In looking for mailboxen, I came across the U.S. Postal Service standards for “customer mail receptacles” (PDF).
If I understand 1.2 and 1.3 correctly, exterior wall-mounted mail receptacles on a multi-family building are not letterboxes, whereas curbside mail receptacles (i.e. a standard mailbox-on-a-post) and “wall-mounted centralized mail receptacles” (e.g. the ones in an apartment building lobby) are letterboxes. I am very curious as to the origin of this distinction.
I hadn’t really thought about it, but since I moved here, I have received things like Chinese take-out menus, lobbying cards for the election, and assorted unaddressed advertising. This is not something I’ve ever received before (the Panda House people roaming the dorms at Swat notwithstanding), because we’ve always had our own curbside mailbox, or the mail room at Swat or the “wall-mounted centralized mail receptacle” at our temporary apartment between houses in 1999.
I remember my parental units telling me at some point, possibly in the context of my sister’s Girl Scout Cookie solicitations, that it was illegal to put unaddressed mail in a mailbox. I naturally assumed that this was true of all “receptacles” that I would call a mailbox.
Apparently, however, my mailbox here is not really a mailbox. Does anyone out there know why the rules are this way? It seems very stupid, and is very annoying to people like me who live in small multi-family buildings. I’ve used the USPS’ Contact Us form to send them an e-mail request for explanation. I really hope I get a letter from the Postmaster General or something :oD.