If you’ve ever wondered what a USPS parcel locker is, you’re probably not alone. You might have seen a cluster of parcel lockers at some Post Offices from time to time, and as more new residential and commercial developments spring up across the country, you’ll probably see a whole lot more of them in the future.
USPS Parcel Lockers are Not PO Boxes
One important distinction about parcel lockers—if not the most important distinction—is that they are not PO Boxes. A lot of people mix the two up, but in fact, they refer to two entirely different things.
PO Boxes actually substitute as mailboxes where you can directly send letters and packages to. Parcel lockers, on the other hand, are not addresses where recipients can get mail and packages, and you can’t ship to one directly. However, if you send a package that’s too big to fit into a PO Box, USPS will likely move it to a parcel locker inside that same Post Office, and place a key that opens the locker inside the PO Box.
Since you can’t ship directly to parcel lockers, there’s no way for you to control whether or not USPS will make use of one when delivering a package to your recipient (or if you’re the recipient yourself). USPS will only use a parcel locker if the package you’re sending or receiving is too big to fit inside a standard mailbox or a PO Box.
USPS Holds Packages in Parcel Lockers at Certain Post Offices (Not All)
Similar to how USPS only offers certain services online (like how Retail Ground becomes Parcel Select Ground on shipping software), you’ll only find USPS parcel lockers in Post Offices. Mostly, you’ll see them in Post Offices that service more rural locations, or ZIP codes with a lower population density; conversely, they’re not common in urban areas and big cities. USPS makes use of parcel lockers in rural areas because when residents are too spread out over a vast location, it’s more efficient to deliver packages to a cluster of lockers in a Post Office where residents go to pick up their parcels.
This is the case where USPS doesn’t deliver directly to your house, but other carriers like UPS and FedEx will.
Parcel Lockers are Becoming More Popular in New Residential Developments
Other than at rural Post Offices, USPS parcel lockers weren’t all that popular in the past. However, USPS now requires cluster mailboxes and parcel lockers in all new residential developments. That means you’ll find them in lobbies of new apartment buildings, as well as in designated delivery points in some suburban neighborhoods where all the residents go to get their mail.
Pro Tip: Nearly all parcel lockers come with slots for you to send outgoing mail, as well! Above these slots, look for the “Approved by the Postmaster General” message. As long as your envelope has the right amount of postage, you can drop it off in one of these slots in your community parcel lockers, and USPS will deliver it for you. However, you can’t drop packages off in parcel lockers. If you want to ship a package that you have already purchased postage for, you’ll still need to take it to your local Post Office, or schedule a free pickup from USPS.