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 (104)

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  • anon

    Yes please!

    May 27, 2016
  • anon

    Yes this is a great idea! I'm currently looking for a service just like this and there are a few out there. It would be a great way for the USPS to get into the game. Here is a list of the ones I've found so far: Traveling Mailbox iPostal1 Post Scan Mail Earth Class Mailbox Forwarding Virtual Post Mail Escapees Mail Forwarding Service US Global Mail Physical Address Thanks!

    May 18, 2016
  • anon

    I would love this service even if it automatically forwarded everything to my home address and not held it at the local branch. This way I would not need to use my home address for certain things. Or even provide that as a separate service - a real virtual POBox that is not associated with a physical box.

    May 15, 2016
  • anon

    With an internet-based business, my autoresponder company requires me to list my business address in all my email communications. I hate the requirement but as a consumer as well as a business owner, I do understand the logic of the requirement. Having the ability to list a Virtual, Real Address as my business address would be fantastic. I just received an email notice from a new customer that boldly lists my home address. Seeing it there this time shocked me. Immediately thought of the idea of having a physical P.O. Box, but that would be an over kill. Did a search and found this site. This is the way to go. I want in.

    May 13, 2016
  • anon

    What a wonderful idea! My husband and I travel using our RV and we struggle to receive our mail and online shopping packages. Sometimes, our need to receive a package will determine where we spend a few days in our RV. Move ahead with this, it's a great solution for traveling seniors and others!

    May 13, 2016
  • anon

    I would love this service to maintain my personal privacy. I save time going to the post office, and USPS saves time in delivery and saves money in maintaining fewer physical mailboxes. Win - win. Sign me up.

    May 08, 2016
  • anon

    PLEASE implement this feature. I have had 10 addresses in 10 years (not by choice) and it is a pain to deal with address changes. I have most of my things emailed to me now, but there are situations that require a physical address. I would LOVE having a virtual PO box that I could manage wherever I move.

    May 06, 2016
  • anon

    Develop it. Commercial offerings in this space are either terribly shoddy (e.g. they use unreliable franchise locations) or absurdly expensive (e.g. eathclassmail)

    May 05, 2016
  • anon

    Finally a good idea from an incredibly unreliable post service. I am out of the country for months every year and tried every possible option are in Pittsburgh. Nothing worked. While asking to hold mail some letters went back to the sender (so that I had to reconfirm my address to banks etc) other letters were simply delivered to the mailbox. When I asked USPS to forward my mail to a commercial mail service (which works well) some of my mail ended up in my mailbox again. For this reason I cut back USPS mail wherever possible (I estimate 90%) . That is a loss of USPS business. If you could set up reliable virtual mail box and add features like scanning and sending mail nationally and internationally you my be able to stop the downward spiral. Albrecht Funk

    May 05, 2016
  • anon

    I have a home business, but I don't want people to have my personal address (where my kids live and play). So, if I could have a "virtual address" and have my mail routed to my home that would be ideal.

    May 04, 2016
  • anon

    There are similar services out there now. MyRvMail.com is one. I use this service because we travel A LOT. The address is considered my legal physical address, and they hold all of our mail until we decided we want it. I can go online and see what I have, select which items I want sent to me and which ones to toss. It has been great.

    Apr 24, 2016
  • anon

    I was hoping that it already exists. I would love to have a virtual PO Box that I can give to others and receive my mail on my address without disclosing it. Privacy becomes more and more violated so I would like to protect my home address using a virtual PO box.

    Mar 27, 2016
  • anon

    I have used both EarthClass Mail as well as MailBoxForwarding.com. Currently I'm renting a box from The UPS Store because the post office in my zip code is not very good (30066). I constantly get mail intended for my neighbors delivered to my mailbox instead. It goes without saying that if I'm getting their mail then that are getting mine. All I want is a service that scans in my mail, converts first class mail to PDFs, and blindly rejects any bulk or third-class mail and periodicals. If the USPS can offer this at a competitive price I'm all for it, and I'll gladly pay for it.

    Mar 22, 2016
  • anon

    Great idea, but I hope the USPS is better at administering it than they are forwarding mail from one PO box to another, because the USPS sucks at that and I have returned mail emails and calls to show it.

    Mar 17, 2016
  • anon

    I have been hoping for something like this for years and years. I found this page while looking into virtualpostmail.com, and similar ideas. I cannot stand paper mail or paper receipts. this would eliminate half that problem.

    Mar 13, 2016
  • anon

    Yes, of course. I currently pay for EarthClassMail, but would probably switch to a USPS virtual PO box instead if given the chance.

    Mar 10, 2016
  • anon

    Most just don't want to disclose their mailing address and dislike the inconvenience of going to the Post Office. I love this option.

    Mar 10, 2016
  • anon

    Develop this and I'll be first in line to pay for it.

    Mar 10, 2016
  • anon

    This would make my small business so much easier. I wouldn't have to go to the post office to pick up mail from an actual PO box and still get it all delivered to my home without 3rd parties knowing I'm using my home as my office.

    Mar 09, 2016
  • anon

    LOVE THIS IDEA!!!! Also a photograph of the outisde of the letter sent to email while it is in processing? And then an option to discard before it is delivered.

    Mar 09, 2016
  • anon

    I'd LOVE to be able to see who has my virtual address in their database. Mainly marketers. So I can revoke access if they send me stuff I don't want. Hard to see this happening because that's how you guys make all your money. To make up for it Id suggest you guys charge the marketers to access the list. It's like a mailing list API you'd have. What the marketers would get is a highly accurate list of their customers. And when one customer moves they won't lose that relationship. One challenge: a physical package with your virtual address would have to be "interpreted" at some point and then labeled with the real physical address.

    Mar 07, 2016
  • anon

    This appeals to me in a major way.

    Mar 05, 2016
  • anon

    This would be great for registering my small business, which currently uses my home address but will likely move between various small offices over time.

    Mar 05, 2016
  • anon

    I would even like it if it went a step further, and offered scanning of the mail. If I could have the option to have the envelope opened and the contents scanned and e-mailed to me--maybe for ten cents a page or something to cover the cost of opening and scanning--I would definitely exercise that option.

    Mar 05, 2016
  • anon

    There's just not enough demand to justify the tax payer investment in infrastructure, training, ops, branding, customer service, rates, etc. Only 78 comments (vs how many hits on this page).

    Mar 04, 2016
  • anon

    Sounds like those who waited on internet investment in the 1990's

    Mar 07, 2016
  • anon

    I've often said that the post office does a terrible job dealing with people who move and people who don't have a steady address. The only option was to use a PO Box (which I do). Also there is the privacy issue. People don't want others knowing their address. Virtual PO Boxes are a wonderful idea and seemingly very easy to implement. It should have been done years ago.

    Mar 04, 2016
  • anon

    I would use this for sure. I'd use it for my home business.

    Mar 04, 2016
  • anon

    This would be a great feature that I would love to see from USPS. Working for the government, I often move and my address changes. I currently have mail being forwarded from three different locations to my current address, and I constantly wonder what I'm missing in the forwarding process. This would be a fantastic service that I would really appreciate.

    Mar 04, 2016
  • anon

    this is a great idea and yes, I would use it.

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    This is a fantastic proposal. I have moved a number of times and often use my work address to receive packages. The more flexibility I have with timing and types of delivery would be an incredible value for me.

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    I think this is a great idea and know a lot of Gen X and millennials who would take advantage of it. My family likely wouldn't need premium services, but I can see why someone would take advantage of them for a price. A mobile app and mobile-friendly web pages are highly recommended for implementation of this. And that would require built in feedback channels and frequent enhancements / updates (and lots of transparency about how to give feedback and what enhancements are down the line). Mostly just avoid a public technical glitch / downtime like some of the health exchanges had so as not to hurt early adoption with a bad reputation.

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    YES, YES, YES!!! I've been wanting this for years. It would be an incredible simplification. When can I have it?

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    This would have been fantastic while I was in college. New addresses every 4-8 months, plus the long stretches back at the parents' house, meant that I simply missed a whole bunch of mail. Heck, after school when I bounced around apartments yearly was nearly as bad. This would have been wonderful.

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    As someone who lives and works between two different physical addresses and often travels for contracts, this would be a godsend. Also, rewind 9 years to college life - moving from apartment to apartment every year - and this would've also been a godsend.

    Mar 03, 2016
  • anon

    I'm 32, and have lived in five cities over the past five years -- moving for grad school, and then multiple jobs. I would have loved a virtual PO box that would allow me to update my address only once instead of doing it a dozen plus times for all of my various accounts and services (banking, Amazon, Fred cards, insurance, magazines, etc). I would pay for this service too: No brainer at $30/year, highly likely at $60/year, but probably not if over $100/year.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    I want this, amd am willing to pay either a subscription or regular service charges for premium services. Particularly if you can accept and sign for packages from Fedex and UPS in my absence.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    Absolutely! This is one of the best ideas ever. I once pondered the concept of an online city where you had a virtual address which could be used to send real-life physical letters, packages, etc. without disclosing your location. You could even have a lot of fun with it by letting people choose fun addresses in an imaginary virtual city.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    Yes please offer this service. I have moved around 8 times in the last 5 years and i'm sure all my previous addresses still get some of my mail. it is extremely hard to update your address for every service and every person every time you move, and this service would offer a convenient solution. Plus I wouldn't have to keep explaining to my grandma why I'm moving and why I have a new address.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    I think this is a great idea, but based on how poorly your mail forwarding service has performed since my recent move, I am skeptical that the USPS could make this work.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    I would use/purchase this. My biggest concern is that I do not want unsolicited mass mailings to be in my virtual PO box.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    Yes, if #1 it included spam prevention (i.e. junk mail opt outs, plus other reduction perhaps partially through partnership with CatalogChoice); #2 it could include separate rules for small mail (envelopes, magazines, & parcels under 2lb) vs. larger items; and #3 another residential address could be the target (e.g. a nearby friend who's watching my house while I'm on a trip). This could also be great for having a public-facing address which does not reveal my residential address, something of importance to many who work from home, own web domains, are public figures, or who face a threat of violence or harassment.

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    Yes, I would be very interested in this as long as the USPS provided spam prevention. You currently make money off of littering my physical inbox with junk, will this just be another avenue for that? Can I pay you to prevent the constant spamming?

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    I'm 30, and I don't know anyone my age who has lived in the same apartment for more than 3 consecutive years (with the exception of my SF friends, who got locked in due to rent control). Most of my friends move annually with changes in jobs and relationship status. I WANT THIS!

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    I am starting a home business. I need my address to remain private to my advisors. Plus, running to the Post will be eliminated saving precious time. This would be a GREAT ASSET!

    Mar 02, 2016
  • anon

    We have businesses in the USA but have since moved out of the country. I need this service NOW as I am looking for a po box where my mail can be sent then scanned for me.

    Feb 23, 2016
  • anon

    I would love to see this. I have an interest in not making my mailing address public for things like DNS records, email newsletter footers to comply with CAN SPAM, etc. and I would love to have this tied to my physical address, or a PO box, or just forwarding. But I would very much like to get an email showing my mail so I can decide where to forward the item before it actually gets sent out. Please do this, USPS, and continue to push the state of the art in mail forwarding technology!

    Feb 21, 2016
  • anon

    Yes Yes YES!!! As a provider of mental health services, I need my living address to remain PRIVATE. When will this service be available???

    Feb 19, 2016
  • anon

    I NEED THIS SERVICE YESTERDAY! I move a lot, but keep a house in my home town. It would be SO beneficial to be able to have all my personal bills, real estate tax bills, local government notices, and all other mail sent to one place where it could be scanned and available immediately through a personal online account. USPS, this feature could save you and put you back in the black...you need to get some nerds working on this round the clock!!!

    Feb 05, 2016
  • anon

    I would definitely use a virtual PO Box.

    Feb 04, 2016

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