Are you the CEO of mail in your household?

Getting the mail every day and deciding what to do with it may seem like a mindless chore and chances are you’ve never given much thought to how your neighbors, family or co-workers deal with their mail.

Would you be surprised to hear that more likely than not it’s eerily similar to your own behavior?

Quirk’s December 2011 issue will include a case study that examines the launch of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Sample Showcase program. I had the pleasure of speaking with USPS’s manager of market research Greg Whiteman to find out how the USPS used research to learn more about making samples (and the mailbox overall) more valuable to consumers. To launch Sample Showcase, the USPS drew upon its extensive research regarding mail and consumers’ mail-handling habits, which finds many commonalities among American households. The following excerpt from the upcoming article details the role of the “CEO of mail.”

“CEO of mail” is a USPS-born moniker for the adult in the household who is responsible for managing the mail. “In 95 percent of the homes – if there are two or more adults in the home – one person has assumed responsibility for managing the mail,” says Whiteman.

Through its own research the USPS has found that there are fundamental, consistent behaviors shared among all Americans and similarities in how we interact with the mail. These include:

  1. The CEO of mail retrieves the mail every day and brings the mail into the home. Mail is typically not left in the mailbox.
  2. The CEO of mail will sort the mail. The three major categories are financial transactions, customer communications and advertising mail.
  3. The CEO of mail will make a value judgment for each piece: Do I keep the mail or do I discard it? What’s the purpose of this mail piece? The CEO of mail can tell through a variety of cues what type of content is inside the envelope.
  4. The mail will be placed in piles: financial-transaction mail and customer communications are usually kept in the home office, where the computer is, and advertising mail is usually kept in the kitchen.
  5. The mail is sorted and stored each day but not always opened. The mail is opened a few times a week when triggers bring the CEO back to the various piles. Triggers can be bills coming due or a weekly shopping trip to the grocery store.

“Eighty percent of the time the person who gets the mail is the person who uses the mail to do the basic jobs in the home. That person is also the same person who manages the shopping for the family. This would be the person who would take full advantage of samples as part of the shopping requirements for the family. This is the reason why we always screen for the CEO of mail,” says Whiteman.

Tell me, do you see yourself in this? How is your mail-getting behavior similar? Where do you deviate from the norm?

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One Response to Are you the CEO of mail in your household?

  1. Margie says:

    My husband is partial CEO in that he brings in the mail and does a partial sort, leaving a pile of mail wherever he happened to be standing at the time. I’m in the process of training my 13-yr-old daughter to be our mail CEO in exchange for her next cell phone upgrade. She has been using spreadsheets & scanning for a few years already. It’s a win-win as she is now learning important budgeting & household management skills, and I eventually will have less paperwork stresses at home.