When my wife and I decided to move to Mexico for six months, I was concerned about what we would do with our physical mail. I asked some friends what they do with mail while away.
The only solutions people offered were to either have a relative or friend collect the mail for us, or to put a hold on the mail at the post office.
Since we were going to be away for six months, asking a friend to collect the mail for us seemed unreasonable. I cringed at the idea of calling someone once a week and discussing over the phone the contents of our mailbox.
There were also a couple of items (checks, tax forms, etc.) that I knew I would need access to over the coming months. Having the post office hold the mail for us just wouldn’t work either.
I did some searching online, and found a few reviews of a service called Earth Class Mail. The reviews were somewhat mixed, but the service sounded like just what we needed for the trip. Most of the reviews found fault with the slow web interface provided by Earth Class Mail, or in the overall cost of the service. With only a week left before the trip, we had little choice but to give the service a try.
Signing up with Earth Class Mail (ECM for short) was easy. You can choose from a P.O. box address in a number of different cities. For an extra fee, you can instead choose a “big city” street address. I chose a regular P.O. box address in San Francisco.
Earth Class Mail emails you an easy-to-follow set of instructions when you sign up. You’ll need to authorize ECM to receive mail on your behalf with the Post Office. There’s an online wizard that pretty much takes care of it. You also need to decide if you will be forwarding all of your mail to ECM, or just giving the new address out selectively. Since we are on a trip, I had all of our mail forwarded there.
Once you’re up and running, Earth Class Mail sends you an email notification when new mail arrives. The email includes a link to their online mail interface. The interface looks a little 1990s and is sometimes rather slow, but it does the job and includes a lot of options for dealing with your mail.
When new mail arrives, ECM will scan the front and back of the envelope so you can see what it looks like and decide what to do with the mail. The choices you can select are: scan, ship, recycle, shred, archive, transfer (to another user if you have more than one on your account) and “not my mail.” If you choose to scan the mail, ECM will open the letter and scan the entire contents. The scan will become available in about one day as a PDF file.
Potential customers should be aware that employees of Earth Class Mail will physically be handling your mail pieces. If you request an item to be scanned, it will be opened by a human. ECM has taken great steps to ensure the security and privacy of customers’ mail, however. For instance, they don’t allow any recording devices of any kind in the mail processing rooms (even pencils). They also require employees to go through a security clearance process.
If you need a physical copy of any of the mail, you can opt to have it shipped to you. It is most economical to batch these shipments and include multiple pieces at once. ECM charges you a small fee for each shipment.
The cost of the service really depends on how much mail you receive, and how many items you need scanned. Plans start at $9.95 per month, and I’ve found the $19.95 plan to cover our needs well. The $19.95 per month plan includes receiving 100 mail pieces per month, and scanning of 100 pages.
Overall, I have found the service to be a great option while traveling. I wish the interface was a little quicker, and I expect they’re working on it already. Earth Class Mail has had very prompt customer service, and the service works exactly as advertised. I would recommend the service to anyone who will be traveling for more than a couple of months straight.
What are your experiences with Earth Class Mail? Are there other good options for dealing with mail while away? Let us know in the comments please!
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