New app lets you see mail before it’s delivered

U.S. Postal Service, Informed Delivery app
The icon for the U.S. Postal Service's Informed Delivery app. (Dec. 5, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The U.S. Postal Service is entering the holiday season with a new app that lets customers see what’s coming in the mail before it gets delivered.

The free program is called Informed Delivery. It’s available in mobile app stores and can be used through the post office’s website as well.

Informed Delivery gives users access to photos of mail they’re receiving prior to delivery. The images can be accessed when the user opens the app or webpage and can also be sent in an email each day mail is delivered.

Postal Service executives say the program is convenient and helps with security.

“They get to see what’s in their mailbox that day before they even get home,” said Grand Rapids Postmaster Theresa Mullins. “You know what we put in your mailbox that day. … If you were to get home and don’t have any mail, normally you would think, ‘Maybe I didn’t get mail today.’ But now you know you actually did. Maybe somebody came by and took something out of your mailbox.”

In fiscal year 2016, the period between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016, the Postal Service reports 2,437 arrests of people accused of stealing mail.

Ordinarily, it would take some time and confusion before customers would realize something had been stolen. Informed Delivery allows customers to notice a problem sooner. It also allows users to instantly report to the post office if they don’t receive the mail as pictured.

Postal Service officials say the infrastructure was already in place to provide the service — the agency has been taking photos of mail for years as part of the sorting process.

“Then we thought, well, maybe all of this data would be a benefit to customers,” Mullins said.

Mullins said the program is also one of the ways the Postal Service is working to stay competitive in an increasingly high-tech world — a constant challenge for a service that has been in existence since 1775.

“You know the saying ‘snail mail’ — we don’t really appreciate that saying,” Mullins said with a laugh.

There are some limitations to Informed Delivery. It isn’t available in some rural communities. And while the service alerts users that larger packages are on the way, photos aren’t provided.