. We will scan any incoming mail so you can read it online from anywhere. If you receive checks (such as rent checks or your club/association dues), we can even deposit them for you. Forward any mail or package should you need to have access to the physical item. Our service solves the problem with people concerned about privacy (such as using their home address) as well as being physically tied down to one place. Disclaimer: I work for Virtual Post Mail.

    Sep 05, 2017
  • 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

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