If you find someone’s lost wallet on the ground, you can be a good Samaritan and lazy: just drop it in the blue box.
Redditor u/joecat2112 posted this helpful tidbit in r/LifeProTips, simply writing:
If you find a lost wallet in the US, you can drop it in a USPS mailbox and they will return it to its owner free of charge.
This sounds a bit too good to be true, but a few commenters said this had actually happened to them, like u/Alwaysshittingmyself who wrote:
This worked for me recently. Lost my wallet and someone [must] have thrown it in the mailbox. The usps put it in an envelope marked it as “found in mailbox” and I got it back in a couple weeks. I need more consequences for my actions.
Results, however, may vary. For one thing, the wallet must have some identifying information in it, preferably an I.D. with an address. You also have to assume that the person who opens that mailbox is trustworthy, or at least as trustworthy as you, and they will follow through and return it. (And you have to assume that a USPS employee will get to the box before a potential scammer does.)
On that point, former Postmaster Lars LaRue told Quora in 2018 that the obligation to mail lost wallets is actually a part of the postal code specifically covered in the “USPS reference manual 507 Mailer Services.” It’s not just a nice thing they sometimes do. LaRue says you should use a blue mailbox, so no one can grab the wallet except the postal worker, but you can alternatively bring it to a government building or post office. And make sure the contents are secure if you’re throwing it into a mailbox:
Wrap the contents with a rubber band or in a plastic sandwich bag if the contents are loose. This will assure all the items in the wallet are returned with the wallet.
Again, results may vary. Commenter u/MR_TACO_11 on Reddit said that they’d tried to bring an I.D. to a post office to no avail:
I tried to take an ID I found to a post office. The clerk looked at me like if i was stupid and said there was nothing she could do. They didn’t even ask anyone else even after I asked if they could ask their supervisor…
And YouTuber Mark Rober conducted a country-wide lost wallet experiment to see how many “lost” wallets were returned to him via the mail. Not all of them were:
The OP admitted that they got this tip from Rober to begin with. If the video doesn’t convince you to use the USPS and you’re still wary of the people who deliver your mail everyday, you can always ship that wallet yourself. And pay the postage.