Outbox: New Service Turns Snail Mail Into Email

Image credit: Outbox

Do you still rely on snail mail? Outbox is a new startup that wants to help you "manage your postal mail like email."

The service will send what it calls "unpostmen" to your home mailbox to collect your mail for you. Outbox will then scan each letter, postcard, bill, check or piece of junk mail as an image file that gets uploaded to your personal online Outbox account. Outbox currently offers access to its online mail application by computer or iPad, but says Android and iPhone support should be available sometime in the first quarter of this year.

With Outbox's online mail application, the users "control [their mail] in any way they see fit," Will Davis, co-founder of Outbox, told ABC News. "They can store it digitally, share it, or even request the physical item for delivery. If they elect to shred the paper, or do not request it after 30 days, we shred and recycle the item on their behalf."

The service even offers to help fight snail mail spam. With the "Unsubscribe to Sender" option, Outbox will send a digital copy of any junk mail back to the senders and ask them to remove your address from their lists.

Things like packages and magazines will be left at your doorstep, the same way Outbox handles bundles or "requested" pieces of mail.

For now, Outbox only provides service to residential mailboxes. Though the company hopes soon to include P.O. boxes, there are no plans to add service to business addresses.

So what about locked mailboxes or gated residencies? Outbox says, "We can replicate just about every key… So if there's any locks standing in between us and your mail, simply send us a picture [of the key] upon registration, and we'll do our best to service you."

That may sounds a little crafty for some people's tastes, but Davis asks us to think simply about it. "Once a user elects us as their mail agent, they empower us to take over the collection and management of their postal mail. Not unlike having a friend or relative pick up your mail on your behalf, you elect Outbox to do this for you."

The full service will cost users $4.99 a month. For that price, an "unpostman" in a Toyota Prius will come to your house for collection and delivery "every other day." Mail is uploaded to the user's account on the same day it's collected.

Outbox was hatched in 2011. Davis traces the company's origin back to a thought of, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a Dropbox for my snail mail?" He, co-founder Evan Baehr and others began conducting a closed, invitation-only beta test in Austin, Texas last year.

The company says it hopes to be in every major American city in coming years. So far it has just over 20 employees.

This new way of handling mail comes as the U.S. Postal Service struggles with losses and cutbacks in delivery schedules.

"There is a future for mail that is compelling, we think," said Davis. "The future of mail is about the experience and what you can do with the mail - stay on top of important things, stay connected to loved ones, email it to others, share it online, take immediate action online, etc. We want people to be excited about mail again - not dread it."