Steve Bogart,

bogart at


ArrowPost: Interesting, but...

April 12, 2000

I just heard of ArrowPost for the first time. Their idea is, you fill out a web form with a real postal address and your message, they'll print up a one-page physical letter, stamp it and mail it from a location closer to the addressee than you.

Interesting idea (especially for international mail), nice way to bypass a lot of bottlenecks, handy way to reach somebody un-wired without bothering to handle the atoms yourself, no idea if it works as advertised.

They charge $15 for 10 messages, with minor discounts for volume purchases. An example they give is a letter from Australia to Italy taking 2 days instead of 14-21. That's plausible, and a definite win (unless the recipient really wanted something in the sender's own writing on the sender's own paper and not an impersonal, typeset laser-printed facsimile).

If you're going to try it, I'd recommend sending a test letter to yourself first, to see what the physical artifact will look like and to verify the responsiveness of the system.

Things I wish were different:

  1. Where's a list of the countries they have affiliates in? You'd think that would be a Frequently Asked Question. For all I can tell from their site, they may just be U.S.-based and overly clever with marketing happy-talk. "Will my letter really get to Scotland faster if it's sent from a branch in Newark instead of from Missouri?"

    Their whois record lists someone in New Zealand, so that's a little promising. And I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it would be nice if they would list a few highlights, at least: "Canada, France, Egypt, India, China, Australia, etc.", say.

  2. They give unsuspecting users some Very Bad Advice on their Buy Stamps page. See if you can spot it. No, wait, that's silly. I'll just reprint it here.

    First they make you use your e-mail address as your login ID (a generally bad idea anyway; what if you drop that account?), and then they say:
    TIP: Use your same email and password as your Hotmail or Yahoo etc. so you dont forget it.
    Let's repeat that, shall we?:
    TIP: Use your same email and password as your Hotmail or Yahoo etc. so you dont forget it.
    While some folks do probably do this when signing up for web services (and there is an undeniable convenience bonus to it), it is a really really dumb thing to do. (Who do you trust with the password to your e-mail account??) The fact that they explicitly encourage people to do it makes me run screaming from the room.

    However honorable their staff may in fact be (and their Privacy Policy looks okay after a first skimming), saying "give us your mail account's password" means that no matter how many times they say otherwise, you can't be sure that Jeffy in the back room isn't reading all your private e-mail.

    Please, if you try the service, use something other than your real e-mail password.

So anyway. Interesting idea, but they worry me a little. Try it with your eyes open.

-- Steve Bogart,

Last modified on 4/12/2000; 11:11:48 AM Eastern 
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