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Outbox Digitizes Snail Mail; Launches in San Francisco

Outbox

Do you have a pile of junk mail sitting on your counter that you have to sort though?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone sort through all of your mail and then digitally send it to you on your mobile device?  Outbox is changing the way mail is delivered and now San Francisco can start using its services.

Outbox, which launched in Austin, Texas in October, is a mail service that enables you to manage your postal mail like email by scanning your mail, digitizing it, and sending the images to your computer or iPad.  Yes, even your checks.

Evan Baehr and Will Davis, co-founders of the mail service, which costs $4.99 per month, announced their expansion to San Francisco.

“San Francisco was the natural choice, given the large number of early adopters who live and breathe startups in the Valley,” they said.  “So we’re excited to launch in San Francisco first, then New York and other cities in the coming year. ”

Here’s how it works: mail is collected three days a week by ‘Outbox unpostmen’ that drive White Prius’ with red mail flags on the side.  They physically take your mail to a processing center where the physical mail and its contents are photographed and processed digitally.  The images are then delivered to your Outbox account.

Mail is then sorted into three categories: junk mail, mail to keep, and mail to deliver.  If you want to unsubscribe to junk mail, you just click “unsubscribe from sender,” and Outbox sends a digital copy of the mail back to the sender so you are removed from the list.  The company actually has a partnership with an unsubscription service that facilitates the removal from the mailing list and claims to be the only service that can completely rid you of junk mail.Outbox2

What if you get a check?  Well, you can request to have it delivered to your home or use the digital picture to deposit it at participating banks.  The company also delivers packages and paid subscriptions the same day they pick them up.  If Outbox sees a Netflix DVD or package in your mailbox, they securely wrap the item and place them at the front door.  For apartment complexes, the company drivers them to the leasing office and send you an email notification.

I know what you are thinking.  “Someone is coming to my house, taking my mail, opening it somewhere and sending me pictures of the contents…I’m nervous.”  My thoughts exactly.  We asked the company about their security.  Baehr and Davis claim that Outbox is more safe than your current mailbox.

“In addition to normal criminal and driving records, our ‘Unpostmen’ also go through both drug and credit checks,” they said.  “In fact, our entire background process is more stringent than that of USPS.”

Outbox takes the physical mail to a bank-grade archival facilitiy where it is stored for 60 days.  Mail that is not requested in 60 days is shredded and recycled, guaranteeing protection from identity theft of stolen physical mail.  Outbox says that it will protect you against identity theft and is insured up to $1 million.

Amar Rama, an Austin resident who has been using Outbox since November, said he doesn’t miss sorting through mail or walking to the mailbox.

“In general my wife and I have not missed walking to the mailbox and picking up our mail,” he said.  “Kim (my wife) is actually thrilled that we don’t have mail lying around the house anymore and that we are on top of what needs action and what does not.”

He also likes that fact that he can store and easily send all his tax-related documents. “I can send electronic copies of statements to my CPA or attorney or brother without any additional effort,” he said.  “I can stay on top of my mail from anywhere as long I have 15 mins to spare.”

However, Rama has experienced some hiccups with the service.  Aside from the challenge of adapting his behavior to the new mail system, Rama has experienced timing issues with Outbox.

“My wife’s new driver license was in the mail and she needed for an pending event but we did not get it, he said.  “There was a mix up and we were worried that maybe it was lost. The good news is (a) it was not! and (b) Outbox was empathetic and responsive in making sure it was resolved to our satisfaction.”

Emily Leach of Austin also really likes the service, especially because the amount of mail she gets is about a tenth of what it used to be.  But she also complained about delivery. “When I do need to get something delivered to me it can take a day or two for them to bring it out–but has not been a huge deal.”

Nicole Forbes says that Outbox has been a “life-changing experience” and worth the $5 per month.  She uses it to deposit checks she gets when she’s traveling.  “The ability to check all my mail and deal with it on my time is so nice. Not to mention unsubscribing from junk mail,” Forbes said. “I’ve unsubscribed from ALL my catalogs with the exception of Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.”

Yes, Nicole.  I hear you.  I need my Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom catalogs too. Overall, it seems like users like it.  And whatever hiccups there are, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

All I have to say is, I hope they come to Philadelphia soon.  Mail is the bane of my existence.  Any service that gives me one less thing to have to deal with sounds good to me!

If you’re in San Francisco, you can sign-up here.

— Cassie Slane

Cassie Slane is a technology and consumer products expert and appears as an electronics guest on QVC and Philly's Fox 29 Channel. She has been a producer and writer for major media outlets including Bloomberg News, CNBC, and CNN.