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Set up a trackable form of shipment via the USPS. Not all letters or packages can be automatically tracked through the postal system, so make sure that the method you are using does allow for tracking. Some tracking requires a wait of 45 days for lost mail.
Domestic first class and media mail shipments do not automatically include tracking. You must request tracking be added, for which there is an additional charge.
Most other forms of shipping (that are more expensive than first class), such as Priority Mail, do include tracking.
Not all forms of tracking are equal. As a general rule, the more expensive the form of shipping, the more detailed the tracking information will be.
Hold on to your receipt. The receipt should include a tracking number (titled a “Label number” on some receipts) at the bottom of the form.
The number of digits and the precise format of the tracking number may differ depending on the form of shipment you selected. For a list of the differing formats, see here.
Go to the the USPS website. The USPS website–USPS.com–has links on nearly every page that will take you to the pages for tracking packages. The general search box on the site’s homepage will also track packages if you enter the information here.
Type the tracking number into a search box and then press the enter key.
Understand the USPS status descriptions. The USPS uses a particular terminology to describe the status of each package, and while most are straightforward enough others are less comprehensible.
You will see “Arrived at USPS Origin Facility” indicating the moment the package was first entered in the USPS sorting system. This is not necessarily the same as the first Post Office that the package was in, but the first place in which it was prepared for transshipment to the next point.
“Arrived at Post Office” will be seen when the package has arrived in the vicinity of its final delivery but still remains within a USPS facility.
The description “Out for Delivery” is perhaps the most straightforward. The package is currently with a postal service agent for delivery.
“Unable to Deliver” will appear if the package required a signature or further instructions in order to facilitate delivery. At this point, the package will usually be returned to the local postal facility for later delivery.
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If you feel uncomfortable giving out your home address, a post office box might be the solution for you. You can have your mail delivered to a private box at your local post office for a monthly fee. The safety and anonymity provided by a P.O box might be exactly what you need.
Fill out the application forms. You can apply online at usps.com, or print out a form and take it into your local post office. Before you start, consider these questions:
Where do you want your post office box to be? Are there two branches near your house? Would you prefer one over the other? Or is there only one post office where it’s feasible for you to rent a box?
What size do you want? Post office boxes come in five sizes. The smallest is 3 inches (7.6 cm) by 5.5 inches (14.0 cm); the largest is 22.5 inches (57.2 cm) by 12 inches (30.5 cm). Fees are based on size, so try to get the smallest one for your needs.
Note who is authorized to receive mail at your post office box. You’ll be able to list names on the application.
Prepare two forms of ID. Whether you apply online or in-person, you’ll need to provide the U.S. Postal Service with two forms of identification. Here’s what you need:
Photo ID. For your first form of ID, you could use a driver’s license, state identification card, passport, alien registration card, or any form of photo ID issued by a government, the armed forces, a recognized educational entity, or a corporate ID card.
Non-photo ID. Your second form of ID must be somehow tied to your physical address. Acceptable forms include your current lease or mortgage, your voter or vehicle registration card, or your home or vehicle insurance policy.
Be aware that your birth certificate, Social Security card, and credit cards are not valid forms of ID.
Pay your fees in advance. You can reserve it for 3, 6 or 12 months.
Note that the fees for a post office box will vary by location. Not every branch will price them equally.
Collect your post office box keys. You should receive two keys for every box. Expect to pay a security deposit for each key, which is refundable when you return them and close your post office box.
Some post office boxes can be opened with access codes, much like a public school locker. Write down your combination in a secure place, or memorize it.
Aim to collect your mail in a timely manner. Given that there’s limited space in your post office box, accumulation is a potential problem. If you let it get out of hand, the Postal Service could suspend your lease.
If you’re going to be out of town or unable to pick up your mail for a significant period of time, make special arrangements with the postmaster. As long as you do this in advance, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
Make sure your post office box size can accommodate your mail volume. If you end up receiving large packages or a lot of mail, consider renting a larger box.
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