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Moving and the Post Office

By lpp in Op-Ed
Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 10:41:08 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

We are a more mobile society today than ever before, with people moving more often and for reasons that would have given pause years ago. Yet we are also a more connected society, in every sense, communicating with more entities than ever before. Including through the postal service. Yet one problem that this brings about, particularly with regard to mail delivery, has only been getting worse and with no apparent means of correction in sight. This article has a decidely American slant, but only due to lack of familiarity with the postal services of other countries.

Recently in the U.S., a law was put into effect that was intended to provide more flexibility when switching cell phone carriers. You can now (theoretically anyway) switch cell carriers and still keep the same phone number, thus eliminating one significant hurdle (for some anyway) to switching carriers.

But what of your mail? Most people change places of residence from time to time and must go through the irritation of contacting each of the entities we correspond with via postal mail with our new address. Why must this be when the technology exists now to make this a non-issue?

Without getting into a history of the postal service, the problem comes down to the idea that mail is sent to a physical residence. Yet that's not really the intent. The intent is that the mail gets sent to a person. Where I live is simply an attribute of who I am.

What is needed, then, is a postal ID (PID henceforth). The PID would be linked to a physical location and to your name and identity in a database administered by the USPS. When you move, simply update the USPS database with your new mailing locale and the mail begins to switch immediately. You would be guaranteed not to miss any important mail due to the move and delays in receipt due to redirection would disappear.

This approach has other benefits too. Presumably such information as is kept in the database would be available only to USPS workers and authorized law enforcement personnel. As a result, gaining access to your PID would not be an immediate means of locating you, unlike gaining access to your normal physical mailing address. Thus anyone who is attempting to avoid an abusive ex-spouse, a stalker or whomever, would be able to use their PID on official documents and avoid exposure to searches that could turn them up.

This would be strictly optional. If a concern arises about cost, allow for an annual surcharge to keep your PID active. Beyond the initial costs to install and begin using such a system, the overhead would likely not rise greatly as the number of users in the system increased, whereas the income generated would rise directly, so presumably this would be a profit center, possibly providing a means to help offset deficits in down years and helping to keep postal rates stable.


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What do you think?
o Great Idea 38%
o Not bad, but I'd do it differently 21%
o A solution in need of a problem 26%
o Doesn't answer the problem at all 4%
o I haven't moved from my couch in...where's my toes? 9%

Votes: 88
Results | Other Polls

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o Also by lpp

Display: Sort:
Moving and the Post Office | 136 comments (109 topical, 27 editorial, 2 hidden)
I live in a van down by the river. (2.20 / 15) (#2)
by ti dave on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 02:56:12 PM EST

Would your plan help me?
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

Why not? (2.50 / 4) (#7)
by curien on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 03:20:41 PM EST

What do you use for your postal address? A PO box? If so, just link your PID to a particular PO box.

Screw teh tiger woods! I am teh Lunix Tarballs!
[ Parent ]
I suppose it would work. (2.16 / 6) (#8)
by ti dave on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 03:25:35 PM EST

I send all my manifestoes from Kinko's.
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Postal Box (none / 2) (#18)
by Ogygus on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 06:58:34 PM EST

Attach your PID to a postal box. Update as you move.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
Interesting (2.76 / 13) (#10)
by Politburo on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 03:45:08 PM EST

I live in an area of the city which is inhabited mostly by college students. Most students will only live in a place for one year, and then move on. At least 50% of all the mail recieved every day is addressed to a person who no longer lives at the house. Some of this is actually important mail: we've gotten many bills (and then collection notices), and actually recieved someone's class action suit payment.

college students (2.71 / 7) (#27)
by horny smurf on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 10:11:10 PM EST

When I lived in a dorm, a neighbor recieved birthday money addressed for last year's occupant.

Another neighbor had a free subscription to hustler.

[ Parent ]

They opened someone else's mail? (none / 2) (#66)
by CanSpice on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:01:17 PM EST

Isn't that a federal offense or something?

[ Parent ]
Not if you don't tell anyone. Shh. /nt (none / 3) (#85)
by truth versus death on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:48:15 PM EST

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
and if you (2.80 / 21) (#15)
by jann on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 05:11:06 PM EST

get mail through your pid that you don't want there is a simple process.

1. start up a new instance of the PID with the postoffice
2. log into the USPO's mainframe and
3. kill -9 the old pid

Last mile problem (2.33 / 6) (#16)
by bafungu on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 05:57:37 PM EST

"The System" would be able to forward said postage to the forward sorting area, but at some point a real, physical human postal delivery person is going to have to sit down to sort the mail to fit their physical route.

How are they going to do that if there's just a PID on the package or letter?

They know instantly whereabouts "49 Elm Street" goes in their route sort; "PID 896327197" is quite another matter.

Hmm, there's this gadget I heard they invented. (2.50 / 4) (#17)
by smallstepforman on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 06:55:34 PM EST

I think there's a gadget out there called a computer or database or something which can associate an ID and a file. What will they think of or invent next? Crazy world, I tell's ya.

[ Parent ]
What about the mail man? (none / 3) (#22)
by whazat on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 07:43:33 PM EST

Is the mail man going to have a computer to scan each letter?

One other possibility would be to have a machine scan and stamp the envelope with the postal address. Post marks seem to work although they can be a bit faint. It might have trouble with parcels with uneven surfaces.

I think one problem would be error in the the PID. If it out by a number it will take a wrong turn at Albuquerque and end up in spain. Now they just end up at your next door neighbours.

[ Parent ]

not true (none / 3) (#50)
by Politburo on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:02:04 AM EST

If it out by a number it will take a wrong turn at Albuquerque and end up in spain. Now they just end up at your next door neighbours.

That's if you're off by a number in the House/Apt Number. If you're off by a number in the zip code, or get the state identification wrong (ME, MA, MS, MI, MO, MN, all go to different places), it's not going next door. if you check your work, as you should already be doing, you wont have a problem.

[ Parent ]
Well (none / 3) (#55)
by whazat on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 12:05:44 PM EST

I don't know the USPS, but I am assuming if you get the zip code wrong they won't deliver it because the street doesn't exist in that zip code. This allows them to find the correct place to deliver it. There is redundancy in the address that allows error correction. I don't know if the USPS uses it, but I know that if you forget the post code it can still get to the correct house in our postal system.

You could include error-correction codes in the PID if you wanted to. That would be interesting research to do, finding the errors people are likely to make when writing numbers and devising a system to protect against them.

[ Parent ]

Where I live, (none / 3) (#58)
by metalfan on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:04:10 PM EST

(Presently a Canadian town of <5000) it is laughable how wrong addresses sometimes are but are still delivered.  I suspect it's because the posties tend to know the people on the route so it's fairly obvious who the mail is meant for.

For instance, my dad recently a letter with his name and street name both misspelt, and a postal code of "AOA OAO."

For anyone not familiar with Canadian postal codes, that's something you would type into the computer form for filler when you don't know the real code.  I.e. "123 Fake Street" or "555-1234."

[ Parent ]

Zip Codes (none / 3) (#97)
by Lemmeoutada Collective on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 10:20:59 AM EST

Zip Codes only work in a limited subset... try finding a Tampa Street in *ANY* Florida Zip and you will likely succeed. Or a Martin Luther King/Martin Luther King Jr. in almost any large city in the US...

I work in shipping, and most of the bad zip codes/addresses are handled quite simply... call the shipper/consignee and ask 'Hey, what is the correct address?'

No phone number available? Return to Sender.

Nothing fancier than a clerk and a phone.

[ Parent ]

Missed the point (none / 3) (#23)
by bafungu on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 08:30:37 PM EST

Currently, a postie sorts his letters by streets, because he knows the streets in his area by rote. Then he walks his route.

He does this sorting by glancing at all the addresses. Only a split second per letter. "Elm Street". Yeah, that goes over here, because it's the next block after "Reality Check Avenue".

So what if it's a PID? Useless. Now he would have to stop and look it up [whoops, the split second per letter is up]. And even then, now what? He's got an address on a computer screen. Now how does that get on the letter or package? The item is going to go into his satchel, so it goddamned well has to have the physical address on it at that point.

That's why I said "last mile problem". The physical address has to end up on the item at some point, and I don't see a cheap way of it happening.

Postal codes and zip codes were the final optimization. It ain't gonna get better.

[ Parent ]

not at all (2.50 / 6) (#30)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 10:26:05 PM EST

The *first sort* could attach this information. Then you only have to deal with exceptional cases of people moving between the first sort and the final delivery.

[ Parent ]
How? (none / 3) (#41)
by bafungu on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 08:48:38 AM EST

You're proposing a fundamental change to the postal delivery system: somehow automatically attaching a label to arbitrary items, be they envelopes, postcards, or arbitrarily funny-shaped parcels.

That's not going to happen for free.

[ Parent ]

yeah (none / 3) (#51)
by Politburo on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:02:45 AM EST

that's why he proposes a fee. also, labels are already attached to envelopes, postcards, and funny shaped parcels. It's called the postage and postmark.

[ Parent ]
But it already does. (none / 2) (#79)
by aphrael on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 04:46:49 PM EST

Every postcard i've sent to the US from Europe within the last five years has arrived with some annoying bar code slapped on top of the *image*.

But it would be totally reasonable to charge a fee for this service, so that's a bit of a non-sequiter. :)

[ Parent ]

Diebold Postal Database Computers (none / 3) (#125)
by opensorcerer on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 05:43:21 PM EST

...redirect all mail containing checks to the Republican Party headquarters.

Steve Arlo: There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys.
[ Parent ]
Welcome to the 1990s (1.14 / 7) (#21)
by caek on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 07:28:04 PM EST

Recently in the U.S., a law was put into effect that was intended to provide more flexibility when switching cell phone carriers. You can now (theoretically anyway) switch cell carriers and still keep the same phone number, thus eliminating one significant hurdle (for some anyway) to switching carriers.

Just for comparison.... (2.00 / 6) (#24)
by BJH on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 08:36:33 PM EST

...Japan has a system where you tell the Post Office your name, your old address and new address, and they redirect mail sent to you at your old address to your new address.

It's not perfect, but it does work reasonably well.

The main reason it's possible is because of the extended postal codes that the Japanese PO introduced a few years ago - the postal code now defines a region containing only a couple of blocks, so it narrows down the location considerably.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

You can do that here (none / 2) (#29)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 10:24:44 PM EST

Sorta; it's only good for a couple of months. During that time you have to notify your correspondents.

[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 2) (#33)
by BJH on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 11:52:03 PM EST

...the Japanese redirection lasts for a year from the date of application.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
he's not entirely correct (none / 2) (#90)
by Work on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:45:48 PM EST

Magazines will only be forwarded for 2 months. First class mail (normal, non-bulk mail like letters and bills) are forwarded for 12 months past the date you specify the forward to start.

[ Parent ]
except (none / 2) (#126)
by treat on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 06:32:51 PM EST

In the US, the forwarding rarely works. In my experience, the farther you move the better the forwarding works. Every time I have moved to a different state it works. Different address in the same state, 50% of my mail is forwarded. Different address in the same city, 10% of my mail is forwarded. Different address in the same building, 0%.

[ Parent ]
Its called a Post Office Box. (1.66 / 6) (#25)
by molo on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 08:47:14 PM EST

If you want to abstract delivery from your location, get a post office box like the rest of us.  Having another tracking number is not what I want.


Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn

Doesn't achieve the goal (2.40 / 5) (#28)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 10:23:54 PM EST

It's abstracted from your residence, sure, but it's still a physical location: a particular box at a particular post office in a particular city.

That's not the same thing as a portable ID that is rerouted automatically for you.

[ Parent ]

A solution - for a price (none / 1) (#73)
by bobpence on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:33:37 PM EST

Private mailbox storefronts proliferate. A private mailbox costs maybe as much for two months as a P.O. box does for a year, but it has certain advantages:

  • they can receive UPS and FedEx packages for you, which the post office will not
  • almost all of them offer 24-hour access, which few post offices do
  • almost all will forward your mail
But they will charge you for it. It can be quite reasonable if you move to the opposite coast for six months or so on assignment and have them send you your first class stuff once a week - maybe $15 to get it to you two days after it is sent. But what is does not do is impose the costs of your mobile lifestyle on the larger public.

And why should it? Addressing is not the issue with delivery, moving from the vicinity of point A to point B in a timely manner is.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]

Sure. (none / 1) (#78)
by aphrael on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 04:45:50 PM EST

But there's no reason why the post office couldn't implement a system where it knew how to map you to your current location but your correspondents did not need to. It wouldn't be particularly costly, even.

[ Parent ]
fourth horseman (1.09 / 11) (#26)
by daishan on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 08:49:43 PM EST

Yeah, lets number everyone and track where they are! Awesome idea! Can I tattoo the postal number (number of the beast henceforth) on all the christian foreheads?

Your plan might face a small but very motivated opposition.

naieve (none / 2) (#49)
by Politburo on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 10:55:13 AM EST

a small, motivated, and extremely naieve opposition, yes. simply put, you are already a number, and you can already be tracked. something like this would change nothing.

[ Parent ]
This is a fairly good idea (1.60 / 5) (#31)
by psidragon on Wed Dec 03, 2003 at 10:39:29 PM EST

The canadian postal system would benefet from this style of keeping track of people.
Curiosity is a great motivator. Fear is greater still.
Have you ever read Revelations? (1.00 / 16) (#35)
by templurkeracct on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 05:09:53 AM EST

Universal Identification Numbers are a sign of the coming Apocalypse. We already have one UIN with social security. We don't need another. I don't know about you but I'm against any action that will lead to the end of the world.
I was the original drduck back before mod-bombing was cool.
signs of the times (none / 1) (#36)
by lpp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 06:43:37 AM EST

As someone who most k5'ers would probably call a fundamentalist Christian, and therefore someone likely to be qualified to know what's a sign of the end times and what isn't, I can say with all seriousness that an optional number used to deliver your mail is nowhere mentioned in Scripture, probably not even in the Apocrypha.

So rest easy, I won't be introducing the antichrist or anything.

[ Parent ]

You lie! (none / 1) (#101)
by aphasia on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 12:57:38 PM EST

Satan is sometimes called The Great Deceiver because of his self-serving lies. I bet you would love for us to believe that an optional number used to deliver your mail is not a mark of the Beast; isn't that right, Satan?

"You have *huge* brass balls. Tex would be jealous." --ti dave
[ Parent ]

There Can Be Only One... Mark Of The Beast (none / 1) (#60)
by DLWormwood on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:10:22 PM EST

Universal Identification Numbers are a sign of the coming Apocalypse. We already have one UIN with social security. We don't need another.

Besides your oversight that the mark is supposed to encode 666 somewhere within it, an ID number ceases to be universal if there are many of them. We DO need "another" (and another and another) if you want to postpone the Tribulation.

The more different IDs there are, the less like any one individual ID can completely compromise your privacy, especially if you are paranoid and give slightly differing data and particulars for each ID.
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

I've looked into this idea. (2.50 / 6) (#37)
by rvcx on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 07:08:49 AM EST

I was actually trying to design a more community-oriented version of Netflix. If you're not familiar with the service, you choose DVDs from a website, and they are sent to you in the mail. You then watch them and mail them back.

One of the enduring problems of Netflix is that there is a lot of cost associated with its centralization. If two people want to rent the same DVD, then it it first shipped to one, who watches it and sends it back. Netflix must then receive it, sort it, and send it back out to the second. If your goal cost of rental is only only a few dollars, all this sorting and shipping makes a big difference. It would be much more efficient if the first person could just mail the DVD directly on to the second. For DVDs in heavy demand, this cuts shipping costs in half, eliminates sorting costs entirely, and probably increases the speed at which DVDs get to those who want them by another factor of two.

There are lots of details to address (you need close interaction with customers to keep track of user error and so forth), but most of them seem tractible. The real stumbling block I couldn't get around was confidentiality. Few users would be happy for everyone else to know their rental habits, and once you ask one user to ship to another you've effectively made all distribution information public.

The obvious solution is that it's the post office that's doing the distribution; users don't necessarily need to know where they're mailing things to as long as they get delivered. What would be ideal is if you could define an opaque identifier for a particular address that nobody but the post office could read. Ideally, you simply request a one-time identifier for your address, which is allocated from some large pool (a 128-bit space, for example), and anything sent to this address is shipped to you. This is certainly a feature beyond what the above story suggests, but it too is quite trivial to implement with modern technology; the post office is already doing the hard part of the work with automated address readers and sorting machines.

I wonder whether such a feature could also be promoted in the interest of public safety. Opaque addresses then allow fans to send fan letters without giving away information useful for stalkers, etc.

A PO box then? (n/t) (1.75 / 4) (#39)
by gordonjcp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 08:03:45 AM EST

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
impressive (2.50 / 6) (#59)
by rvcx on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:07:53 PM EST

I'm amazed by the number of people posting here who don't seem to have any idea what a PO box is.

It's not an "alias" for an address at all. It's real honest-to-goodness physical place.

It is very often nowhere near your home. It is something you rent on a monthly basis.

It is something only a small percentage of the population have.

Strictly speaking, it is not anonymous; the post office is not supposed to deliver mail addressed to a PO box unless the name on the mail matches the registered name for the PO box. (This rule, however, is routinely ignored.)

[ Parent ]

Erm, I know perfectly well... (none / 3) (#65)
by gordonjcp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:52:28 PM EST

... what a PO box is. The Post Office will hold your mail for collection. It is, to the general public, fairly anonymous since they only have a PO Box number and a Post Code - usually that of the sorting office holding your mail. So, if I had PO Box 31337, G11 1AA then all you'd know is that I had a PO box held at the Broomhill sorting office in Glasgow (that's not the right postcode). It's still fairly anonymous.
For a small fee, they will forward the mail anywhere I want.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
You realize.... (2.77 / 9) (#40)
by thefirelane on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 08:19:44 AM EST

you can fill out a form, tell them your old and new address, and they will automatically forward your mail.

They have them in a little "moving" packet at any post office. This packet also includes many other things designed to help with your move.


Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
Change of Address (none / 3) (#61)
by thejeff on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:10:52 PM EST

You realise that this form is also used to make sure that everyone who used to send you junk mail can still find you at your new address. And possibly new junk mail lists as well, depending on how you interpret the privacy policy.

[ Parent ]
lets think about this. (none / 2) (#88)
by Work on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:36:48 PM EST

okay so your junk mail then wont get forwarded (this seems weird, when i've changed addresses ive never had any junk forwarded to me EVER and ive had many addresses... i dont think forwarding applies to third class junk mail). You know something gets forwarded when you have that bright yellow sticker attached to it reminding you to inform the sender of your new address.

But, continuing on with your hypothetical situation... the junk you used to receive will continue to pile up at your old address for whoever moves in there next to deal with.

Which means whatever junk was for the previous tenant at your new address now goes to you.

Which means that your whole argument is pretty much bunk.

[ Parent ]

forwarding junk (none / 2) (#94)
by thejeff on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 08:10:25 AM EST

You're right, I'm pretty sure they don't forward 3rd class mail.
What I'm saying is that they will give your new address both to anyone who had your old one, including companies sending junk mail and apparently to mailing list companies who have registered with the post office for this service.

As you said, if you and the previous tenant both register, or don't register, maybe you'll actually get about the same amount, but you register and he doesn't, you'll wind up with both his and yours.

In addition, if, as I suspect, this can get you added to lists you may not already be on, the total amount of junk may increase.

Not complete bunk.

[ Parent ]

It's called.. (none / 2) (#123)
by hangareighteen on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 04:31:28 PM EST

...Form 3971.  Any mailing business,  and in practice this
includes junk mailers as well as business billing departments
and such,  can request to get a copy of your "change of address"
form.  Whenever a piece of mail from them gets sent to you and
needs to be redirected,  they put the yellow redirect label on
that peiece of mail,  then they make a photocopy of that mail,
and then send it back to the original mailer automatically.
This is a cheap catch-all solution that allows mailers to be
informed when an address has changed,  rather than waiting for
someone to send them back a separate change of address.  I
believe the fee is somewhere around .35 per copy that is
generated for them,  so generally you'll only find reputable
business doing this -- but it's a service available to any
mailer upon request.

[ Parent ]
helpful things for moving (none / 2) (#114)
by coderlemming on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 09:27:04 AM EST

Oh, yeah, I love that packet. You get all sorts of stuff, like a billion hours of free AOL, and coupons for all sorts of businesses. In fact, there's so much promotional garbage and such in the envelope, it's hard to find the actual letter from the post office.

Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
[ Parent ]
What do I think? (1.70 / 10) (#42)
by Talez on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:12:00 AM EST

I don't want to be a number.

Thats what I think.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

What? (2.75 / 4) (#48)
by Politburo on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 10:49:00 AM EST

That doesn't make sense. You're already a number in so many ways, for one. In terms of mail and addressing, you are also probably already a number. Don't know about you, but I live in an area where the houses are numbered on the street, so that it is easy to tell them apart.

[ Parent ]
guess you don't have a phone then (2.80 / 5) (#52)
by llimllib on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:31:44 AM EST

or a social security number, a user ID at kuro5hin.org, a credit card, or any of another of probably 20 numbers that identify you.

[ Parent ]
Mail Forwarding (1.83 / 6) (#43)
by theboz on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:21:14 AM EST

You can forward mail temporarily or permanently through the post office now. While I do get what you're talking about, it seems a bit pointless. If you're going to be moving around that much you should do like others have said and just get a P.O. Box. Besides, other than bills and junk, what do you get in the mail that would be worth it? Sure, I suppose you will get a Christmas card now and then or something like that, but you would likely tell those people when you move anyway. Your credit cards, the IRS, etc. all need to have your current address no matter what. Your power/water/cable/etc are only useful for as long as you live in that place of residence too. If an old friend wants to contact you, they're either going to use the phone or email. It's a lot less trouble and much faster.


mail forwarding is temporary (none / 2) (#47)
by lpp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 10:41:53 AM EST

Mail forwarding times out after awhile. This is intended to be as permanent as you wish it to be.

[ Parent ]
True, but it's not very practical (none / 2) (#69)
by theboz on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:20:32 PM EST

Particularly for people that live in apartment complexes, it could become a major headache. Imagine having 5 people residing per apartment in the past ten years in an apartment complex that has 200 apartments. That would be 1,000 permanent forwards just for those addresses. It could get even worse, because someone like myself would have had five forwards already in my adult life, and I'm in my mid-20's, and I am working on the sixth new place. Since I was a kid would be even worse, and would probably be about 20 forwards just for me, even though there are no more than three that would be relevent right now.

It's not like a computer, there is a much greater cost involved for permanent forwarding. It shouldn't be unreasonable to ask people to notify those who would send them mail within the span of a year.

[ Parent ]

possibly misunderstood (none / 2) (#76)
by lpp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:59:39 PM EST

The intent wasn't to have the mail sent to each location and rerouted to each. Rather to have a single point of contact where you change your address and the redirection just goes from there.

Take your example of having moved 5 times. Each time you move, your PID is reassociated with your new address. The old physical address no longer has any bearing on your PID. If new folks move in, that address gets routed to their PID. If multiple people live at an address (roommates in an apartment) each could have their own PID which would go to the same apartment.

I don't see how the PID concept would get too crufty after multiple moves.

[ Parent ]

Could be a private venture (2.66 / 6) (#44)
by CtrlBR on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:56:31 AM EST

And I think it already exists.

Just write to:

Remailer & Bros Co

And they put a nice sticker with your current real address on that and again through the USPS...

I even think that there was a company that was opening envelopes and scanning the content for web visualization. Dunno if it went bust or not.

If no-one thinks you're a freedom fighter than you're probably not a terrorist.
-- Gully Foyle

timeliness (none / 3) (#46)
by lpp on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 10:41:05 AM EST

I had thought about this too, but it lacks timeliness. Effectively, mail has to go through two steps to get to you, and if you just moved across town while the remailer is housed somewhere across the country, you are looking at two cross country trips for your mail to finally arrive at its destination.

I had considered just starting such a business myself but thought the USPS would be the ideal manager for this type of project.

[ Parent ]

Apocalypse!??! (1.09 / 11) (#54)
by cmavity on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:42:22 AM EST

Do you folks who believe in a literal Revelations-style apocalypse actually believe you're going to postpone the apocalypse by postponing the events that the Bible says are going to happen anyway? And isn't the idea that we WANT Jesus to come back soon?

If it's inevitable ... (none / 2) (#92)
by fae on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 12:41:20 AM EST

There's no need to worry at all. :)

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
Thank you for pointing out (none / 3) (#57)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 12:46:21 PM EST

the fundamental stupidity of phone # portability.

"Leftists believe they are the creators of a new world. They see themselves as godlike. That's why they are so rude and so dangerous" - D

I'm in favour (2.33 / 6) (#63)
by tiamat on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:30:02 PM EST

I've thought that there should be something like this for a long time. As a student moving every 8 months (or more often) and with no idea where I'll be come April of this year, I can certainly say that I would pay for a service such as this.

Why Canada is better than the USA (2.00 / 9) (#64)
by MichaelCrawford on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 01:37:26 PM EST

Canada Post will forward mail to the USA when a Canadian resident moves there, but the US Postal Service will not forward mail to Canada when a US resident moves to Canada.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

That And The Beer [nt] (none / 1) (#67)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:02:15 PM EST

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
What Monty Python says about American beer (2.50 / 3) (#86)
by MichaelCrawford on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:54:48 PM EST

It's like making love in a canoe.

They're both fucking close to water.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

Well, the Pythons never tried Dogfish Head... (none / 2) (#122)
by smithmc on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 03:58:53 PM EST

...or any of dozens of other great American brews. Bud, Coors, etc. ain't everything.

[ Parent ]
why (none / 2) (#74)
by bobpence on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:35:31 PM EST

would a US citizen ever move to Canada?
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
Shame on you (none / 1) (#77)
by Captain Jean Luc Picard on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 03:26:35 PM EST

There is no need to engage in non-civil discourse. I have never been to Canada myself but no doubt it too is an interesting and great nation. I have met many Canadians and they are fine, good human beings. Although the weather is not as pleasant in Canada, I am sure that nation has much too offer.

[ Parent ]
Just kidding the neighbors (none / 1) (#83)
by bobpence on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:22:22 PM EST

And I have been to Canada. Nearly got beat up by a street gang of 40-year-old white men in Toronto. But I still like Canada, and appreciate their support in Afghanistan. (I regret what I believe were the irresponsible actions of a U.S. pilot which lead to five Canadian deaths.)
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
Well my wife is Canadian, and other reasons... (none / 1) (#80)
by MichaelCrawford on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 04:53:04 PM EST

The main reason we moved is that my wife is a Canadian citizen, and she was homesick. She's actually from Newfoundland, but we moved to Nova Scotia, where she was a college student when we met in 1997.

But another reason I had few regrets about leaving the United States is discussed in my Advogato diary.

I admit that the patriotic thing to do when one's country is in trouble is to stay home and work to fix things, but I have my wife to think of. She is very nonpolitical, and the mess in the US isn't any of her quarrel. I can still write, and hurl my essays back across the border.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

Become a dual citizen (none / 1) (#135)
by DodgyGeezer on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:32:27 PM EST

On that diary page, you mentioned contemplating becoming a Canadian.  I don't think you have to renounce your American citizenship anymore.  Canada certainly doesn't require it, and I don't think the US is a concern anymore either.  I'm a Briton just about to fullfill the residency requirements, and I definitely will apply for citizenship.  Landed Immigrant status can be revoked if a border guard deems that you abandoned Canada (left for too long), but citizenship can't.  This gives me the freedom to go elsewhere for a few years if I desire (even if it's just to look after terminally ill parents).  It also gives me the right to vote and participate more fully in society.

[ Parent ]
Huh. (none / 1) (#84)
by grouse on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 09:27:15 PM EST

I moved to the UK and the USPS has forwarded my mail here. Strange.

You sad bastard!

"Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
[ Parent ]

I Wrote A .forward File And Left It In My Mailbox. (2.27 / 11) (#68)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:06:30 PM EST

...But I don't think my postie understood. Here I am all these months later and aught hide nor hair to be seen of my plain brown wrapped items. Grizzled piss-worm!

The obvious solution is better computer literacy programmes in our schools, libraries, public parks, homeless shelters and glass atria.

If people who work at the post office can't parse a simple plain text file, we need to use them as meat and hire smarter carriers, and we can broker no delay!

Thank you, and good night.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
Another idea (none / 3) (#75)
by ljj on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 02:56:27 PM EST

I had an idea a while ago that is similar to this, and in the heydays of the boom, I thought it would make a great dotcom - but you know.

My idea involved in you only having to fill out one form for the rest of your life. It would be a mother of a form, where you put everything and the kitchensink into it.

You're given a number and in future, when you go anywhere that requires you to fill out a form, you supply them with your number. The party requesting the information, is only given certain information that they need, so a set of data can be revealed to them. You wouldn't for example need to reveal your tax status to your doctor. This can then be easily updated, when you move you just change your address online and all your suppliers, clients are updated immediately.



Been Tried (none / 3) (#81)
by Valdrax on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 05:42:23 PM EST

It's called Microsoft Passport, and the only major difference between it and your implementation idea is how much data they are willing to give an interested party in a transaction.

[ Parent ]
Don't forget the (none / 1) (#91)
by whazat on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:53:47 PM EST

Lberty Alliance that is doing something similar.

[ Parent ]
Ah ha (none / 3) (#82)
by wrax on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 05:46:44 PM EST

And this database full of my life would be administrated by whom exactly? Would I have the ability to deny anyone access to this information? How would a court order be served to the people responsible for my information? What safeguards would be implemented so that some corrupt leader couldn't take undue advantage of my information?

No friend, Stalin wanted something like this to exist, we'd essentially have a 1984 even more like Orwell than we already have. On the surface it works as long as no one's crooked, but get someone in there with an adjenda and WHAMMO we're stuck with a regime that knows everything about us and then we need to get the pitchforks out and clean house.

But just so you know, I'm not crazy.

I don't know whats worse, the fact that people actually write this crap or the fact that people actually vote it up.
[ Parent ]

service already sort of exists. (2.33 / 6) (#89)
by Work on Thu Dec 04, 2003 at 11:44:48 PM EST

For magazine subscriptions, anyway.

OneSwitch will change your magazine subscription addresses with a single phone call.

Creates some new benefits/problems (none / 3) (#95)
by tordr on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 09:07:20 AM EST

This will be great. I have moved a bit these last years and I always forget to give some bank/ subscription/ insurance/ friend my new adress. This fixes the problem.
On the other hand when you move you dont tell spammers, people you hate, marketing companies your new adress and after a year you stop getting things from them. With the new PID number they can spam you for life.

don't posts offices in the US have a forward svc? (none / 3) (#98)
by xutopia on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 11:22:52 AM EST

they do in Canada and France! For a small fee they forward all your mail to another address within the country.

Yes (and its free) (2.50 / 4) (#102)
by Work on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 04:58:36 PM EST

apparently the poster is annoyed that he has to actually tell people he moved instead of having a computer do it for him.

[ Parent ]
yes, they do except they don't (2.40 / 5) (#103)
by massivefubar on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 05:56:57 PM EST

The last two times I asked the Post Office to forward my mail they did not forward a single piece of mail. Not one piece of mail.

What makes it more astounding is that at the time I was a much busier magazine writer than I am now and I would be getting stacks of mail every day.

The smart person will personally contact everyone who sends her a check and get that person to mail the checks to the new address. If your mail is important, I wouldn't care to rely on the forwarding service.

[ Parent ]

uh... (none / 3) (#104)
by TheBeardedScorpion on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 07:20:35 PM EST

You sure you are talking about the US Postal Service? I'll admit that their service leaves something to be desired, but I have never had any problems with their mail forwarding service. I have moved 8 times in the last 6 years (3 of those moves were to a different state), and I never had any problems with mail forwarding.

[ Parent ]
I had the same problem. (none / 2) (#106)
by lowmagnet on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 11:29:28 PM EST

I entered a temporary forward and a permanent forward to my apt and condo, respectively. They performed the tempory forward, but 'lost' the permanent one. It took me about a week to realize something was a little wrong.

[ Parent ]
3 Problems (none / 2) (#110)
by kerinsky on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 03:20:37 AM EST

Twice now my mail has been fowarded when someone else at my address moved out.  Each time I was over 18 and don't have a spouse so according to their rules nobody else is allowed to foward my mail but that didn't stop them from fowarding my brother's mail to me last time I moved either.

Each time we had to go to the post office and fill out another mail fowarding slip from the incorrect address it got fowarded to back to the original address.  Granted this could all have been caused by one stupid idiot who couldn't read a simple checkbox on the form since this was all at the same post office but that doesn't make it any less annoying when my paycheck is at 30,000 feet on it's way to Colorado when it should already be taning itself in my bank account in Florida.

[ Parent ]

Last few times (none / 2) (#118)
by kozmikyak on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 11:54:27 AM EST

the post office failed to get forwarding set up even incorrectly after multiple requests. There are several methods one can use (Internet, supplied form, telephone call, bitch at someone in person) and none of them had any effect at all on the ultimate destination of my mail. $DEITY help you if your address is incorrectly classified as business zoned in their databases, you'll never get them to even _pretend_ to do the forwarding.

[ Parent ]
interesting! (none / 3) (#105)
by relief on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 09:15:15 PM EST

a couple of interesting points

1) a hybrid system would be a better (one can choose to use a physical address). especially local mail for everyone in a residence area, advertising (to current resident), etc

2) interstate taxes, delivery time, and nearest warehouse issues require that merchants know the location of the PID.

3) points 1 and 2 kind of kill the anonymity factor.

If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.

not quite... (none / 2) (#113)
by coderlemming on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 09:11:02 AM EST

1) This is quite clear, there's no way everyone would switch to a PID system instantly anyway.

2) If a company needs to know this information, they simply need to ask it.  There's no reason it has to be retrievable by PID.

3) Point 1) doesn't, and 2) doesn't have to if we turn the equation on its head by making information available on an "opt in" basis.  Of course, there's nothing to stop companies from compiling databases that link PID to the information they've gathered (i.e. your name), unless, of course, we try to outlaw that.

Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
[ Parent ]

not quite... (none / 2) (#128)
by relief on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 07:55:28 PM EST

1) ur dead on.

2) Considering the amount of small businesses that might potentially need the address of a PID, it's not feasible to enforce anything but nominal anonymity.

3) We can't outlaw that. The best we can do is stop spam or door to door salesmen.

If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]

Two services (none / 3) (#107)
by levsen on Fri Dec 05, 2003 at 11:47:58 PM EST

While I absolutely agree with that sort of thing, in the meantime there are two similar services. First of all, plain old mail forwarding using a box at MailBoxesEtc (I have good experience with that), or something like ScanMe where they scan your mail an email it to you, thus saving the second leg AND making it very convenient for must-keep-everything maniacs like me who scan everything for archival purposes. I signed up for the latter recently after it was announced on the other site, but can't say anything about it yet.

Something more interesting with the PID thing is actually, that you can of course have multiple PIDs that all point to the same address, and can be revoked. That makes profiling companies that sell your address for junk mail impossible. I have no fucking clue why people don't get multiple email-adresses these days, email addresses ARE free, and I give out a separate one for each of my contacts, like the one above is only for k5 readers. The email gets then sorted (or blocked etc.) depending on the contact.

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

Separate email addresses (none / 2) (#112)
by Cameleon on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 06:30:11 AM EST

Sepatate email addresses are great for fighting spam. When you need to register, or sign up for a news letter or forum, just create a new address. I use sneakemail to create the addresses, since I don't have my own domain. They let you create unlimited addresses that are forwarded to your normal email, so you have to check only one email address. You can turn off any address you want, as well as filter them.

[ Parent ]
Sadly, i doubt it'll happen (2.40 / 5) (#108)
by milksop on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 01:12:04 AM EST

But it's a fine idea (having been burned by not really knowing the full set of mail senders that sort of really did need to mail me, and thus not updating them).

I think it'll be more likely that Fedex/UPS/etc. does this first. They're already mostly(?) in control of the addressing process, and I get the impression that they're more into the whole "COMPUTAR" thing as far as processing, directing, and what have you. It's too bad the mail service can't really go out of business, otherwise there might be more incentive for couriers to work on prices for letters in the $0.50 to $1.00 range.
i make games.

Can't go out of business..? (none / 2) (#111)
by Alannon on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 03:42:17 AM EST

Well, actually, they probably can. The USPO is actually just a non-government corporation under contract from the government. My guess would be the government would bail them out if they got into any serious hot water, but I think it's still possible.

[ Parent ]
Hm, not quite... (none / 2) (#121)
by RadiantMatrix on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 03:06:24 PM EST

The USPO is actually just a non-government corporation under contract from the government.

Well, the USPS is a government agency, and its employees are considered government employees.  They are also subject to very tight government administration: they have to ask for rate increases, for example.

However, you are right in asserting that the USPS receives no public funding - they are completely self-sufficient.  And, you are probably right that public funds would be used to bail them out if they got in deep enough...

I don't like spam - Parent ]

The problem with privatization (none / 3) (#119)
by ghjm on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 12:34:39 PM EST

is rural areas. The USPS serves a lot of customers who are far away from any post office, and it serves them for the same price as everyone else. This loses money, so an unregulated private carrier would have no incentive to continue this service. So if we privatize the mail service, we are doing away with the nationwide single price, and the system that subsidizes rural residents at the (slight) expense of the cities. Whether this matters or not depends on your perspective.


[ Parent ]

yup. (none / 3) (#124)
by waxmop on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 05:14:32 PM EST

People consistently overlook that dirty little aspect of privatizing the usps. In order to have a functioning democracy, citizens have to be informed. For the fist part of US history. the postal service was the only communication that people outside of cities had with the rest of the world. Raising their fees would effectively disenfranchise them.

I wish the postal service stepped up and provided dialup email service for everybody, but lobbyists shut all those ideas down.
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

Bring it on (2.42 / 7) (#109)
by SearchEngineZ on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 01:15:22 AM EST

My business depends on cheques arrivng in the mail. Here in Australia we have the option of paying the post office to forward mail to your new address. I paid them for 6 months, which is hopefully long enough to change my address with 100s of companies.

Problem is, on occasion I have checked the mailbox in the old place (no-one living there, up for rent, but still against the law to do so...), and I've found a piece of my mail sitting there!

PID is a lovely idea, can't see any faults.

No thing more excellent nor more valuable than wine was ever granted mankind by God - Plato

Has some one managed to hack the voting system? (1.80 / 5) (#115)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 10:20:25 AM EST

I know I didn't vote to FP this thing - but that's what the record says.

"Leftists believe they are the creators of a new world. They see themselves as godlike. That's why they are so rude and so dangerous" - D

What an amazingly stupid idea. (1.28 / 7) (#116)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 10:21:50 AM EST

Yeah, let's add yet another half-baked abstraction layer to the process.

People have survived without this for hundreds of years. Just because you're to lazy to fill out change of address cards does not make this a problem akin to cancer.

"Leftists believe they are the creators of a new world. They see themselves as godlike. That's why they are so rude and so dangerous" - D

You assume (none / 3) (#117)
by kozmikyak on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 11:51:03 AM EST

that the post office can be bothered to follow its own address change procedures, whether one tries on the Internet, in person, over the phone, or with the conveniently supplied address cards. My past three moves have gone without any notice from the post office despite numerous efforts to inform them with the above methods. So the current abstraction doesn't work. If the abstraction were changed to something like this maybe there would be a chance for them to shape up their recordkeeping. In the worst case, they mess it up for millions of people, where the problem would become visible and therefore fixable.

[ Parent ]
On the contrary (none / 1) (#132)
by mcherm on Mon Dec 08, 2003 at 08:23:56 AM EST

I think it's a well-considered idea. "Half-baked"? Well, there are a few details still to be worked out -- can you change PIDs? Can you have multiple PIDs? Who is allowed to do reverse-lookup on PIDs (find the physical address given a PID)?

But no matter how dilligent they are about filling out change-of-address cards, I still can't sent mail to people I knew in High School but have lost touch with. The post office will only forward for about 1 year -- and with good reason... trying to forward from every address someone had ever lived at would be a nightmare.

The key idea is that much (not all!) mail *is* intended for an individual, and yet we don't specify the individual, we specify some location. There's room for improvement. Besides, hundreds of years of experience is not relevent, because such a system would have been impossible until the advent of computers capable of managing a database of this size.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

how it works elsewhere (none / 1) (#120)
by chimera on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 02:11:46 PM EST

it is in fact appalingly simple.

All nation inhabitants have a registered home address (which in special cases - such as inmates, non-citizen refugees, elderly sick - can be a non-home address) which is kept by a government agency, in my case it's the equivalent of (US) IRS.

when moving, register for free (in fact you are required to re-register) a new address with this agency which then updates it's rolls (the Single Adress Registry). This agency runs a update subscription service for large outfits such as banks and insurance, other government agencies, schools, health care, almost all larger employers and other organisations that automatically thus recieves updated adresses for almost all their customers and otherwise human resources (btw, this service is agreed upon when becoming a customer, so it's a no-brainer on privacy).

thus, most important postal mail a person gets is automatically redirected by the system itself within a few weeks at most.

as for other postal mail (including above important ones), register a new address and start date for ten US bucks with the Post Office and get one year of redirect sticker on all postal mail sent to your old address. this gives you one year leverage on updating other people's address books and records.

how hard is this to come up with?


americans and nation building? bah! start at home with postal mail adress stickers.

theory != practice (none / 2) (#127)
by izogi on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 07:46:29 PM EST

It's a neat logical idea in theory, if you temporarily ignore any privacy concerns that some people may have. In practice though I can imagine quite a few problems unless other dramatic changes were also made to the entire postal system.

Firstly, the current address system is an international system that's generally used everywhere. Changing it in some places but not others would cause problems, although you could probably kludge the name as part of the address field. Also, simply in the US and other developed countries, keep in mind just how much of the existing infrastructure relies on people having addresses. Someone's going to have to go back and figure out what all those old COBOL programs do, for one thing.

Secondly, as you're proposing a lookup database for hundreds of millions of people, I presume you're envisioning computers and machines to be involved somehow. Obviously trying to expect people to look up that sort of information quickly is very impractical.

From the few month's experience that I had with a holiday job in a mail sorting centre (not in the US) several years ago, a large amount of mail is still hand-sorted for a variety of reasons.

We had OCR machines to do a lot of the work. Sometimes they misunderstood all of the ambiguous suttleties that people use in writing addresses, and that wouldn't be an issue if a name identifier were used instead. There were several other main problems that meant hand-sorting was still required though, including:

  1. In the case of hand-written addresses, people's handwriting is often simply awful. I'm sure that if people realised that their letters would get delivered more quickly and reliably if they'd just print clearly on the envelope instead of scribbling, then most people would print clearly. As it is though, most people don't, and the machines dump a lot of letters into the reject bin for hand sorting afterwards.
  2. Many letters and packages simply don't fit into the machines. These machines get through tens or hundreds of thousands of letters in an hour, but there's also a large variety of shapes and sizes of things that people send. People put all sorts of weird and crazy bulky things inside envelopes besides paper, and the OCR machines can't take all of them or they just get jammed. Those that won't fit also go to the hand sorting areas.

At some point during the process, your real address is probably going to have to be stamped onto the letter. (The postie needs to know where to finally deliver it.) The OCR machines could presumably do this, but it could be more problematic with hand sorting. Even if they have a hand-held device that they somehow enter the number into for an attachable label to be printed, it's going to slow down the hand-sorting process hugely. Having the address already written on the envelope by the sender at least allows an experienced hand-sorter to glance at and throw it in the right box very quickly.

I'm just speaking from a few months temporary work in a non-US mail sorting centre. I'm not currently a postal worker though, and I think it'd be great in theory for something like this to exist. On the other hand, it seems like there would be a lot of practical problems to overcome before implementing this -- it'd be a bigger change to the infrastructure than what initially appears. If anyone in a better position to do so would like to claim otherwise then please do so.

- izogi

Some suggestions if it's ever implemented (none / 1) (#134)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Tue Dec 09, 2003 at 11:32:11 AM EST

Use OCR and machines to do the bulk of the work for regular envelopes.  For anything too big, create a scanner that is also a stamp.  It scans the number, then configures the stamp with the related address.

I'm not an expert in OCR, but I suspect that it should be more reliable when it's only expected to recognize 10 characters rather than 36 (letters + numbers).  And anyone who just scribbles down a number and pops it in the mailbox will get their mail returned - people would learn rather quickly to have legible numbers.

I also can see this saving some money.  If you encode some other address information in a barcode along with the address, machines could do the sorting most of the way (maybe this already happens, I don't know).

Bear in mind that this wouldn't be a replacement for the existing system.  It would be *on top*.  Just like touch-tone systems were built on top of pulse systems (and just like touch-tone users were (are?) charged for the added ease of using a touchtone phone).  Regular addressing methods would still work in perpetuity.

There are certainly some issues to work out, but I can't see any showstoppers, and I think the suggestion has a lot of merit.

[ Parent ]

my moving stories... (none / 2) (#130)
by bigbigbison on Sat Dec 06, 2003 at 11:32:27 PM EST

Two years ago I moved and suddenly the post office at the old town decided to start forwarding me the mail of someone else with my name including this guy's bills.

I recently moved again.  I moved from my parent's house, so i didn't bother to fill out a change of adress form at the post office.  Well despite the fact that I was getting bills, magazines and all sorts of other mail, the post office in the new town would not deliver my mail and marked it return to sender.  I had to talk to teh post office two times before they started delivering my mail.

Of course my problems with the post office are nothing compared to my issues with phone companies.

Once a guy in town with my name opened up a store.  I got at least 3 telemarketers a day trying to give me small business credit cards and store fixtures and whatnot.  The only thing worse than getting telemarketing calls is getting telemarketing calls that aren't even for me.

Now, despite the fact that I have had this number for more than 3 months, suddenly I am getting calls from bill collectors looking for some deadbeat who apparently had this number before me.  Of course they love to call at the crack of dawn every damn day and as hang up before i even get a chance to tell them that the person they are looking for doesn't even live here.

Daft (1.75 / 4) (#131)
by toychicken on Mon Dec 08, 2003 at 04:36:16 AM EST

  1. This might be fine until you get down to the poor postman, who, looks at his letter and it says 'PID5748945Q' and thinks 'fuck that, I can barely be bothered to deliver this anyway, I'm not going back to the van to check which address this is for' ('cos he surely doesn't want to carry some cumbersome PDA-type thing as well as all the post!)
  2. What about addresses that don't have any one person necessarily associated with it. Like companies, or charities?
  3. Er, not much use to me, when I apply for that credit card, and they want me to prove that I have been living at one address for 3 years... (this is UK, perhaps it's done differently in the US)
  4. Sorry, this is just adding more complication in a world where some people can't even be bothered to write on a post(zip)code. If I can't remember where a friend lives... I just phone them on their personal id code (sorry I mean mobile phone #)

- - - - - - -8<- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just how many is a Brazillian anyway?

You've kinda missed the point... (none / 2) (#136)
by Lord Snott on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 12:43:08 AM EST

I'll address each issue you've raised.

1. I doubt the postman would see 'PID5748945Q' on a package. Thats what you or I would write. When the package gets to the mail centre, I'd guess a machine would convert the PID to an actual address, and print it on the front. Mail then is delivered as normal.

2. Why couldn't a company have a PID? I address mail to "National Australia Bank" and "Actew AGL" now - how would mailing a company be different with a PID?

3. Not much use to you, granted. Great use to me, and most of my friends. I've lived in 10 different locations here in Canberra in the last 11 years. In the last 29 years I've lived in 14 different locations over 3 cities (well, two cities and a town).

4. They wouldn't have to write on a postcode any more. No more name, address, town and postcode - just a single PID. Loverly!

This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

It just worked. (none / 1) (#133)
by nutate on Mon Dec 08, 2003 at 12:04:59 PM EST

I followed the USPS instructions on the web site, and I was good to go. They even forwarded my mail for longer than they said they were going to.

Moving and the Post Office | 136 comments (109 topical, 27 editorial, 2 hidden)
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