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Checking Out Earth Class Mail

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I'm horrible at replying to email and so you can imagine how much worse I am with paper mail. Back in August, I moved out of my apartment I had been living in for two years and decided that since I was traveling at least eight out of the next ten weeks that it wasn't worth getting a new place immediately. Rather, through the amazing generosity of my friends, found ways to stay on couches or spare beds (it also helps when crucially travels just as much as I do). This of course only made my mail situation worse as I didn't have an easy forwarding address. So, I signed up for Earth Class Mail.

Still loving Earth Class Mail; it makes paper mail so much more civilized!

A month and a half later and I was still happy; receiving email telling me I had new paper mail with a scan of the envelope and a web interface where I could choose to open and scan the contents, group together a few pieces of paper mail and ship them to me, shred it, or recycle junk mail.

All of a sudden, I could manage my paper mail via the Internet instead of having huge piles sitting at home which I never touched. This also meant that if I was actually being sent something important and I was out of town, I could see the scanned contents instead of having to wait until I was home. Didn't want to deal with a piece of mail, no problem as it was sitting in their warehouse instead of my living room.

I've been up in Portland the past two weeks for the holidays which coincidentally is where Earth Class Mail is headquartered. A few days, ago their community manager @UncleNate shot me a message asking if I'd be interested in checking out their facility. So yesterday – yes they work on Saturdays too – I drove over to Beaverton to get a tour of their warehouse. It's an old Tektronix building which was originally built not really as a building but rather as a machine. It's full of row after row of shelving that used to have computer controlled robots running on tracks in the ceiling fetching, storing, and moving all sorts of stuff. Today, it's a nondescript security-conscious facility (I couldn't take photos inside) sorting, scanning, storing and shipping a shit ton of mail.

Nate walked me through their process from receiving mail and packages to taking all of the normal sized envelopes and running them through modified mail sorting machines. These machines are like those used by the USPS but also scan the front and apply a unique barcode to each piece of mail. This kicks off a job which sends out emails, like the one above, automatically letting everyone know that they have a new piece of mail. From there, mail is sorted into tubs and stored until more jobs come in to open and scan, ship, shred, or recycle a piece of mail.

They're also proactively looking for mail (by the barcode) that needs something to happen to it every time they're re-running a tub through one of the sorters. This means that if I have a piece of mail in tub 183 which I've asked to be shipped to me and you have a piece in the same tub that you asked to be recycled, when they pull the tub and run it through the sorter to automatically find my piece of mail to ship, the machine will also automatically sort out your piece to be recycled. Everyone in the warehouse is wearing pocket-less coveralls and no cell phones, cameras, etc are allowed and the people opening and scanning mail work in separate locked room.

All in all, a pretty cool operation (with even cooler mail robots coming to their warehouse in the future) and it was great for Nate to see that I was a happy customer, that I grew up in and was visiting Portland, and to proactively reach out to show me just how they took over dealing with the paper mail I love to ignore.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
I saw their reality show on mojo. The ceo is annoying. Good they are doing well though
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 5th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
Exactly! But instead of there being an ass load of mail in a PO Box, it used to wait for me on the kitchen counter or living room table.

You're supposed to include your number on the mail after the PO Box number or street address, but I've found that mail without it still makes it to me. That probably is because I'm the only "David Recordon" currently using their service. My bank doesn't like the #1234 though I was told that using PMB 1234 might work in more places.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 5th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
Yeah, that format should work fine.

It seems in my account that I can add multiple names to the "allowed list" (I did variations of my name) so I'd imagine you'd be alright as long as you are the only "recipient".

It doesn't look like there's a way to do referrals, but that would be a nice idea. :)
Jan. 5th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Here is a way to get rid of alot of that junkmail: http://fallenpegasus.livejournal.com/335459.html

There are also some forms you can fill out at your post office that will get rid of most all of the carrier route sort and "deliver to resident" mail.
Jan. 5th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
If I could also have them recognize and open bills, alert me of them, and generate checks to pay said bills...

They had flyers out at the local pacific northwest SF conventions this past year.
Jan. 5th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
I think they have some new service where they can direct deposit checks you receive into your bank account, but I think you're asking for the other way around.
Jan. 5th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
Yes. I want them to compete/merge/aquire with http://www.paytrust.com/

PayTrust works similar to ECM, but just for bills. They open your bills, scan them, automatically recognize them if possible (which isnt too hard, since once they build an image scraper for one bill-sender, it works for everyone that gets bills from that sender), and then via a webform you approve bills to be paid, and they pay them, ever via ECN if possible (and its almost always possible) or by generating a paper check against your checking account.

Earth Class Mail plus PayTrust plus the ability to turn email into postal mail, and they're *there*.
Jul. 6th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
Even better...
Get an account at ukpostbox.com instead. It's free, and no monthly fee. There's nothing to lose w/ the ala carte plan. They're also more ethical than ECM. Also check out paperlessmail.com in the US, and privatebox.co.nz in New Zealand. ECM is swindlers.
Jan. 5th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
and to send the mail all online there is L-Mail
Love it. Recently I have come addicted to sending mail via a little web service called L-Mail. http://l-mail.com Send them a email and they will print it out formatted as a letter and send it to the recipient. One of the cool features that they don't really over advertise is the fact that you can get a "reader read letter" response email (if the reader enters a url to say they have of course).

All rather nifty and means I never have to leave my house which I understand sounds incredibly sad.
Jan. 7th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
Dave, thanks so much for sharing your experience with everyone! It was great to show you around, and I want to express our appreciation for you taking the time to visit time on a holiday!

I'll try and answer the questions that have been posed so far, and I also want to express our thanks to everyone who is contributing.

@mcpatti, I'll let Ron know you said "Hi", and thanks very much for the well-wishes!

@bubba asks about how Earth Class Mail handles nicknames. As Dave points out, Earth Class Mail does have a feature that allows you to enter nicknames or any possible misspellings you might arrive in your mail. This helps us deliver mail faster in the event that your Earth Class Mail account number is omitted or obfuscated somehow.

@fallenpegasus, you can choose to have us open and scan everything that you receive. You do have the option to exclude certain things, like mail that is designated "bulk-rate", pieces with more than a user-selected number of pages, and you also get to choose whether or not we include the envelope image in the PDF content scan. You've got some excellent ideas with regard to bill payment, etc. It's possible that we might consider features like those you mention at some point in the future. Right now were focusing on being the best online postal mail solution available.

Your post also raises a question regarding a referral program. We did have a customer referral program, but I recall that there was a lack of interest early on. Perhaps it is time to dust it off? I'll see if that is something that we can restore.

Thanks again for all of the comments and I'll keep an eye out for more.

Nate DiNiro
Community Manager
Earth Class Mail (http://www.earthclassmail.com)
Feb. 3rd, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
Earth Class Mail & Zooppa
Hi, thanks for the really helpful blog entry! I've been curious about this company so have been doing as much research as I can and this shows me that Earth Class Mail seems to be a good company with great employees. It definitely seems worth a try - especially if you are a frequent traveler, trying to find a new way to be more environmentally friendly, or someone like you who is really bad at replying to mail! I came across the website www.zooppa.com and saw that Earth Class Mail is holding a competition to promote their company. ECM is working with the company Zooppa which is a new user-generated social advertising firm where anyone can create a video ad. The winner gets prize money and recognition for their work. Anyway, thought it was a cool idea and I saw this blog about ECM so thought I'd let people know about it!
Mar. 6th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Switch everything to earthclass?
So is there any types of mail that you don't send to earthclass? Do you give your parents the earthclass address and/or credit card companies?

I'm considering making the jump (http://blog.steveheffernan.com/2009/01/earth-class-mail/), just wondering how far to go. Thanks!
Mar. 9th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
re: Steve's comment
I think part of their appeal is that only the mail you want will go to Earth Class Mail, as it is you that decides what kinds of mail to send to the account. That way Aunt Madge's Christmas card still goes to you, as well as your Rolling Stone and Netflix subscriptions etc..

All this having been said, they claim that most bulk mailers won't send to an Earth Class Mail PO Box, so it seems like a great way of separating the wheat from the chaff.
Mar. 18th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Hey, I use a similar service when I travel, http://www.privatebox.co.nz They seem to do a very good job!
Apr. 21st, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
Earth Class Mail Review
I have another Earth Class Mail review (http://www.yobosayo.net/2009/03/22/earth-class-mail-review-read-your-postal-mail-online-while-traveling/) on my blog if anyone wants some more info.
May. 11th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Good post. Keep it up! Gawad Kalinga
Jul. 1st, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
ha ha
If you like people seeing your pin numbers, bank account numbers, SSN, any other personel info fine

I scanned no background here

I bet he works for ECM
Jul. 1st, 2009 05:26 am (UTC)
Re: ha ha
Nope, I don't work for ECM and quite honestly my paper mail seems to contain far less personal information than is spread out online.
Jul. 24th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
Credit Card Stolen and Checks Lost Under Earth Class Mail's Care
To All Potential Earth Class Clients,

I'm not a person that likes to say bad things about people or companies because companies work hard to earn a reputation. However, I feel it's important to let people know my experience with Earth Class Mail. I began their service last year starting in May because I was traveling around Fiji for 3 months. I was really excited about the service and things were working fine.

Then about two months into the service, one of my Visa debit cards that got delivered via mail to their storage warehouse got stolen and was used to charge groceries and gas for a total of $220 before I caught it. In the process of canceling the credit card, the bank shut down all my accounts and I was stuck in Fiji for 3 days without access to any of my money. It's hard enough to deal with a stolen credit card when you're in the states much less in a 3rd world country.

To make things even worse, I had an IRS stimulus check and a few other checks totaling over $600 that I had Earth Class mail ship via DHL to a friend so I could cover my bank losses until the bank investigated and recovered the losses. The entire shipment got lost. It even had tracking number and it was no where to be found by DHL. None of that money has been recovered because it would cost more to reissue the checks than the amounts and the IRS was unable to issue another check because they are the IRS.

Chris A. Salvage, Vice President of Operations, said that he would help out and file a police report. He sent one e-mail and he did not return e-mails and phone calls after that. I talked with the Beaverton police when I filed my own report and although they did not out right say it, they did not seem surprised by another police report filed against Earth Class Mail.

So needless to say, I finally made it back to the states and got settled and was able to cancel my Earth Class Mail account. However, 3 months after canceling my service, they still charged my credit card for $25 for their "draw down" balance policy.

I think Earth Class has a great concept and I put my trust in them with my personal information and personal mail. That trust was broken and it cost me a lot of time, money and energy. I would stay as far away from Earth Class Mail as possible.

John F. Spriestersbach
Sep. 4th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
Earth Class Mail Price Increase Too Much
I am an expat living overseas and started using ECM in September 2006. The service has been exactly what I needed and cost an average of $216 per year (plus postage). But now, with the new price increases, it will cost me $750 per year (plus postage) for the same degree of service!!! So, sadly I am dropping them as it is clear they are now only interested in big business customers. I seriously they will survive with all the new changes, along with the divestiture of the Oregon facility as the ECM technical staff become a pure IP company going after the Swiss Postal System business.

Here is why it will now cost so much per year in my case:
($19.95 base + $4.95 shredding + 10 scans per month x $1.50 per scan + 30 letters sitting in storage for 3 months x $0.25 per letter per month). Being overseas and with their very high rates to send mail overseas, I only have the mail sent to me 2-3 times per year, hence the long archival times.
Sep. 4th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)
Re: Earth Class Mail Price Increase Too Much
Yeah, with their price increases this month I'll probably stop using them as well once my old plan expires. It's really a shame.
Oct. 22nd, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Earth Class Mail Price Increase Too Much
My 1-year prepaid plan runs out in January. Looking at virtualpostmail.com as an alternate. Seems to be cheaper, but I still need to do the math to be sure.
Oct. 28th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
Things you might want to look for when selecting a 'drop box'.

-How long the place has been in business?

I wouldn't want to commit to a place only to find out they are going out of business in a year, or trying a new business model.

-The comments of others

-How professional?

I used Mail Boxes Etc. once as a drop box. The college kids they employed were always busy with customers, and would write in cursive on the envelope they forward to me. (not good for International mail. They also sent me mail from previous customers who had the box number.



Tax free states are always good, wish there was more of a choice for AK and WA.


From the reviews I have read ECM lacks in a few. If anybody knows a place in WA besides ECM let me know. I have found usglobalmail to be very reliable, only wish they had the option to open and scan mail; wish they were located in WA state too.

I found a lot of the comments here helpful.
Nov. 13th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
There's also...
... www.paperlessmail.com

Seems to do the same thing as ECM, but cheaper. Not sure on how legit they are though?
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )