The term “snail mail” refers to how slow the traditional mail delivery service can be. 

With the invention of e-mail, text messaging, and other digital communication, many see snail mail as a thing of the past.

Despite its long history, snail mail is still relevant and can serve many purposes today.

This article will explore what snail mail is, how it has changed over the years, and what makes it relevant in the modern world.

What is snail mail?

Snail mail refers to the conventional system of sending letters or packages through the postal service. 

Usually, items include envelopes, postcards, stationery, letters, and packages. About 425.3 million letters and packages are processed and delivered each day.

Mail automation process, USPS

Mail automation process, USPS

Snail mail can be seen as a personal and thoughtful way of communication. 

With snail mail, the recipient knows that the sender has taken the time and effort to write them a letter or package something special.

This personalization makes snail mail much more meaningful than what e-mails and text messages can offer.

What is the history of snail mail?

It can be argued that animals, especially pigeon posts, were the first established form of snail mail in 3000 BC. It was post-1700 BC that the concept of postal services emerged and not until after the 18th century that there was a demand for a better postal system.

Carrier pigeons carry messages on their backs, Cambridge

Carrier pigeons carry messages on their backs, Cambridge

Today, post offices offer various services including mail delivery, package delivery, priority and express shipping, PO boxes, and other related services. 

Packages and mail can be sent through government-owned postal services such as the USPS in America or Royal Mail in the UK, as well as private carriers such as FedEx and UPS.

Today’s snail mail can also include international shipping by plane, called “airmail,” or by sea, called “seamail.”

So, snail mail refers to conventional mail that is not sent through the internet, such as e-mail. 

Physical letters, postcards, and packages by postal services are included in snail mail.

Is snail mail still relevant?

Yes, snail mail is still relevant.

Digital communications such as e-mail or text cannot send physical items such as postcards, photos, and packages.

Additionally, the USPS sends official mail via the snail mail method, including the following: 

  • Bills

  • Tax notifications

  • Census forms

  • Voter registration cards

  • Social Security statements

  • Medicare statements

  • Notices from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

  • Unemployment benefits

While many of these letters are now sent digitally, physical copies are also often sent through the mail that you or a registered agent will receive.

What are the pros and cons of snail mail?


1. You can send physical letters and packages

Physical items such as letters, postcards, magazines, newspapers, documents, books, etc., can be sent by snail mail.

Some items may be banned from international shipping due to customs laws and regulations.

2. You can send mail without an internet connection

Unlike e-mail, items can be sent without an internet connection through snail mail.

You can simply go to your local post office and send a package. 

3. There are no data breaches with snail mail

For the most part, physical mail is less vulnerable to hacking and data breaches. 

Since the packages will be physically sealed and sent directly to their destination, there is a reduced chance of tampering with what’s inside. 

Mail services will also give you a tracking number to see where the package is and when it has arrived at its destination. 

If something were to happen to the package, you would get a notification from the postal service.


1. Snail mail is much slower than online alternatives

One of the biggest disadvantages is that snail mail is slower than e-mail and virtual mailboxes.

E-mail is instant and virtual mail is another quick alternative to the traditional mailing system. 

In contrast, snail mail involves the following:

  • Going to the post office.

  • Filling out forms.

  • Waiting for the delivery process to deliver your package.

2. Snail mail can be costly

When sending a package through the mail, you’ll have to pay for a box, cushion packaging (if needed), and delivery and shipping fees.

Additionally, sending basic mail includes envelopes and stamps, which can add up over time.

Cost of sending domestic packages with USPS

Cost of sending domestic packages with USPS

3. Packages and letters may get lost or stolen

No one likes getting their package lost or stolen. 

Having your package stolen isn’t impossible. In fact, in 2023, 44 million Americans were victimized by porch pirates within a 3 month period.

The fear of losing a package is real, which is why people often set up notification deliveries, install doorbell cameras, and pick specific delivery times for their packages. 

What are some alternatives to snail mail?

1. E-mail

E-mail is one of the most convenient, quickest, and cost-effective alternatives to snail mail. 

Instead of physical mail, you can receive digital letters and files and save them on your computer. 

Additionally, e-mail eliminates the need for stamps and envelopes.

2. Virtual mail address

With a virtual mailbox, your mail would be sent to a secure location and scanned into your account for you to access online. 

Any physical packages would then be forwarded or redirected to your physical address.

virtual mail address would allow you to access your mail from anywhere and quickly sort out what’s important and what you can discard, allowing you to save time and avoid going to the post office.

MailMate is a virtual mail address that combines physical and electronic mailing services.

Shoeboxed’s MailMate home page

MailMate will send you an e-mail notification after your mail has been scanned. If you have a bill that needs to be paid, you can pay online.

In closing

Snail mail is the traditional mailing process of sending letters and packages through a postal service.

Despite its disadvantages, snail mail still has advantages that keep it relevant in our modern world of digital alternatives. 

Tammy Dang is a staff writer for Shoeboxed covering productivity, organization, and digitization how-to guides for the home and office. Her favorite organization tip is “1-in-1-out.” And her favorite app for managing writers and deadlines is 

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