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Mail a Letter Online (mailaletter.com)
179 points by wglb on April 29, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

I used a service similar to this in 2011 after I moved back from Australia to UK. Australian banks charge a monthly fee if you don't deposit your salary into the account so after a few months I realized my now-defunct Australian current account was very close to $0 (I had left a few dollars in there when I left). I emailed them and asked them to close the account to which they replied I needed to send a snail-mail letter - I used a service like this (with scanned signature no-less) to do so because it was easier than sending my own international letter to them. I got an email back saying they needed me to send a real letter with a real signature. I replied saying they could keep my account open but I wouldn't be paying for any fees, the reply was swift "Your account is now closed".

In Poland the law theoretically mandates that a digital signature is just as good as a pen-and-paper one. But, when dealing with banks, one quickly finds that the law is one thing and the stone wall of your bank is another.

Here's how a typical discussion unrolls:

Bank: "To do X or Y, we require you to visit us in person or provide a written statement".

Me: "Here's my statement with a digital signature, attached as a PDF."

Bank (ignoring the PDF): "To do X or Y, we require you to visit us in person or provide a written statement".

Me: "The law says (specific citation goes here) that I have just provided a written and signed statement. Here it is again."

Bank (ignoring the PDF): "To do X or Y, we require you to visit us in person or provide a written statement".

By the way, I had this kind of stupid back-and-forth with mBank, which tries to position itself as a "modern and innovative" bank.

The only next step is to sue, but who would bother.

regulatory complaints work wonders too

I wonder if it was just the scanned signature, or was it something else about the service you used that made the physical letter look untrustworthy.

Scanned signature for sure. I once had a form rejected by the Australian equivalent of the DMV for it "appearing to have different handwriting in places", and another time a bank rejected a form for the signature being in a different colour ink to the rest of the form.

This is interesting. In the US, my 'signature' is always a picture or a doodle, sometimes I write famous people's names in sloppy cursive. If it was like an important contract or something, I might try a bit harder... but to be honest I don't truly have a 'signature', I can either write my name in my terrible handwriting, or not.

> If it was like an important contract or something, I might try a bit harder.

When I was sworn in as an attorney, they had us sign a book in the courthouse as part of the ceremony. They said that sometimes people used a fancy signature since it was a special occasion, and explicitly told us not to do that since they would sometimes be asked to compare a purported signature to one in the book.

German authorities use a phrase like "this letter was written by machine and is valid without signature".

I thought about using similar services, but the hassle of signing up and paying meant I just bought some international stamps.

A letter from the UK to Australia costs £1.35, or £1.20 for "economy".

In the US we have international “forever” stamps. If you have a sheet of a dozen of those, you just scrawl a reply, address an envelope, and drop it in the letter box.

In Fiji, we have those, but also prepaid envelopes that come with no stamps at all. You have a pack of those, and you just stick a letter in and then drop it in the letter box.

I'm the founder of http://handwrite.io, which allows you to use your own real handwriting to send out cards in about 30 seconds a card. Our robots use real pen and paper to write in your actual handwriting.

For every card, your handwriting is generated from scratch so it's unique every time and not a font like other services. And if you don't like how your writing looks, you can always use one from our selection.

We've got a Zapier integration which has been a game changer for us and clients as well.

This is really cool. Have you thought of doing on-demand pricing? I'd send a few cards, but I don't want to pay $30 a month for a service I might only use intermittently.

Seriously, the only reason this is priced per month is to make money off people who don't use the service/forget to use it or forget to cancel it.

Why is this not just

10 cards = $30

20 cards = $50

50 cards = $100 ?

Shady business tactics.

Thankster.com can do this with on-demand projects or via our plans for integrations. We're very flexible. You can reach out via the site and if you can mention HN we'll give a discount on your first order.

> I'm the founder of http://handwrite.io, which allows you to use your own real handwriting to send out cards in about 30 seconds a card.

I was about to mention that about a year ago I had this as an idea, but not something I was going to execute on - but it seemed like it would be a fun home project to attempt using a cheap plotter.

At the time, I googled to see if anyone had done this, and I had found an old art project that, iirc, used human writers to transcribe the letters, and they processed thousands over the course of a very limited run for the project.

So it seemed like a potential business idea that could have legs.

I hope it works out for you!


Getting robots to handwrite letters using samples of real handwriting sounds pretty intense!

I was a customer of one of your competitors (bond.co) who just recently shut down operations, though I'm not sure why.

Would love it if there was an API integration, so that I could automate the delivery of handwritten cards. Do you have anything like in the works?

Bond was actually the inspiration! We have an outward facing API that's happening within the next couple of months, but we already have a simple API that we use internally and would love to have you join on - email me at dan@handwrite.io

Thankster.com has an API you can use as well as several integrations. You can reach out via the site and if you can mention HN we'll give a discount on your first order. Thanks.

I'm the CTO at Realeflow, CRM & Marketing SaaS app for real estate investors. Any chance you could email me (email in bio)? There isn't any contact information on your site.

Hi there - Our company, Thankster.com, has a handwriting solution for cards and notes. We have lots of real estate users. Please let me know if you'd like to discuss - you can reach out via the site and we'll get back to you right away.

Hmm, can't see your email or your bio for some reason. Email me at dan@handwrite.io?

Only monthly plans? Have you tried pay per card?

You might want to check out Thankster.com, which lets you pay per card or get invoiced monthly for integration plans. We're very flexible. You can reach out via the site and if you can mention HN we'll give a discount on your first order.

The last time this site was submitted to HN was over 10 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=449964 - it doesn't appear to have changed much since then.

wow, that has to be some kind of record

I created http://simplepostal.com a year and a half ago. Just never knew how to get it on top of hacker news :)

You need to get on the HTTPS bandwagon as well https://doesmysiteneedhttps.com/

Brian Lunduke inadvertently found an exception to this. He wanted to make his site accessible by very old browsers... So he stopped using https.


It's a dumb exception, but you guys might find it mildly amusing.

Great, compromise the security for the 100% of users to keep the 0% reading linux news on IE2 able to visit.

Agreed - this was a side project developed almost 2 years ago. as someone else mentioned - entire app subdomain is under https. Only the marketing page is http.

To be fair their entire app subdomain is under HTTPS just not their marketing site. But agreed on TLS-everything.

We made https://mailprincess.com a while back too. and http://maleprincess.com too

It lets you send letters, postcards, checks and faxes

Wound up having a decent number of users at some point, but then people started abusing the check sending features. We took it down and built some anti-fraud stuff, but never did anything to acquire users again. It does continue to work perfectly well though.

It's interesting that so many products like these exist in spaces that will probably never be huge and so there's no major VC funded player that may kill them all.

https://lob.com/ is a YC backed company.

I don't like how hard it is to find the pricing... which isn't even very explanatory.

>All included at one low price - printing, postage and shipping. Only pay for what you send. Higher discounts at higher volume. As low as $1.50 per mail.

TBH - this was a side project that has been running for 2 years. Not something that I have touched in a long time, it gets a steady stream of people using it via organic search.

I would appreciate if you transparently disclose your pricing instead of making me register to see pricing.

I couldn’t find the pricing without signing up

We've actually been working on something similar. Our goal is to make it as dead simple to send a letter as possible in USA. We'd love any feedback people have!


Feel free to drop us a note at support@papermail.in if you have thoughts :)

If targeting US customers I'd avoid using a foreign TLD. If you're targeting Indian customers wanting to send to US addresses it should be fine.

I agree; I wouldn't even think to click that unless I wanted to send a letter in India.

You should have a text box that I can type in, I don't want to always have to prepare a PDF.

Yes! That'll probably be our next feature! Thanks for checking it out

Should probably get a privacy policy.

Apple used to have an iOS app called Cards where you could snap a photo with your phone and it would arrive as a handsome postcard a few days later. I thought it perfectly fit at the intersection of Apple's obsession over digital experiences and tangible products. Sadly, Apple has since abandoned all of their printing services.

Bill Atkinson, the storied early Apple engineer, has an app for this as well, but I have not used it and can't vouch for it. But it's worth noting that when Bill himself went to have his own photography book printed by a publisher, he made modifications to the printing equipment before he was satisfied with the quality. http://www.billatkinson.com/aboutPhotoCard.html

I wrote a letter to a friend on the website because I honestly thought it would be amusing. But then at the address page I kinda stopped, because I didn't actually feel very comfortable with writing my friend's address and full name on a random webpage. I wonder if there is anything that can alleviate this paranoia?

Depending on where your friend lives, you can address it to a post office. However, your letter would still need your friends full name on it to get it picked up.

My first internship in 2009 was for a company with a similar business model in the UK. We developed a Windows application, a web application and an API which allowed letter templates to be uploaded and then sent out to large mailing lists using mail merge.

Most of our big customers were real estate agencies where it felt pretty spammy but the selling point was that people were more likely to open a personalised letter compared to an email. Some of our marketing focused on poking fun at people using franking machines!

I remember a more interesting customer that sent out parking violations to individuals. Along with the basic mail merge, the letters would include images of their vehicles parked where they shouldn't be.

The biggest problem we had was with consistent print quality. We sent batch files to be printed out by different printing companies but there would often be problems with things like alignment and image quality. Even though we had test letters sent to our office every day we'd always be stressed out when a new customer was coming on board and testing the service - they'd often receive a couple of dodgy letters!

In the end the company was absorbed by a larger IT business - I think they just wanted the developers. They wanted me to come work full time for them but I went back to University to finish off my degree and did some part-time remote work for them. Can't find any trace of the company online now.

In Germany - where the bureaucracy is massive and mostly paper based - Deutsche Post the national postal company runs a similar service (https://epost.de). Works both ways, you can send and receive paper-and-envelope letters in digital form. The user interface is surprisingly modern and they do use https;) It even includes a DropBox-like storage space for your documents.

This makes it look like there are some unresolved challenges with fulfillment: https://www.bbb.org/us/wa/seattle/profile/international-mail...

I've been using it for many years with no problems with fulfillment. I like that there is a record the letter was sent.

The biggest annoyance is the horrible UX for entering recipient's address. I'd like to type the two lines on the envelope. Instead, I need to go through this form adding them as a contact, with fields for e.g. city and state. Most of my letters are one-offs, and it's a bunch of cut-and-paste work. Still beats doing my own mailing, though.

I've been looking the something that's kind of the opposite of this. I'd like to be able to use an address in my city for all my mail - when a letter arrives I'd like to get a scan as an email attachment.

I usually get parcels delivered to amazon lockers or my office since I'm out all day.

There's plenty of those services.

This one is recommended usually. https://travelingmailbox.com/

You'd have to live in a decently sized city to get an address in your town though. You can definitely get one in your state. UPS also has mail services. They don't scan, but if you're wanting to protect your address, it's a good option. They run about 200 a year in LA so maybe 130 or so somewhere smaller?

I love Traveling Mailbox. Been using it since I moved to Seattle. One overlooked feature is that you can have mail sent to multiple email addresses. So I don’t have to worry about a family member opening an important letter and losing it or forgetting to tell me about it.

I use VirtualPostMail for my business mail. It works very well and provides what you're looking for. But the mail address is not available in all cities.


I use https://mailboxforwarding.com but the main address is in Grandville, Michigan.

So many companies have come and gone in the "print on demand" space. The barriers to entry are low and the market, while shrinking, is still quite large... If you consider the market those that send stationary (cards, letters, etc.). Having started a company in the space (engreet.com, since renamed https://www.thegreetingcardshop.com by its new owners), the fallacy is that most folks that send offline won't make the jump to digital. It's a different demographic that is slowly dying (sadly). From cardstore.com to Minted, there's still a market out there, but it's a fraction of the offline spend.

I was looking online for some resources for sending mail online. I came across this thread and thought I'd add a repo to keep the links together. Thanks to all those who responded! Here's the repo: https://github.com/caseyw/snail-mail-websites

For the fastest payment service, Mail A Letter provides customers with a MailBank. Add funds to your MailBank with a VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit card or PayPal. Payment from each order will be deducted from your account automatically and you can avoid entering in your payment information for each order. You can add any amount (minimum $5.00).

Uh huh, and i bet the money in said "money bank" is not refundable, so really it is $5 minimum

Seems reasonable given the payment processing fees.

I'm spitballing here, but ordering a single $1.54 letter would cost $0.30 + $0.03 in fees, $0.55 for the stamp, $0.03 for the envelope and maybe $0.25 for the labor, paper, ink, machine maintenance, overhead, etc. And that's before advertising and other costs.

So it seems pretty reasonable that they want to reduce that $0.30 fee, especially if a large number of people only order one card.

And in all honesty, if you're willing to avoid their service over worries of losing $3.46 in credit, you're probably not their ideal customer.

This site looks like it was designed back in the 90s, but the actual service sounds quite useful.

If you mail letters infrequently and/or don't own a printer, you're saving yourself the trouble of buying envelopes, buying postage, printing at Staples, etc.

But I bet the site could greatly improve its marketability by investing in a refresh of the site design.

I wonder if they've done some testing to compare designs.

A site that looks like it's designed in the 90s is probably highly attractive for many users. This "Mail A Letter Online" site, if compared to a 2019-looking snazzy SPA "smail.io" Bootstrap site and mobile app, probably wouldn't do as well for some audiences. But if their target demographic likes this style better, then this site is what they should be using.

Also, nothing prevents them from also starting up Photoshop and designing a snazzier sister site that's fulfilled through the same physical service.

Judging from the fact that the "How did you find us?" box on registration offers options like "Yahoo!", "MSN Search", "Ask", I'd say it's actually quite old (not saying that's a bad thing)

This is similar. I've never used it but it looks fun: https://handwriting.io/

this is pretty cool. I would love to see a service takes writing samples in your own handwriting and produces a letter that looks like you wrote it.

> this is pretty cool. I would love to see a service takes writing samples in your own handwriting and produces a letter that looks like you wrote it.

That would personally be horrifying to me. Imagine, someone can make it look like you said _anything_.

There are services that will take samples and make a ttf font. Here's one: https://www.calligraphr.com/en/

I run handwrite.io, which does exactly this!

Thankster.com can do this as well.

My Grandmother loved the physical paper mail I used to send to her back home in the UK from https://www.pc2paper.co.uk/

She commented once that it took almost no time for the letter to get from the US to her. That's because, of course, I just uploaded the PDF for printing in the UK.

Cost for taking a physical document and transporting it across the country to any arbitrary home or business in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, within about 3 days: $0.55.

Cost to print a text file, attach a stamp, and put it in a box outside to await the first company's arrival: starting at $0.97, and $0.47 for each additional page.

This website isn't new, as most comments say. However, I've been using in the past a lot of times and works very very well. In fact, I used a lot the option to add a return stamp so if the other person wants to reply (mostly offices), they don't need to pay anything.

I've created one similar service some time ago for Brazilian market called www.cartacarteiro.com.br however, after running it during some months with Google ads, the only visitors were my sister and some few friends. P.s. none of them paid a penny for the service at all.

https://hello.pixinote.com/ is a properly beautiful product in this vein, though input is restricted to a square-cropped photo and a few lines of text

I've been using https://www.mailform.io/. I see a lot more options on here. Which one is the best and why? To be honest, I just want the cheapest.

<shameless plug>

Thanks! Mailaletter.com is great, and we (Mailform) are a competitor. There's a few others you could check out:










sendovernightmail.com (also owned by us btw)

They're all pretty different along cost, features, delivery speed, etc. Cheapest probably depends how you define it (mailaletter is one of the cheapest if you're sending a single letter, click2mail is probably the cheapest if you're sending multiple, etc)

here to help, team@mailform.io :)

It looks like https://simplepostal.com is the best deal since it starts at $2.50 with tracking, for which most of the other sites seem to charge $5+.

This post makes me think of the Railway in US. So late compared to Europe haha.

There is also https://letterbug.co.uk/ in the UK.

I remember using this service to send mail to an incarcerated family member about 7 years ago. Works great with ASCII art too!

> ASCII art

I have the sudden urge to send a telegram and have it delivered by bicycle messenger.

Is there another service, where I get a PO box, and they automatically scan my mail and send me PDFs via email?

Too bad there's not a postcard option...

https://lob.com probably has what you're looking for. I've used their service for awhile and it's amazing.

Yeah I use Lob for a lot of my "write up a letter, print, and mail it with a written record of what I sent and when" correspondence. They make it super easy to send letters about as easily as an e-mail.

I am very clearly not the intended customer and appreciate that they're willing to take my business anyway.

I also used them for holiday cards two years back, which was

* Fantastic -- super straightforward to write up a small script to call their API and send 1 card to each person on our holiday-card list

* A little weird -- sending 70 holiday cards involved instructing their API to download an identical .pdf holiday card template from a remote server where I hosted that one file 70 times

* Cheap -- they printed and mailed glossy postcards at a very affordable price

* Ever so slightly disappointing -- we got to see maybe 10 of the actual mailed postcards from this run (on family's fridges, in the test copy we sent ourselves, and in the 3 or 4 postcards that we thought were addressed correctly but which were returned to us with an invalid address) and every single one of them had the same printing defect, what looked like a big scuff across a photo. Not sure what the deal was or why it was so consistent on every image. We didn't write in to support because I am pretty sure we are not the target audience.

Great service, A+, huge time saver vs. manually writing so many addresses, still a big fan.

Glad you like our service! In the future don't hesitate to reach out to us through support (I work at Lob)!

The scuff marks that you saw in your mail are most likely due to belt rollers in the USPS sorting facilities. We've tried a lot of different combinations of paper, ink and protective coatings to minimize the chance of mail pieces being damaged but we haven't found a combination that 100% removes the chance of damage during the USPS sorting process.

Throughout the mailing lifecycle a piece of mail will go through several sorting facilities. Each facility has similar sorting machines but they might be in different conditions. There's a chance that a certain sorting facility has machines with more worn out rollers that cause higher damage rates than others. This would manifest in mail pieces going to a certain zip code experiencing higher damage rates. For mail that is returned to the sender it has to go through even more sorting facilities (both when being delivered and back) that causes an even higher damage rate.

Here's a video showing you the type of sorting machines each mail piece goes through: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB7QOK1bd3U

I started this as a side project a while back and use it for sending postcards to friends and family: https://postcards.foundry.sh/

It runs on Lob, pretty much at cost (I don't really make money off of it, but it also doesn't cost me much money either).

I tried to do this about 12 years or so ago... domain was quickymail.com.... I probably gave up too soon.

It uses http, not https for this -_-

I like the idea!

No https?

That's a major concern. It's 2019, (almost) everything needs to be https.


Also there is https on the more sensitive parts of the site (login etc).

Doesn't matter, it needs HTTPS on the whole site. https://doesmysiteneedhttps.com

pretty meaningless when you can MITM the page and remove https from all the links

Can you? Please demonstrate.

This is one of the silliest arguments that comes up every time "SSL All The Things!" is discussed. The "you" in your story has to be both a Bad Guy and your ISP, and needs to come up with a way to sabotage a site that shows you cat pictures in such a way that it shows malicious cat pictures that somehow do anybody any harm.

So yeah, please MITM this site for us real quick so we can see all the Bad Stuff you're talking about.


The attitude of "it's cool, only use SSL for the sensitive parts" hasn't been true for a decade.

Again, that looks like it needs to be sitting somewhere between the end user and the webserver.

I don't disagree that it is possible to mess with http traffic in flight if it's not encrypted. I do disagree that a) there are bad guys between me and the http://catpictures.com right now and b) They have targeted me with malicious cat pictures that will cause damage somehow.

My sites that allow logins are all https only. My "cat picture" site is not. Because it doesn't need https.

Can you give a reason for not using https in the age of LetsEncrypt?

And yes, the point of MITM is that there has to be a malicious actor in the middle. This is mainly a threat when using public WiFi, like at an airport or a coffee shop. It's absolutely trivial for some bored individual to run SSLstrip for funsies and distribute malware through any HTTP connections.

Also, an attacker doesn't need to somehow create malware-infested versions of the cat pictures on your site. They only need to append some javascript at the end of your site's body tag, which again, is trivial for a script to do. And maybe a transparent image with the malicious payload should they have JS disabled.

To those wondering how they might protect themselves from these sorts of attacks when using non-SSL sites on public WiFi, this is where a VPN comes in handy. All of your connections will be encrypted and no longer vulnerable to MITM attacks.

I know you probably have a better understanding of how vpns work than I do, but the blanket statement that using a VPN makes your connections immune to MITM is not correct.

True, an attacker needs to find some other link between the terminus of your VPN and the target site to MITM, and true, those links are orders of magnitude harder to compromise usually.

But a VPN is not magic pixie dust that you sprinkle on your laptop and now you don't have to worry about security anymore.

Security is a battle with convenience.

Sure, it's technically possible for someone to pull off a MITM attack on someone using a VPN; perhaps there's an attack vector before they establish their VPN connection, or they've compromised the server running the VPN service, etc.

But that's probably only a threat to government agents and Snowden, whom have real fears of targeted attacks like that. For the layman, VPN pretty much is a magic pixie dust that will let you browse unencrypted websites with confidence that the pages won't be modified, and your form submissions won't be sniffable on your public network.

Of course, it won't protect you from sites that already have malware on them.

> I do disagree that a) there are bad guys between me and the http://catpictures.com right now

I don't know how one can disagree with something that can't be known one way or the other.

Security features/processes are there to account for the small possibility that an attack is attempted. They don't become useless simply because attacks aren't happening 100% of the time. For example: your door lock (deadbolt) is locked even when there isn't someone actively trying to break into your house.

In your particular example, sitting between A and B doesn't always mean sniffing packets you send from A to B as a "passive listener". It could simply be that the attacker has fed you his/her rogue IP via DNS and you are connecting to his server that is pretending to be B.

At that point yes the attacker is sitting between A and B, but it's not like s/he is sitting on a router sniffing your packets. S/he does not have to be a malicious player near the target server, or part of the infrastructure that you use to get to B. S/he can be somewhere completely remote.

It's not just about protecting sensitive information. It's about a litany of other reasons. Censorship, integrity, protect against tampering/malware campaigns, etc. These articles explain it better than I can.



The bad guy could be your evil sister on your home network. It could be anyone in your university. What if they replaced the like button under your cat photo with a like button for something evil? Or what if they put their own ads and tracking scripts into the page to make themselves some money? Lots of ISPs already do that on HTTP pages, so it's not just a hypothetical.

It isn't about cat pictures, it's about sending a message.

The message we need to send is that Internet traffic is private and encrypted by default. You don't "turn on" encryption only when you're doing something which needs to be hidden any more than you only use envelopes when you're mailing something which needs to be hidden.

Your letters to grandma are in envelopes, not because your correspondence with her is "interesting" in any real sense, but because letters in envelopes are the default. It's a social expectation, in other words, and we need to import that expectation to the Internet to the greatest extent possible, because the Internet is the new mail system, information hub, and everything else.

Plus, I really don't want to give my ISP any foothold to insert advertising.

Have you ever used a public wifi connection? It’s not “your ISP” it’s any random stranger on the same network.

If you really don’t believe this stuff happens, I’d suggest connecting to one of the many public wifi offerings in las vegas during Defcon.


I wish HN had a “Report comment” feature or something similar. I feel the mods do a good job of catching stuff like this, but it’s still kinda frustrating to not be able to do anything about bad-faith comments.

Click on the "n minutes ago" (or similar) link for that comment, then click "flag".

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