Does Physical Mail Matter At All?

Physical letters used to rule the world, back when a stamp was an object of value and power. Now, Australia Post spends more time sending out eBay parcels, and physical mail is often derided as "snail mail". How important is a physical letter to you?

Photo: sarae

I was inspired on this line of thinking by news that a US-based startup called Outbox is expanding its services in the US. Outbox collects your physical mail three times a week. Anything physical, such as that collection of Sinitta hit singles you drunkenly purchased from eBay last week, is delivered, but any straight letters are simply digitised and emailed to you. The physical letters are then shredded.

It's an interesting concept, albeit not one without a few lingering issues. There's the obvious security angle, although Outbox claims that everyone working for the company is subject to a background check. There's also the issue of pickup frequency. Three times a week means there could be a couple of business days between delivery of a letter and it bouncing into your inbox.

Still, the idea is interesting. I work from a home office, and I tend to use going to the mailbox as a bit of a break period, but it's not as though I get that many physical letters any more in any case. It should (in theory) prevent the spectre of a missing bill or document, although I do wonder as to the legal status of a digitised document if there's some kind of data entry error.

What do you reckon? Would you use a mail digitising service like this if it launched in Australia?

Outbox Pours Salt On Snail Mail By Launching Its Digitizing Service In San Francisco [TechCrunch]


    It does exist in Australia, it's just nowhere near as affordable. Additionally, you need to set your address as the digitiser service's address.

    If I could get that service for $5/month I'd jump at the chance.

    I still want physical copies of bank statements and the like, especially for tax purposes.
    Printing out digitised copies still costs the better part of a dollar, so snail mail is
    still cheaper for this. And do we really want to rely on a 3rd paper to shred any
    mail that can be used to steal money and/or our identity?

    I don't like the shredding bit, post is still used for important legal documents... don't want those to be inadvertently shredded. Also it sounds like they "Collect" from YOUR address 3 times a week, sounds inefficient expensive and pointless if the letters will already get to your physical address anyway. It would be better if an Australia post redirection was forwarded to their address.

    It would be even better if Australia Post offered this service themselves to keep the whole postal system alive. At this point, the cost of a letter or parcel is relatively cheap to anywhere in Australia because these letters add volume to make it viable. If it wasn't for this, we would be in the same situation as the US where the postal company is about to go broke, with no private delivery companies (eg: FedEx) willing to go to remote (eg: Rural/Country) areas because it is not economical.

    Last edited 27/02/13 10:49 am

    chances are anything that fits in an envelope could just as easily be sent via email, i have all my services like phone and bank etc set to email, the only non parcel mail i get now is from organisations that are being the times, funnily enough usually government run things like serviceTas, and the mail equivalent of telemarketers

    I always prefer to have all my bills sent in physical form, much harder to forget about that way, also easier to look back over when you see a large difference between bills.

    The last actual letter I had was an NOA from the tax office. About 6 months before that, I received a new credit card. I haven't had any companies that prefer mail to email since my bank finally moved over to e-statements.

    All of my statements, bills, and pay slips are available via a two-second search from my inbox instead of a 5-minute trawl through the old filing cabinet. Anything that lets me reduce paperwork while retaining the information is a good thing.

    All my bills come to my email. The only "snail mail" I get is personal letters, just cos my friends and I like to receive and send real letters. I wouldn't want some random opening my letters and writing an email with its contents. Kinda defeats the purpose let alone being an invasion of privacy, lol.

    And that would be the big reason why I'd never go for a service like this even IF I did receive bills and the like in the mail. My mail is my business.

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