July 22, 2010Virtual Post Mail: Rocket-powered snail mail
Despite being six months into my international travel odyssey, I’m still quite tied to the good old US of A. As my stubborn “mispronunciation” of words like tomato, oregano, and Nissan indicates, I’m a stranger in a strange land. I can’t help but to think of every price tag I see in US dollars, so things like American bank accounts, credit cards, and good relations with the IRS are still integral to my existence.
The Internet makes so many elements of my trip easy as, but for some reason Citibank still wants a physical address to send me useless garbage and balance transfer checks that I can never seem to opt-out of. What’s a boy to do, short of having a friend or family member sort through all of his mail?
Enter Virtual Post Mail, a web service which acts as a magic portal between a physical mailbox and your email inbox. I have a nice Los Angeles address to give to people in the US who have no idea that I’m overseas. Envelopes are scanned as they come in, and emailed to me for review. I can trash my numerous T. Rowe Price investor reports and death threats without reading them, or opt for the more interesting items to be opened and scanned. I’m paying around $10 per month for a plan which more than covers the volume of mail that I receive.
The ability to quickly check my mail without building up a pile of papers is useful. Usually I’ll opt to save the scanned images and have Virtual Post Mail shred the originals, but once in awhile something comes through that I need a physical copy of. One of my credit cards recently expired, and Citibank sent me a replacement in one of those boring, generic, “Attention Mail Thieves: This is definitely not a credit card!” envelopes. Opening boring mail is one of my favorite things to do when it only takes one click, and a few hours later I received an email with a scanned photo of my new card.
Overall I like Virtual Post Mail and it has been well worth the money, but not everything is puppies and rainbows. The website could use a bit of iPhone love… it’s a bit cumbersome to log on and manage my mail when I’m not at a computer. Also, it’s a bit of a pain to sign up for the service, but that’s probably not the fault of the company: The USPS requires notarized documentation saying that you give permission for a third party to manage and open your mail. Leaving this until my last few days in Los Angeles was probably a bad idea… I had a few frantic hours rushing around to find a notary public that didn’t charge a million dollars.
Verdict: Far better than flying home to check a P.O. Box. Far less embarrassing than giving a friend or family member access to my credit card statements.
If you’d like to send me a postcard, love letter or death threat, just let me know and I’ll give you my address w/ mailbox number!