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Old 11-15-2008, 05:46 PM
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Can I have my mail sent to "General Delivery"?

Reading Rex Stout's Murder by the Book, I came across a reference to the address of "General Delivery, Clinton Station, New York, NY." I'm sure I've seen this in other films and novels, though I seem to associate it more with rural rather than urban settings.

Was this an actual practice at the time? (The book is dated 1951, but I mean "back in the day" generally.) Was it something you elected, as would seem likely if it was being used in New York (where street addresses are rampant), or something you got by default if you didn't have an address? If you elected to do it, what were the usual reasons? Finally, is this still a practice today? Could I, if I so wished, have my mail sent to "General Delivery, Monkeyville, OH" and walk down to the P.O. once a week to pick it up?

Last edited by LawMonkey; 11-15-2008 at 05:46 PM.
Old 11-15-2008, 06:14 PM
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Google is your friend.
Old 11-15-2008, 06:23 PM
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I've met a man who has no permanent address & hasn't since the 1980's. He uses General Delivery all the time. Who writes him, I don't know.
Old 11-15-2008, 06:23 PM
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You will need to ask the postmaster. In general, nowadays, General Delivery Mail is not welcome in most Post Offices. It used to be more common "back in the day" and it is, as you guessed, more common in rural areas.

In the POs I have seen, not even postal employees use General Delivery for their uniforms or other official stuff. They have their own boxes or headings for that.

General Delivery was used for offices in areas where there was nothing even close to physical addresses (nowhere today) and people received mail once every third blue moon. Anything more than that, you had to open a PO Box.

General Delivery in a big city PO will make them laugh for a second, then send it back.
Old 11-15-2008, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Great Dave View Post
One thing thinks the donkey and another the man pulling it along. I am emailing that link to several postmasters I know will find it humorous and then be pissed that they are putting that out as official.

Then again, the USPS is one of those creatures where YMMV a lot depending on the particular person you are dealing with.
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Old 11-15-2008, 06:36 PM
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All my mail gets sent as general delivery. 'Course, I live in Nunavut. It causes all kinds of problems when I order stuff from companies all over the place.
Old 11-15-2008, 06:49 PM
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The Wikipedia article on General Delivery says to use the ZIP+4 code of 9999 to send something to it. I'm tempted to try it.
Old 11-15-2008, 07:40 PM
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I was going on vacation and told someone to send my birthday card to Escalante, Utah care of general delivery. Sure enough, when I rolled into town and went to the post office, there was an envelope waiting for me.
Old 11-15-2008, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapo View Post
General Delivery in a big city PO will make them laugh for a second, then send it back.
Why? I thought it was common for tourists and other short-term visitors to use General Delivery (Poste Restante) services in big cities.
Old 11-15-2008, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapo View Post
General Delivery was used for offices in areas where there was nothing even close to physical addresses (nowhere today) and people received mail once every third blue moon. Anything more than that, you had to open a PO Box.
I guess the house I live in has a physical address, but you can not use that address for mail delivery. We have to rent a PO box.

-Kris
Old 11-15-2008, 07:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Why? I thought it was common for tourists and other short-term visitors to use General Delivery (Poste Restante) services in big cities.
It certainly is here. At the General Post Office in Sydney, they have gone out of their way to make it easy to do this. There are banks of computer kiosks where backpackers enter their name, and it gives them a ticket with a number and the number of a window to go to to collect their mail, to speed things up.
Old 11-15-2008, 07:56 PM
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I worked at Cedar Point during the summer of 1979. The park had its own post office, and the only option for employees (at least "peons" such as myself) was to have their mail sent care of General Delivery. Letters were filed alphabetically by recipient's last name, and claimed whenever the worker had time during normal business hours. I generally checked about once a week, and was occasionally rewarded for my efforts.
Old 11-15-2008, 09:00 PM
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No problem doing it in the UK, either: http://royalmail.com/link/jump2?...mediaId=600012

Last edited by GorillaMan; 11-15-2008 at 09:01 PM.
Old 11-15-2008, 10:01 PM
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The one person I ever knew using GD as his mailing address was an adjunct music professor at the University of Louisville. He had grown up on a cattle farm and still ran it when away from the city. So he was General Delivery, [I Forget], Kentucky [zip]. This was in 2003.
Old 11-15-2008, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Why? I thought it was common for tourists and other short-term visitors to use General Delivery (Poste Restante) services in big cities.
My experience in South Florida was that they would hold GD pieces and grill you when you went for them, pretty much making sure you never thought of doing it again. If you did it again, they would ask you to get a PO Box or beat it. Then again, this was in 2001-04. Florida PO's were not happy places then and there.
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Old 11-16-2008, 12:39 AM
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My parents RV fulltime and I forward their mail via General Delivery every couple of weeks. It seems to work fine - at least they haven't complained about it.
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Old 11-16-2008, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frylock View Post
I guess the house I live in has a physical address, but you can not use that address for mail delivery. We have to rent a PO box.

-Kris
Semi-hijack: I thought the USPS was obligated to provide service to everyone with a physical address, or at least everyone who requested it? Can they just decided they're not going to deliver mail if it's addressed to your address? Wouldn't that be illegal?
Old 11-16-2008, 01:57 AM
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In addition to the general rules each postmaster has the right to make rules for his station.

For instance, I lived in Florida in the Keys and in West Palm and I rented a PO Box. I moved to Naples and they refused to rent me a box. I spoke to the supervisor and he said THIS station doesn't rent to non-residents. I also tried Fort Meyers and sure enough they refused too. They told me to go to a commercial service.

So whether or not "General Delivery" is accepted depends on the directive of whoever is in charge of your post office. They are allowed to make their own rules in certain cases.

Also note the link to the US Post Office says

"General Delivery is a great choice for you if carrier service or a PO Box is not an option." So even then it's possible the post office would say "Rent a box if you want your mail." You notice how the wording says IF
Old 11-16-2008, 12:25 PM
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My friend's parents live (or her mother does; her father died) in Hastings, Pennsylvania. They have no mail delivery. You have to go to the post office to get your mail. So though they have street addresses, sending a letter to her mother at 123 Elm Street, Hastings, PA will still end up as the equivalent of General Delivery -- she goes to fetch her mail.
Old 11-16-2008, 12:53 PM
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Before the Internet I used General Delivery in many countries when I was traveling. Last time I remember was in Hong Kong about 6~8 years ago. My guess is that it may not be used as much as it ised to but that it still works.
Old 11-16-2008, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NinjaChick View Post
Semi-hijack: I thought the USPS was obligated to provide service to everyone with a physical address, or at least everyone who requested it? Can they just decided they're not going to deliver mail if it's addressed to your address? Wouldn't that be illegal?
I highly doubt it's illegal -- I live in a small town where there's no street delivery of mail, so we all have to get boxes. What I think should be illegal is making us pay for them, since we have no choice!

It being a small town, though, I once had a package that was sent with my street address on it and the post office recognized my name and held it for me. Apparently "courier delivery" meant only within Canada, and once it landed in this country it went into the postal service. Sheesh.

I have two addresses, my street address and my box. Where I work we have three; a street address, a delivery address for FedEx and the like, and a box. "What's your address?" "Well, what do you need an address for?"
Old 11-16-2008, 06:02 PM
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In 1990 or so I worked on a construction jobsite in Rhode Island. There was lots of stuff we would get in the mail (new drawings, paychecks, that sort of thing), and it would all be sent to the local Post Office "General Delivery." Every other day or so I would go to the Post Office and pick it up. No hassle at all, but I wonder if that would be the case nowadays.
Old 11-17-2008, 01:00 AM
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Back in 1995 I had every dollar to my name sent to me via General Delivery. I was in San Jose and I shopped a few area Post Offices before I felt comfortable enough to let one handle the task. Some USPS clerks were totally baffled at the concept. I learned about it in a book much like the Anarchist Cookbook.

I was young and had no clue about wire transfers but in retrospect I saved some precious cash by avoiding transfer fees in lieu of a 39 cent stamp and a 2.50 cent bank cashiers cheque.
Old 11-17-2008, 02:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMonkey View Post
Could I, if I so wished, have my mail sent to "General Delivery, Monkeyville, OH" and walk down to the P.O. once a week to pick it up?
Please, oh, please tell me there is a Monkeyville, OH. I may have found my new permanent address.
Old 11-27-2017, 05:24 PM
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If the USPS will not deliver to your physical address, but there's no reason they couldn't....

Then they're obligated to provide you with what's called a 'Group E' Post Office Box for free.

Now, this usually means that you live
  1. Far off the beaten track, or
  2. Within 0.25 miles of the post office (ie: "if we can walk, then YOU can walk" to get your mail).

If you live in an apartment or subdivision with a centralized mail delivery room or box, then no, you cannot get one of these Group E boxes. If you qualify, you must apply for the box in person at the Post Office, as it cannot be done by mail or over teh Intarwebs.

The USPS is mandated to provide "Universal" delivery to all people in the US. Delivery is always free, but sending is what costs you the price of postage. Since delivery is mandatory and free, if they will not deliver any other way -- bingo! -- you get a free Group E post box.
Old 11-27-2017, 05:27 PM
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After nine years, one hopes the OP has already figured out how to get his mail.
Old 11-27-2017, 06:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapo View Post
You will need to ask the postmaster. In general, nowadays, General Delivery Mail is not welcome in most Post Offices. It used to be more common "back in the day" and it is, as you guessed, more common in rural areas.

In the POs I have seen, not even postal employees use General Delivery for their uniforms or other official stuff. They have their own boxes or headings for that.

General Delivery was used for offices in areas where there was nothing even close to physical addresses (nowhere today) and people received mail once every third blue moon. Anything more than that, you had to open a PO Box.

General Delivery in a big city PO will make them laugh for a second, then send it back.
You sound like you know what you are talking about.

But you don't.

(zombie situation noted)


mmm

Last edited by Mean Mr. Mustard; 11-27-2017 at 06:52 PM.
Old 11-27-2017, 07:17 PM
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But fionbharr did add new and relevant information to the discussion, which is always worthwhile. Welcome!
Old 11-27-2017, 07:51 PM
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I've also heard that people use General Delivery to cache supplies when they're doing long distance bike/walk/hike treks.
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