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How To Use USPS General Delivery When Online Retailers Won’t Ship To A PO Box

Posted by nik on November 8, 2018

You may prefer to use a post office box to handle your mail because it’s easier and more efficient, but sometimes online retailers such as Amazon have products that cannot be shipped to a PO Box. There are other times when you may be traveling or visiting another city, and need to place an online order, but don’t have a workable mailing address where you are staying.

Fortunately, there is an option – an older and almost forgotten, but still entirely functional, mail delivery system within the Post Office itself called “General Delivery” – and Amazon will accept General Delivery orders.

The specific official rules for General Delivery are listed here but here’s how it works in a nutshell:

1. Locate the nearest main post office near you. If you don’t know which one that is, call the USPS at 1-800-275-8777 and ask; they’ll be happy to tell you.

It’s important to note that in larger cities that have several post offices using the same ZIP, one of them will be considered the “main” post office (usually the largest one). Again, if you don’t know which office is the main post office for your area, call the USPS and ask.

2. Address a letter or package to yourself using the following information:

YOUR NAME
GENERAL DELIVERY
TOWN, ST 12345-9999

If I were to use a local post office in Tampa, Florida, here’s how it would look if if my name were John Doe:

JOHN DOE
GENERAL DELIVERY
TAMPA, FL 33602-9999

“GENERAL DELIVERY” is the actual address line, and “9999” as the ZIP+4 also means general delivery.

The USPS will hold any package it receives addressed to your name there for 30 days. You can just go to the post office during working hours, go to the counter, and ask for your mail. When you go to pick up your stuff, you will obviously have to prove who you are, usually by means of driver’s license. If you don’t have identification but are personally known to the postmaster or the retail clerk, you can get your package that way.

The next time Amazon or other online retailers says, “Sorry! We can’t ship to a PO box”, you can say, “Okay, use this general delivery address instead”, and it will work.

Important note: If you intend on using the general delivery option, send a test letter to yourself first to make sure you actually receive it at the post office. Better safe than sorry.

Fun fact: You can use this method of getting letters and packages when on the road or on holiday. If for example you took an RV trip a few states away and someone needed to mail something to you, just have them send to the local post office to your name using General Delivery and you’ll be able to receive it.

9 thoughts on “How To Use USPS General Delivery When Online Retailers Won’t Ship To A PO Box”

GRegg says:
Also be sure to check with your receiving post office.
Mine charges a fee to the recipient when you pick up a General Delivery package from them.
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Gregg says:
BTW – that fee is non-trivial. I think it’s $25.
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Trayson Evans says:
I recently moved into an apartment with my wife. We ordered quite a few things on Amazon and had a problem with one of the packages and the address. I wish I had known this simple trick to use “general delivery” and the zip plus four. This would have made what has become a month long struggle much easier.
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John says:
If I normally get mail at my residence but will have something shipped GD because it is cheaper, will the PO notify me when it arrives or do I need to keep checking?
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Othman says:
It is very instructive, especially for the extension of zip code dedicated for “General Delivery” distribution mode with 9999 (four 9). Very helpful for people who want to deliver packages in different locations for many reasons. Thank you.
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Carlton Snyder says:
I will be in Amagon Arkansas. We do not have a home delivery for mail in our town but the post office master won’t to charge us for a PO Box which I think is not right the country customer you get your mail delivered at no charge I think we should to thank you
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John says:
I checked with my local post office. The Postmaster said the correct Zip Code to use ends in 9998, not 9999. She also said to include the street address of the post office in addition to General Delivery in the address.

I called UPS and asked if they would deliver a package marked General Delivery and was told NO. Haven’t called FedEx yet.

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Rich says:
What that postmaster said directly contradicts what the USPS.com web site says. Proof: http://i.imgur.com/VjayE.jpg
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Anonymous says:
If you show your shipping address as the street address of the Post Office Branch that you are using, both FedEx and UPS will deliver there.  In fact, both have a delivery option whereby they deliver packages addressed to a street address to the Post Office.  The Post Office has a form that you can sign authorizing them to accept packages addressed to you at their address.  The USPS doesn’t deliver to our address, but we have a PO Box in a nearby town.  We have had to start using the street address of the Post Office in which we have the PO Box as our shipping address, since both UPS and FedEx sometimes deliver to our street address, sometimes take it to the Post Office.  We signed their form, and it has worked fine.
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Summerhathway says:
this post is so nice and interesting to read post…
It is so amazing and good…
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Mrzip says:
Rich, 
 
    I think that you are missing something.  When a shipper claims that they cannot ship to a PO Box, it usually indicates that they exclusively use UPS or FedEx for their shipping.  The Post Office will not accept shipments from UPS or FedEx.  If you want something shipped to a PO Box, you must use USPS as the shipper.  This would apply to “General Delivery” as well.  Sorry to burst your bubble.  It did sound like a great workaround and would definitely work for someone who was traveling.

MrZip

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Rich says:
No bubble burst whatsoever, but thanks for your concern.

Modern retailers like Amazon will auto-reject General Delivery as an invalid address if you try to ship to that type of address using anything but USPS. Many online retailers have a “no PO box” rule for almost anything shipped that’s over 2 pounds, but do list USPS as a shipping option. In that instance, GD is accepted as an alternative to a physical residence address.

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Mrzip says:
Point conceded.  I just checked a site that offers USPS shipping and will not ship to a PO box.  Thank you for that info.
Rich says:
No worries. It was a very valid point you brought up that I should have covered in the article originally so it was good you mentioned it, so equal thanks in your direction.
Don says:
Include the Post Office’s street address on the address line and instead of putting ‘General Delivery’ in address line one, make ‘General Delivery’ part of your last name in the name field. See example here:

http://www.aneclecticmind.com/2016/01/17/general-delivery/

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