Launching in San Francisco today after a successful start in Austin, Texas, Outbox is a new service that collects all the snail mail from your physical mailbox three times a week and digitally scans each letter, postcard, catalog and sales flyer. After the mail has been scanned, the owner of the snail mail can log into their Outbox account in order to view each piece of mail. When selecting a piece of mail within the mobile application or through the Web portal, the user will be able to view and read any items within each envelope.
If the user needs a piece of snail mail back, Outbox will put all requested mail in an envelope and deliver the items back to the user within a couple days. The user has sixty days to request any items picked up by Outbox. After that time period, the snail mail will be shredded and recycled by Outbox employees.
In addition, the user can specifically opt out of having to view junk mail that’s delivered to the inbox in a digital format. If an Outbox user hates grocery store flyers, they will never have to see those scans pop up within their Outbox account. If available, Outbox also places the user on a “do-not-mail” list for the companies that send those types of junk mail.
Outbox provides organizational tools within the Web and mobile application in order to separate the snail mail scans into different folders. For instance, an Outbox user could separate all financial documents into a specific folder rather than mixing it in with general types of snail mail.
The Outbox development team has also included a to-do list function within the application that ties specific pieces of snail mail to a reminder date. For example, a user could set a reminder to pay a specific bill before the due date.
Regarding the security of your snail mail, Outbox claims to have a more stringent background check than the United States Postal Service for employees that actually collect the mail. In addition, the Outbox employees that actually open up the mail have to go through a criminal, drug and credit check before getting hired. Outbox employees aren’t allowed to interact with digital versions of a user’s snail mail and all files are encrypted as well as backed up in case of data loss. Outbox is also insured for up to $1 million in case handling of the users’s snail mail results in some form of identity theft.
This type of service can be particularly useful for people that travel extensively for work or simply want to check up on the mail while taking a vacation. Basically, Outbox users won’t have to ask a friend to pick up their mail while away from home for an extended period. At this time, Outbox is priced at $4.99 per month and there are no additional fees related to volume of mail or frequency of return delivery. During the initial pilot study in Austin, only three percent of the initial test group ended up canceling the service.