When you need to go away for business or pleasure, a neighbor can prove to be a big help by being there to collect your mail each day you're gone. Apartment dwellers who live alone or travel with roommates often turn to neighbors when it comes to collecting mail because they already have access to your building.
But you can't choose just any neighbor, and once you've found a reliable neighbor, you need to make sure you find out about all your mail without any inconveniences.
- Find a neighbor you can trust. Choose a neighbor who lives in your building whom you trust to collect your mail while you're away. If you live in a large building, mail probably gets delivered to individual tenant mailboxes located near the lobby. So you don't need to limit your selection to someone whose apartment is near yours, for convenience's sake. If you live with a roommate who will be traveling with you, your roommate may be able to choose a trustworthy neighbor.
- Ask your neighbor to check your mail. Call your neighbor or stop by to ask if she wouldn't mind collecting your mail while you're away. Give your neighbor the dates you'll be away and tell her you'll touch base a couple of days before you leave to go over things.
- Tell doorman about neighbor. If your building has a doorman, it's always a good idea to let him know when you're going away for a while. You should also inform your doorman which neighbor you've designated to collect your mail while you're gone. This will help prevent a situation that could invite crime -- such as where your doorman sticks a dated "you've got a package" note on your door that remains for days and advertises the fact there's no one home. Plus, if packages come for you from a private service, such as FedEx or UPS, your doorman will know to give them to the neighbor you've designated.
- Give neighbor your mail key. Touch base with your neighbor a few days before your trip to arrange for delivery of your mail key, if your building has individual tenant mailboxes. Keep in mind that there's no mail delivery on Sundays and certain holidays, so if you're leaving for a trip on a Monday, you can give a neighbor your key after you get Saturday's mail.
- Exchange contact information. Tell your neighbor how you can best be reached while you're away. In addition to communicating about the mail, your neighbor should know how to contact you in case the landlord needs to enter your apartment or there's a fire or other emergency in the building. Also, make sure you have your neighbor's home and cell phone numbers.
- Decide on contact frequency. If you're expecting something important in the mail while you'll be away or if you plan to be gone for a while you might arrange to touch base with your neighbor regularly about the mail. Or, it may make more sense for your neighbor just to call you if something particular or urgent arrives.
- Agree on a date and time to retrieve mail upon your return. When you get back from a trip, the last thing you want is to spend days tracking down your neighbor so that you can get the mail she's been collecting for you. Before you embark on your trip, remind your neighbor of your return date and figure out a convenient time for you to retrieve all your mail and get your mail key.
- If your neighbor has helped you with your mail several times or while you were away for an extended period, consider showing thanks with a plant or other small token of appreciation.
- Try to give as much notice as possible to your neighbor. This will increase the chances that your neighbor will be available, and it will show that you consider the favor important enough to not leave to the last minute.
- If you feel your neighbor didn't do a good job collecting your mail, ask another neighbor to help out next time. If some of your mail has coffee or food stains on it, is damaged, or your neighbor admits to having misplaced or even opened some of it without your permission, it's a sign not to trust this neighbor with your mail again.
- If you need to be away from your apartment for several weeks or more, consider having the U.S. Postal Service forward your mail during this time to your temporary address. It's still a good idea to ask a neighbor to check for any deliveries you may receive from private services such as FedEx or UPS.
- If you can't find a trustworthy neighbor to check your mail, consider having the U.S. Postal Service hold your mail for you. This service is available to you for three to 30 days.