Snail mail is one of those services that never seem to lose momentum, no matter how far we make it in the digital age. Besides packages that can only be delivered through physical means, many people still continue to receive correspondence that can otherwise be delivered digitally. We can’t predict if/when this practice will become obsolete, but there is a temporary solution in the meantime.
Outbox is a service that collects snail mail for you, digitizes it, and makes it available for you to review via computer, tablet or phone.
After opening an account with Outbox, users are guided through how they would like their mail to be picked up. Outbox hires dedicated postal workers (similar to the USPS) that travel to your home and pickup your mail for you. Users have various options on how this is done, whether they leave mail in a keyed mailbox outside a gate, inside a gate, or not locked at all. If the mailbox is locked, a key must be provided to Outbox for access. Outbox makes it convenient for you to provide access to your mailbox without giving up your sense of security.
Once mail is picked up, users have the option of filtering which mail gets delivered to their doors and which don’t – so you don’t have to completely abandon snail mail. Outbox assures us that all workers are screened far more rigorously than the USPS with extensive drug, criminal, and employment screenings. Users also have the option to “unsubscribe” from junk mail via the Outbox portal. Unwanted mail will not show up on your Outbox and a request is made with the sender to stop sending the junk mail in the first place.
Outbox also offers organizational features such as virtual folders one can create to arrange mail. This feature allows you to create bins for things like bills, invitations, offers/coupons, etc. Also, mail that has to-do dates, such as bills, can be added to Outbox’s built-in to do list for added organization.
All of this runs you $5 a month. Outbox is currently only available in Austin and San Francisco, although based on initial reactions (only 3% of the Austin test group canceled), expansion to other cities should be in the near future. It’s interesting to see the kind of reaction users will have to their service. It is definitely a bit strange to have a stranger open your mail. However, many people are known to give up much more in the name of convenience.