Reuse of U.S. Post Office priority mail boxes is illegal

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

I was Googling for online postal rate calculators this morning and this article from Denver caught my attention.

Apparently, it is illegal to reuse the Post Office Priority Mail shipping boxes (which the Post Office provides for free) for anything other than Priority Mail. Even if you turn the boxes inside out, mark over them, cut them down to other sizes or otherwise disguise them. (My solution was to cover the boxes in brown paper obtained from recycled paper grocery bags.)

Just thought I would pass this along for those doing plant trading.

I think you can reuse the same Priority Mail box over and over so long as it is not changed in any way other than to add new mailing labels, and then you send the package by Priority Mail. But you can't alter the box or use it for any shipping method other than Priority Mail.

I once had a package refused by the Post Office because I had cut a Priority Mail box down to a different size.


This message was edited Jul 21, 2008 12:40 AM

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

It's because they are free, I'm sure. They are not about to hand out boxes for free unless they know they will get the priority postage.
I have occasionally been guilty of wrapping the boxes in brown paper.....

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

I'll continue to reuse them, maybe not outwardly for shipping. I do feel that people who turn NEW P.M. boxes inside out to use are cheating. Same for using the tyvec envelopes in a way not for priority shipping. In my mind, it's a form of stealing.

That said, once that box and postage is paid for and used, I will do whatever I want with it and if the post office really wants to pursue this matter, then they had better start collecting every last one of their USED priority mail boxes for recycling or reuse.

I'd love to see that challenged.

Lachine, MI

I've noticed lately that the p.o has stamping on the inside of some of the new ones i just got.

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

I'm guilty. I've wrapped in brown paper bag and mailed stuff 1st class. I figure I'm helping save a tree. It's the government, just one more thing to try to control, I challenge them on that one, too. I'll ask my po buddy, maybe he'll let me get buy re-using them (I doubt it).... I sure don't want to have something boxed, addressed and ready to go, only to have to find a different box and redo it. Seems pretty silly to me, they are STILL making money on 1st class and it does help conserve trees. Hope it's not illegal to store stuff in them at home ;) lol

East Texas, United States(Zone 8a)

are you familiar with the PM labels? They are very nice, with peel off backing. Once I took one out of my stash and cut everything that said PM, which gave me a plain white shipping label. Well guess what: the post office clerk told me she was gonna charge me PM rates because she KNEW this was one of their PM labels. I didn't argue and paid the rate. I thought this was a bit extreme and picky but I didn't want to upset her more and cause her to go off the deep end.

Miserable people go on and on until they feel vindicated, so if I cut the process short, then that was my good deed for the day, lol. This was not at my local PO but it was in TX.

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

If you get a chance click on the link and vote.
It's funny so far 94% say we should be allowed to recycle.

Denver Metro Area, CO(Zone 5a)

I have taken duct tape to cover the "flat rate" from a previously used priority mail container. I knew it would be cheaper to go by weight. I got away with it once but the second time...I was lectured about the illegal use of their boxes and charged the (higher) flat rate price. :( They are real sticklers even when it's evident the box has been used several times!

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

vossner, I had the same experience with one of the labels.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

Sure adds to the landfill to use a label that big and cut it all up, just like not being able to reuse the box. That strikes me as something unconstitutional. Once you've paid for something, it's your thing, so by paying for postage in the box, the box is paid for. Unless they are just renting the box and on return of said box, I get some portion of the original postage.

Or, hey! How about that they give a discount on priority mail shipping when the box is reused? Like coffee shops do when you bring your own cup, or grocery stores give a nickel when you bring a bag, or Bluestone Perennials gives free shipping if you send back packing materials (cheaper than the cheapest shipping).

The government is me! Every taxpayer, so that's who gets ripped off- ourselves! For some reason, I thought the post office was privately run. It seems the web address would be .gov not .com if it were government. Won't be surprised if I'm wrong.

Anyone see any figures or reports about post office profits and losses?

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

4paws... i love your statement!!!! "The government is me!" You are soooo right. I think they should just start charging for the boxes. BUT in turn lower the shipping price. That way once you buy it You can do whatever you want with it. For example, i buy the box for a dollar and when i use that box to ship i get a dollar off. That would discourage people using them for other things when they can get other boxes for free. In addition, If i buy the box and i decide to reuse it then i can because it is my property. Maybe that is why they give them away. Then they can claim a loan type thing which means they still technical own them and can make whatever rules they want. Start demanding to pay for the boxes. lol

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

I agree with all of you! Once it's given to me, it's mine! To do with as I see fit!!

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

You are correct, WE is the government. Our employees need to have a "greener" more jovial attitude. It must be a tough job standing there all day, assisting all the shipping that the internet has brought Us, monitoring all the priority box abusers... and us DG plant swappers can get kinda grumpy since we've stayed up half the night packing and taping and addressing. It is our rules, so I'm voting to change it, and I'm encouraging my friends to do the same. Thanks for the link, Shellsort. I don't understand what the big deal is about re-using and covering with brown paper. It's RE-USE not abuse to our, EVERYONE's environment. They can't see the forest because the trees are in the way.

Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

I use the Priority Mail boxes quite offten to mail plants. Did you know that there is a discount price if you use Click n Ship? It's a small discount but saves you a little. You have to have a computer and printer. It's not easy to find it on their website. You have to search for it. You can also order boxes, tapes and labels - all free.
Check it out.

Premont, TX(Zone 9b)

You can reuse to mail Priority ,, there have been many people that are cutting them and turning them brown side out.. I have gotten them that way in trades and when I buy something on evil bay..
My post master says there is a $2500.00 fine for anyone useing this boxing for mailing anything other than Priority Mail ..Alot of people are misuseing them..I have reused to mail out plants , but always using Priority Mail .
One of the reasons they quit giving out the tape was because some people were selling the tape on evil bay.I would hate to be caught using them covered up with brown paper.

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

GULP, $2500!!!! Better hope everyone sees this thread. I usually use my own tape to seal them, saving the sticky strip for the next person's use, I've even written on the flap - PLEASE Reuse. Now I'll have to write: PLEASE Reuse W/Priority only, following the guidelines posted by USPS Rule#SP0847226948822299914028293-R that can be seen at I'll just use the provided strip myself. But I will continue re-using for priority mail.

Baytown, TX(Zone 9b)

It has been a while but when I ordered I believe the last thing you must do before checking out is click something saying you won't. To me giving my word is everything. But some don't order the boxes so they need.
Sandy ^8^

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

I recycle mine under the mulch. LOL

Houston, United States(Zone 9b)

Our p.o.'s in several cities I've been in Texas now no longer stock these boxes (the good large ones most often needed) AT THE P.O.!!!!!!!!!! I once waited in a horrendous line with toddler in arms to FINALLY get up to the counter with my items I needed packaged to ask, "WHERE are the BIG priority boxes?!?!" and the lady says, "We aren't allowed to order and stock them here now---you have to get them online." I was so hot about that (consider my long wait and now disgruntled toddler)..... and I scoffed, she replied, "I guess they're trying to save money." :(

(Zone 1)

Our P.O.'s here locally don't seem to ever have the Priority boxes in stock either. They say you can order them on-line. Maybe they think most won't bother ordering on-line and if you do order on-line they have a record of who is ordering what and what quantity? I was at the P.O. recently and one of the clerks was talking about people altering the Priority boxes. She said eventually they may not offer free boxes because of folks using them for other than shipping Priority mail and she said folks even use them for moving boxes. They quit giving away the priority tape and also quit selling it! I don't know why they won't sell it, she even said we can't buy the Priority tape on-line anymore.

I sometimes purchase plain brown boxes at Wal-Mart, if they have in stock the two different sizes I use most often. I also buy the tape for my dispenser there. I have a roll of Priority Stickers left but when they run out, if I can't get them anymore, I will just package in my plain brown boxes and take them to the P.O. and let them mark them for Priority Shipping. I can understand that they don't want to be giving away thousands and thousands of boxes for free to have folks using them for moving purposes or for shipping via other delivery companys (especially since they have to pay for the cardboard and the priority messages/printing all over the boxes) but, it makes me mad that they don't want anyone to use them for mailing through the USPS. Even if someone turns them inside out, they still have to pay for the postage to ship.

Maybe we should all protest by saving every single used Priority or Flat Rate box we receive something in ... say for a year - then take them all back to the P.O. and tell them since it's government property they can have them back to recycle. Something tells me the Post offices would not want to be inundated with thousands of empty used boxes.

Baytown, TX(Zone 9b)

Well I can see why they don't want them turned inside out because they would hand out just plain boxes free and not have them printed on.
If I owned a business I would not want someone to take just for instance a 100 of my business cards to right on them for fun. Everything cost money. If this keeps happening we pay for it because we lose free boxes and postage goes up to cover making more boxes if they still off for free. So either way we lose. Especially us gardeners.
Look at ebay the ppl charging 2.50 for something and 18.00 postage. With them it is a way to cheat ebay out of fees and the government out of taxes. If they do claim what they make they can write off the 18.00 postage as an expense and pay tax on the 2.50. This another way we pay when taxes go up to cover it.

I am not saying anything about anyone doing this because maybe they did not know they aren't suppose to use them inside out.

I have reused boxes but not turning them inside out.

I try to think of things if I was the person who owned the place. I for one want to keep them giving them out and keep them free. It will soon stop for postage plants as the work is hard enough and Gas is going out of this world. I understand now why some don't do it.
I will get off my soap box now. :O)

Sandy ^8^

Houston, United States(Zone 9b)


I agree with you. I didn't know people were turning boxes inside out, I'd just like to be ABLE to get a free box from the P.O. near me when I DO need one, but because of this reuse and loss of being able to charge priority fees they'll no longer stock them.

I've heard about the ebay shipping fees, man am I glad I've not see any of those types of sales. I can't believe people would charge shipping in those amounts! I ordered one thing and the lady had actually underbid her shipping costs to me, she still sent it anyone even though with my low winning bid and under-estimated shipping she STILL sent it. Of course she had a 100% rating and thus that's why I bought from her.

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

I quit dealing with e-bay because of the shipping. When you "win" several things for 1 cent from the same seller, and the shipping is $3.00 each, and you could buy the thing for $1.00, boy, what a gyp!

Desoto, TX(Zone 8a)

Can't remember the exact details but I believe the Postal Service has been a private entity for several years. Technically not a property of the tax payer.
Whichever, I agree that the waste is unconscionable and the policy is not practical.


(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

Then I think they should drop "United States" from their title!!

Premont, TX(Zone 9b)

By the way my post office does have boxes,bubble wrap etc for sale. Pretty soon they will do away with all the free stuff.. Than maybe out postal rates will stay down.

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

Not as long as they can get away with it! My PO still has them, but I think they charge for some of them. I'm really not that familiar with it. I just know I pay out the yingyang when I mail a box!!

(Cissy) San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

I am a retired postal worker waiting on people, standing all day, getting yelled at, blamed for postage hikes, etc. The clerk is never responsible for all those rules. The post office has not been subsidized for several years, yet they have to follow government rules....or else get in big trouble. Clerks are constantly under the watchfulo eyes of supervisors using two-way windows.

The only way they make money is through sales of stamps, non-priority boxes and other services. Often, raises in the cost of stamps is to help keep the post office running. Clerks and other worker's salaries come from sales of goods. The priority boxes are free, that is why they are not supposed to be used for anything other than priority shipping. The can be used over and over but only with priority postage. Same for the labels. Those are free....all others have to be purchased.

Now the new priority boxes have "priority" on the inside. I know no one likes it, but being from "the other side", I undertand the P.O.'s way of thinking. Government rules dicatate what the post office can and cannot do. Be nice to your postal clerks. Believe it or not, it is extremely stressful job. You would not believe the trouble one can get into for just saying the wrong words.

The post office also has secret shoppers. We get judged on every little thing we say and do as we help the customer. Really, the majority of clerks are nice people :)

Off my postal soap box! LOL

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

I can believe it. I'm a retired banker.

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

I love my clerks!!! They are part of the reason i haven't given up on the post office all together. I agree that they work hard and i think you make a good point about service jobs in general. They have a set of rules they are supposed to follow so there is no reason to get mad at them. If anything you should be extra nice to them. They know the tips on how to get things done. Besides there are enough (expletive deleted) out there as it is. I refuse to contribute to it. These people work hard. I guess i have been there before so i have a soft spot for service workers. I can't tell you how many times i have confronted a customer for being unnecessarily rude. I know the employee can't say it so i say it for them. In the end, we have to remember to direct our frustration in the direction of the people who have the power to change it and even then there is no need to be a schmuck. The old saying it true... you get more with honey than with vinegar. :)

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

Shellsort, that's what I do in Wal*Mart! I know the assoiates can't say anything, 'cause I'm a former Associate, so I do it! I jump on kids for running, riding in the wheelchairs, throwing balls, etc. And riding on the bottom of the carts! I saw a kid get hurt really bad like that.
I just feel like I'm paying twice when I pay postage twice for the same box, though we don't!
I'll just get new boxes every time.

(Zone 6a)

I thought everyone knew not to try and reuse the priority boxes. they do say Priority on them after all. They are not the sturdiest boxes around by far. I store things in them when I have used left overs but that is about it, never tried to reuse one or flip one to go by anything but what they are intended except used ones they go to the burn barrell or for storing things if they are in good condition. Must say the shoebox does make a nice storage box for paperback books, almost the right size.
It is usually much cheaper to use any old box and ship by weight, unless you got something heavy. For a few plants they just don't make good sense anymore.

(Cissy) San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

Doe, a good point about employees not being able to say something. Many many times, for example, while working at the post office, kids screaming, running all over the place and we could not say anything. Do the parents? Many do not. A complete stranger may say something to the parent or child and the parent gets mad! LOL.

I'll tell you, until I went to work for the P.O., I thought "going postal" was really out there. I know understand how it can possibly happen. The supervisor's would be on your back until you want to scream and say "do it yourself!" LOL... :D

Don't get me wrong. I do NOT agree with going postal, it's just that I can SOMETIMES understand how it can happen if you are pushed past that boiling point. :-P. And, boy, do they love to push :-PPPP lol

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

Sis_E i say we go ahead and say something to the kids or parents. Even if it makes them mad. If they get called out on their behavior then maybe they will be embarrassed enough to change it. I can only hope. :)

(Cissy) San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

We can only hope Shellsort! LOL. But, man, I've watched kids tearing up a store and the parent(s) do nothing. Amaaaaaazing LOL


(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

I saw a little Mexican boy about 3 yrs. old, putting a plastic bag over his head. The parents didn't see what he was doing. Before I could think, I said"No! Don't do that!" Then I apologised to the parents, who thanked me. I told them it's just automatic for me, as a grandparent to do that. I tried to get the boy to smile at me, but I had scared him to death! He wouldn't even look at me!!

(Cissy) San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

Omg, were to quick to help that child to understand how dangerous plastic is......and I am bettn' his parents will be watching him closer. Congrats on being a watchful citizen! :)


(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

I just couldn't help it! Instinct took over!

(Cissy) San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

Ain't instinct wonderful? hehe. My instinct finally told me to leave the P.O. LOL

(Audrey) Dyersburg, TN(Zone 7a)

Sis, why don't you join us over on the Mixed seed nuts thread? I'd give you a link, but I don't know how! We're lots of fun!!

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