Warning: Hanging Advertising on Mailboxes is Illegal!

Warning: Hanging Advertising on Mailboxes is Illegal!

Many people use the flag of the mailbox to hang advertising. I’m sure you’ve gotten marketing materials, especially pizza flyers, hanging on the flag of your mailbox. Did you know that’s illegal? If you plan to advertise this way, beware!

According to the USPS, “No part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.”

The article goes on to say that, “anyone knowingly and willfully depositing any mailable matter (in this way) is subject to a fine of no more than $300 for each offense.”

Postal regulation 3.1.3 Use for Mail

“Except under 3.2.11, Newspaper Receptacle, the receptacles described in 3.1.1 may be used only for matter bearing postage. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.”

You can read the entire regulation in the Domestic Mail Manual 508 3.1.3 Use for Mail.

It’s not only illegal, it’s federal illegal. It’s considered tampering with a mailbox. If someone catches you anywhere near their mailbox for whatever reason you may find yourself in a federal investigation. Tampering with mail can be a three year sentence and a $50,000.00 fine!

What do you consider a better alternative?

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19 Comments

  1. Agreed, Barbara. When you read the law, it’s so crystal clear – Nothing on the mailbox or its support.

    Thanks for commenting!

  2. PER: Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual > 500 Additional Services > 508Recipient Services
    IS VERY CLEAR!

    “3.2.5 Advertising
    Any advertising on a mailbox or its support is prohibited. ”

    “On a mailbox or its support!” ILLEGAL!

  3. Kirk:
    Click on the link I put in the post. You can read all the details there. Here’s what section 3.2.5 reads:

    3.2.5 Advertising – Any advertising on a mailbox or its support is prohibited.

    I posted the link, not the entire law. Please click on the link where I stated: You can read the entire regulation in the Domestic Mail Manual 508 3.1.3 Use for Mail.

  4. “Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.”

    It’s reads nothing about hanging a flyer on the box being illegal. It reads if you try to circumvent the post office so you don’t have to pay postage with an item of mail that’s mailable, that’s illegal. This is another example of people trying to be more important than they are. No, it’s not illegal. Show me one case law to the opposite?

  5. Thank you for this info, Joe.

  6. The EVERY DOOR DIRECT MAIL service offered by the post office is an easy, excellent and price-effective (and legal ;) alternative. You can pick your route via their interactive map. Census info like avg. income is visible above the map for the chosen route. At $ 0.17 / piece, the price is unbeatable. You just print your “standard mail” advertising and bring it to the post office. More at:
    https://www.usps.com/business/every-door-direct-mail.htm

  7. You’re right, Selma. But often people have more time than money and are looking for the least expensive ways to find the most properties.

    Thanks for adding your comment!

  8. Well Eric why wouldn’t you just get addresses for the neighborhood and mail them. That would be a lot less trouble and not skirt the law

  9. I looked for that too.

    While I couldn’t say that an individual homeowner might not object if they saw you doing it, I couldn’t find anything about it being illegal.

    Obviously it’s illegal to take anything OUT, but putting it in…?

    Congress seems to have overlooked that issue.

  10. That sounds right to me, Eric. I imagine they want to be paid for using their property. I also think there is a privacy issue with entering someone else’s mailbox.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  11. I think I just found a loophole, although whether anyone wanting to advertise may or may not think so…

    The most direct law I can find is 18 U.S. Code § 1725 – Postage unpaid on deposited mail matter

    “Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.”

    Well…
    I can’t find anything that says that the postage stamp has to be cancelled or that the post office itself has to do the delivery.

    In other words, if I am doing selective advertising where I am driving around and selecting houses that I think would be especially good customers, there is apparently nothing illegal about putting a flyer in their mailbox AS LONG AS I PUT A STAMP ON IT.

  12. Thanks, Joel, for your comment!

  13. That’s messed up. In rural areas you have to buy your own mailbox, sometimes even in incorporated cities. I agree that only USPS mail should be placed IN the box, I disagree with what should be allowed outside the box.

  14. Hi Mark:
    Obviously, if it’s your mailbox, you can put the flag up. It’s supposed to be up if you have anything inside that you want the letter carrier to take.

    However, if it’s not your mailbox, don’t touch.

  15. Is it illegal to put up the flag of the mailbox itself?

  16. Hi Dena:
    If you read the Domestic Mail Manual as mentioned above, section 3.1.2 Exclusions states:

    “The post or other support is not part of the receptacle.”

    Good question with what appears to be a specific answer. Will you leave marketing on the post?

  17. What about the mail box post?

  18. Good to know. Those mailboxes with their open slots look like they are begging for flyers… but you are right – putting anything in them is not allowed…

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