Snail Mail 2.0

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today we look at three ways of harnessing the power of the internet to wrangle snail mail while on the road. I've only tested one of these websites so far, but I thought they were all interesting enough to report on here.

Receiving Snail Mail Online:

Earth Class Mail is a service that pops up a lot when browsing around long term travel sites. As quoted from their website:

Here's how it works. First, you pick a remote address for one of our locations, and have selected mail sent to that address. As a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency, we then receive your mail, scan all the sealed envelope images, and then electronically deliver each envelope image to you via email and in your online account.

You then log in to your account and tell us what you want to do with your mail.

  • Recycle all the junk with a click of your mouse
  • Have us securely scan the contents so you can read it online
  • Shred sensitive information
  • Forward the original to you or someone else
  • Forward the electronic document to whomever you choose
  • Archive the originals at our facility
It sounds like a really smart service, but it gets some mixed and some bad reviews. Detractors report delays in receiving mail and complain about the cost for forwarding actual mail pieces. Also, if you cancel the service Earth Class Mail apparently won't forward your mail on to a new address. The other difficulty for me is that it's based in the U.S. and relies on being able to forward your mail to a U.S. address. I'm not sure whether Canada Post will forward out of the country, and if they did, that might exacerbate any already-existing problems with lag time. I'll be using a home-grown version of this by forwarding my mail to local friends and asking them scan and email anything that looks like it might be important. I think I'll call it "Friend Class Mail".

Paperless PO Box is another service just like Earth Class Mail, but there's a lot less internet feedback on this service, so if you're interested, go check it out yourself. Or if you've used it, please report in!

Sending Snail Mail Online:

PC2Paper sends actual physical pieces of mail from your email. They print out your message (or Word document, or PDF file) and stick it in an envelope and put it in the mail. They also accept documents with photos and will print in colour, and they allow you to keep an online address book for frequently used recipients.

This service is based in the U.K., so you have to account for the extra time it will take for your letter to travel from there to wherever it's going. The prices are pretty good - a 6 page letter to Canada would be about $1.50 CAD. (PC2Paper also offers a mailbox service like Earth Class Mail, but because they're based in the U.K., the same mail-forwarding issues exist for Canadians as with Earth Class Mail).

I think I may use this service to send printed updates of the blog to non-techno family members (you know who you are), so they can keep up.

Sending Custom Snail Mail Postcards Online:

HazelMail is a site I just discovered through Practical Travel Gear. It looks like a fun way to send your own photos as postcards, all online. The interface is pretty easy to use, though it's kind of slow. It lets you upload a photo from your computer for the front of the card and then write a message and address on the back. There are even a few "handwriting" fonts to choose from so your message looks a bit more personal. (I like "FG Vincent", though it seems to have trouble with exclamation points!). On the downside, they don't give you a lot of space for a message on the back of the card, even though the graphic makes it look like there's a lot more space available.

Of course you have to create an account with HazelMail to send a card. The total cost for one card is $1.50 USD, and they don't take PayPal, so you have to give them credit card info.

The other downside is that this is another service based in the U.S., so your card will be sent from a U.S. address with a U.S. stamp. I think one of the cool things about getting mail from overseas is seeing the fun international stamps, but maybe the ability to use a custom photo makes up for that shortcoming.

This is the only service I've tried so far - I went ahead and made up a postcard which should now be wending it's way to a lucky Go See Run Eat Drink reader! So if you happen to open your mailbox some day soon and find something that looks like this:

... you are now obligated to report back here with a comment about how it looks, how long it took to get to you, and how cool (or not) the whole thing is!


ClearlyEnlight, said...

If you are looking for a mail forwarding service search Access USA, I use them and they have great service.

Mitch said...

Reporting back: COOL!!!! I won, I won!!!! And I never win! Hmmm, now my postcard report...
The Good:
-Good weight card stock,
-proper size,
-blog date: Mar. 13th,
-post mark date: Mar: 17th,
-Arrival date: Mar. 25th.
-Post marked from Phoenix, AZ.
-Good looking font, had to look twice to see that it wasn't hand written.
The bad:
-Ultra glossy - not the worst thing in the world, but I am trying to balance my report!
- Canada post (I presume) puts their "bar code" sticker, which measures 1.5cm, by 11cm long along the bottom covering a good portion of the bottom. In this case, it mostly covers the website name. All I can see is "OT.COM"
-Being the "look on the bright side" type of person that I am,the sticker easily peels off without any blemishes.
- Image on front is a little tiny bit pixelated, but, not to any degree of it being an issue.

If I could post a picture here in the comment box, I certainly would, the "address" side of the postcard looks really quite good. I will probably send Pam a photo of the card. Maybe she will put it up somewhere. Or maybe she won't, it's her site after all!!!!

I think that's my report. How much is this worth towards the final grade?

Anyway, THANKS PAM!!! I can't tell you how excited we all are for you, you are a regular topic of conversation in our house, we are all so envious, and happy for you.

Pam said...

Yay Mitch! I was wondering when that would get through. Thanks for reporting back so thoroughly, you get an "A". I'd love to see a photo of the final product, I'm sure I can find a reason to post it. And for anyone who's wondering, the final cost was $1.98 CDN after the exchange.

Unknown said...

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