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I'm not sure this question is at all appropriate for DIY.stackexchange, but it seemed the best fit so if it's not appropriate here it's probably not appropriate anywhere. Perhaps this is a question I should just ask the USPS directly, but I wanted to first try to collect some third-party experience with the process.

Brief background

We have a 9-unit apartment building with USPS-approved mailboxes mounted in the secured entry lobby. To deliver mail, a copy of the building front door key has been provided to our regular mail carrier. Problem is, that doesn't help at all if a different USPS employee needs to deliver mail. (Say, dropping off a Priority or Express package, or even just someone else covering our regular guy's route when he's out sick or on vacation.) Without that One Key we've provided to the USPS (really, one specific individual employee), the mail can't get in.

My (possible) plan

I've already ruled out "more keys for the USPS!" as an option for solving this — that way lies madness. Fortunately, there's already an existing (and much better) solution, which I've seen employed at other residential locations: An exterior box, sometimes called a "key keeper", mounted outside the front door and containing the door key on a chain. When fitted with a standard USPS "Arrow lock", any postal carrier can open the box, then use the key stored inside to unlock the door and enter the building.

You can buy the actual boxes from many sources (here's one version from usmailsupply.com), but as one might expect they come without the lock installed.

What's next?

So my question becomes, before I consider ordering one of these: How do you go about getting the actual lock installed? Is it a service provided by the USPS directly? How does one even go about making an install request? Are there fees involved?

While it's easy to find the hardware for sale (sans lock), my not-inconsiderable web skills have failed to find any information whatsoever about the process of getting the box outfitted with a lock. I'd have thought there would be a form and/or documentation somewhere on the USPS site, but all I've come up with is an almost-suspicious lack of any information whatsoever.

I know that USPS policy has been shifting towards centralized delivery in recent years, so that they no longer have to visit individual addresses in order to deliver mail. And perhaps part of that shift is phasing out installs of Arrow locks on individual building entries and mailboxes. But we don't have centralized delivery here, and if the carrier is willing to carry a copy of our building key... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    I think your best bet would be to contact the postmaster at your local Post Office. – jwh20 Mar 19 at 21:57
  • It may be a registered key way contact a local locksmith and they should be able to get you the information or the post master. – Ed Beal Mar 19 at 22:19
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    It is unlikely that the USPS will be willing to give access to their boxes to the the competition. "and if the carrier is willing to carry a copy of our building key" can you imagine the size of the key ring a postal carrier would have to carry around for all the buildings on their route. Now what key was that, number 235? – Alaska Man Mar 20 at 18:02
  • @AlaskaMan I can verify that our carrier's key ring is moderately insane. I'm quite certain it's not standard policy to carry individual delivery site keys, and they just do it to be accomodating. (It's a very poor neighborhood, and for many residents/landlords there'd be a prohibitive difference between the cost of the occasional $2 key copy, vs. the price to install a key box at the building entrance. That'll run at least $65-$80 just for the box itself, then add installation materials and labor. And if there are any fees for the Arrow lock installation, pile those on too.) – FeRD Mar 24 at 3:08
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    I've updated the question to avoid the inherently ambiguous phrase "other carrier". I also tweaked the surrounding text some, to provide a bit more detail and use more precise language. – FeRD Mar 24 at 5:26
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Happened to spot our regular USPS carrier delivering today's mail, and flagged him down to pepper him with the same questions I posted here.

The USPS will install Arrow locks, on request, free of charge. In fact, there doesn't even necessarily have to be an actual request — not an explicit one, anyway. He says that if/when he notices a building on his route has installed a key keeper with no lock, he'll let his manager know, and they'll show up to secure it. (We can, of course, also call and explicitly make that request.)

And since — in our particular situation — he already has the key to put inside the box once it's secured, installing the box itself is literally the only thing we need to do.

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I've installed several new apartment mailboxes at different locations in Seattle and I wish it were as easy as stated above. It seems that your mailman takes initiative, but I can tell you not every mailman is the same. It is such a headache to contact the local postmaster, no one picks up the phone at the post office, and if they do no one seems to know what you are talking about. If you show up in person they equally seem confused. One postal worker had me fill out a form and pay $50 for someone to come out. They never scheduled an appointment and never called. One day I found a note on the front door to the building that they came by but couldn't get in the building and therefore could not install the arrow locks.

Basically this process can be impossible if you need to involve the post office. My advice is to do as much as you can on your own.

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  • In the end our mail carrier wasn't involved, he was out on vacation when the box was installed. I ended up just walking over and making the request in person, which worked out well enough, but it did require going down there. They showed up the next day and installed the lock with no fuss, though. (I also don't want to downplay the amount of effort involved — getting the local Postmaster to file the work order required standing on 2 different lines and trying to explain to multiple employees what I wanted, with varying degrees of success.) – FeRD Jun 7 at 5:31
  • I will say that I feel a lot better about my limited knowledge of these procedures and processes, now that I've had two different employees at the Post Office stare at me in complete bewilderment, upon being told that I wanted to request an Arrow lock installation for a new key keeper at our address. One of them even replied, "...And ...we do that?" Yeah, you do, though apparently not often! (But the Postmaster himself immediately understood the request, and he got right on it. Once I'd made it past the retail firewall to speak with him.) – FeRD Jun 7 at 5:38

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