Liz Farrell

Farrell: Trick to stockpiling Bed Bath and Beyond coupons is to never pick up your mail

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Maybe it's forgetfulness. Maybe it's inconvenience. Maybe it's just pure laziness.

I prefer to think of it as a sign of the times.

When it comes to picking up my mail at my apartment complex's mailboxes, I usually choose not to.

Most of my bills are paid online. All my magazine subscriptions are also delivered to my iPad. I haven't written or received a letter since dial-up.

There once was a time when I'd run to the mailbox the second I heard the mailman on our porch, but no more.

I've gone days without getting my mail.

I've gone weeks.

I've let Bed Bath and Beyond coupons pile up to the point that I could get every fall scented Yankee Candle for 20 percent off if I weren't afraid of breathing in burning chemicals ... and if I were the type of person who didn't mind asking the cashier to do 17 separate transactions in a row while people waited.

Some people have no problem with that.

This laissez-faire mail attitude of mine caught up with me recently. I got a call from the leasing office. I needed to come get my mail, or it was going to get sent back to the post office.

There was simply no more room in my mailbox for Bed Bath and Beyond coupons or unsolicited periodicals or credit card applications or advertisements of different sizes that are folded together in such a way that recipients inevitably grab them wrong and drop them and then are forced to look at them.

I needed to take control of the situation.

As I was emptying the contents of my mailbox directly into the communal trash can, I couldn't help but notice that wait, there's a trash can near the mailboxes. And oh, look. It's filled with what used to be in our mailboxes.

It reminded me of the late Mitch Hedberg's bit about handbills: "Whenever I walk, people try to hand me out fliers, and when someone tries to hand me out a flier it's kind of like they're saying, 'Here, you throw this away.'"

Most of my mail ends up in that trash can. The rest goes into a fashionable fabric-covered box that I eventually take to the county's free shredding "events."

I love shredding "events." That they're called "events" thrills me. What goes on at these events? Contests? Eating? Entertainment? No. Just shredding. Supposedly. I've never actually seen it happen.

At a shredding event, a man takes my fashionable fabric-covered box out of my trunk, dumps the contents into a recycling bin, puts the box back and then says "Mumble mumble mumble" and points.

And every time, I inevitably get confused by the paper arrows and drive away in what is apparently the opposite direction the man told me to go in, and I panic, because everything is dirt and there are no roads per se and what is this place anyway? I try to use my backup camera to figure out the man's arm gestures. "Wait. Is he yelling and pointing right? Or yelling and pointing left? WHAT IS THIS PLACE? WHAT KIND OF EVENT IS THIS?"

I thought for sure my mail habits were those of the youthful masses, that most people of a certain age and younger, who live at apartment complexes, are just as uninterested in the task.

So I checked around.

I ran into Beaufort County school board member Joey Dunkle at the mailboxes at The Preserve at Port Royal. He picks up his mail there once a week but goes to his post office box three or four times a week.

"I get my Netflix sent there," he told me.

"Wait. What? You don't stream?"

Dunkle is 28, so this shocked me. But turns out, he's a cinephile just covering his bases. Not every movie streams.

"I'm watching all the Batmans now," he said. "It has to be in order. I check the copyright dates just to make sure. I still think the original 'Batman' is the best."

His younger daughter Natalie is 5 and thinks getting the mail is an amazingly fun adventure, so he takes her to the post office when he can and lifts her up to open the box.

And, oh, he never throws out the Bed Bath and Beyond coupon.

"What! No! We don't go to Bed Bath and Beyond without a coupon."

He looked in the direction of my parked car.

"Have you been sitting and waiting for people to come to the mailbox?" he asked.

I could hardly deny it.

"Hahaha. Creeper!"

In Bluffton, I called the post office to find out if people letting their mail pile up in their boxes is a thing.

"It's chronic," the woman who answered the phone told me, but she wasn't authorized to say anything more on the matter. She referred me to the post office's press person, who, I assume, will get me a very formal answer on this very important matter soon.

Jamie Graves has been a leasing consultant at the Auston Chase apartment complex in Okatie for three years. She says she hasn't really encountered this issue with the residents there.

"They're pretty serious about their mail," she said.

"How often do you pick up yours?" I asked.

She laughed. "I'm bad. I pick it up like once a week."

"I met a 28-year-old guy today who still gets DVDs from Netflix mailed to him."

"What? You've got to stream that."

"Right?"

Beverly Cowart, who is the community director at my apartment complex, Crowne at Old Carolina in Bluffton, said I'm not the only one she's had to call to come get her mail.

"It goes in spells," she said. "We maybe have a handful of people a month (who don't pick up regularly)."

"Are they all younger?" I asked, preparing for the obvious answer, which is that I'm such a 25-year-old.

"No."

I see.

Cowart said one of the problems with mail slackers is that someone else's mail might have inadvertently been put in their mailbox and now that person has to wait until the mistake is caught.

"They do so much online, they don't even think about it," she said of the slackers, who again she estimates to be in their All Ages.

Which means I've lost yet another opportunity to generalize and another opportunity to pretend to be much younger than I am.

"You have a package in the office, dear" she said.

"Yes! The sweatshirt I ordered for my dog!"

Maybe picking up the mail regularly isn't actually my biggest problem.

Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at twitter.com/elizfarrell and facebook.com/elizfarrell.

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