If you're trying to find the right gift for the mail carrier, there are a few simple rules for what postal carriers are allowed to accept. Several ethical guidelines (including those for the United States Postal Service) fall under the executive branch of the United States Government, and set rules for what's acceptable for federal workers.
Postal workers are generally prohibited from accepting gifts valued at more than $20 from customers and coworkers, but there are some exceptions.
What the Rule Book Says
The Code of Federal Regulations Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, Part 2635, Subpart B states:
Federal employees cannot accept a gift as a result of their federal employment.
What this means exactly is that a postal worker can't actually accept a gift from you just because he or she delivers your mail, but can only accept a gift if a personal relationship already exists between the two of you.
According to the Postal Service, federal regulations allow all postal employees, including carriers, to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion, such as Christmas or a birthday. However, cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, may never be accepted in any amount. In addition, no USPS employee may accept more than $50 worth of gifts from any one customer in any one calendar year period.
If you decide to ignore the rule, your mail carrier must reimburse you for the cost of any gifts exceeding the $20 limit or for gifts where a value of the item cannot be easily determined. This is done in two ways: either by returning the gift or by sending financial reimbursement.
The second option means that if you were to give your mail carrier a bouquet of flowers exceeding $20, he or she would then have to figure out the actual value and send you a reimbursement for the full value. Your intentions may have been sweet, but now your mailman has to make an extra effort to find the actual cost of your gift and then pay you the full amount of what the flowers cost out of their own pocket. That doesn't seem like much of a gift, does it?
Acceptable Gifts for the Mail Carrier
Some acceptable gifts for your mail delivery person include:
- Modest refreshments such as coffee, doughnuts, cookies or soda
- Plaques, trophies and other items intended for presentation
- Perishable items such as food, candy, fruit or flowers so long as they are to be shared with other postal workers
- Retail gifts cards with a value of less than $20 that cannot be converted to cash
Unacceptable Gifts for the Mail Carrier
Postal workers are prohibited from accepting the following items:
- Anything that can be exchanged for cash
- Anything of monetary value such as meals, gift certificates, event tickets, and clothing
Perhaps the best gift for your mail carrier is simply a heartfelt card saying "Thank you." To step it up, you may want to show your appreciation by actually penning a letter of appreciation addressed to the postmaster of the particular office that your mailman works at.
In your letter, you can outline the countless times your mail carrier has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your mail gets to you in one piece and on time. Your letter of appreciation is then added to your mailman's personnel file once it has been read by their superiors.