Snail mail blues: Temporary change of address = Almost no mail for a month

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

USPS temporary forwarding = total crapshoot

Although I live in Boulder, CO, I’m currently spending a few months with friends in Oakland, CA. So just before I left Boulder on Jan 6., I went to my local post office branch and submitted a form for a temporary change of address. That was the only option they mentioned at the post office, and it seemed like it made sense.

Nearly a month later, very very little of my mail has gotten forwarded so far. It’s starting to freak me out. Most of my clients pay me by check, and I haven’t been receiving most of the checks sent on outstanding invoices. I am running out of cash, and it’s really pissing me off. Plus, this is the month that 1099 tax forms get sent out.

I expected some delay in receiving my forwarded mail. The US Postal Service says to expect a delay of up to 10 days. A couple of days after I arrived in CA I did receive a confirmation of mail forwarding via snail mail from the USPS, so I didn’t worry. By Jan 15, I started receiving a few pieces of mail — some Netflix DVDs, some junk mail, and a couple of small checks. I figured the rest would be coming.

Today — Jan. 27, nearly two weeks later — I’m still receiving only a trickle of mail. Today I called my local post offices both here in Oakland and back in Boulder. The Boulder postal clerk confirmed the forwarding order, and explained the continued delay:

Get this: The USPS must generate and apply forwarding labels manually (!!!), which according to the clerk I spoke to can causes delays in delivery of up to a month!!! Nowhere — not at the post office, on the forwarding form, on their site, on their information line — was I informed of this. Yeah, I’m annoyed…

Allegedly I will soon be receiving a big bundle of accumulated forwarded mail “any day now.” We’ll see if that happens. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’m truly regretting my decision to file a temporary change of address. I wish I’d just worked something out with a reliable local friend to handle my mail for me.

Looking around on the USPS site, I see they offer a paid service called premium forwarding — which I’d never heard of, and which was not mentioned at the Boulder post office branch. It’s not cheap: $10 enrollment fee plus an $11.95 weekly reshipment fee. What do you get for this?

“Most mail is forwarded once a week via Priority Mail®; some mail is reshipped separately, but immediately upon arrival at the primary address.”

…In other words, all they’re guaranteeing is that most of your mail will get to you in a weekly bundle. For $12/week, plus a $10 enrollment. Nice scam.

Still, considering the alternative situation I’m now facing — i.e., not getting the vast majority of my mail, with no guarantee of when it will arrive, and meanwhile I’m running out of cash — maybe premium forwarding would have been a slightly less Kafkaesque option? Maybe I could switch to that now? No dice. The USPS FAQ on premium forwarding notes:

“Customers with an active Hold Mail or Change of Address on file for the same primary address that would be used for Premium Forwarding Service are not eligible to participate in PFS.”

So unless I want to cancel my temporary change of address and enroll in premium forwarding — and causing who knows what kind of further delays and chaos in the process, and hope that the PFS service does indeed work (which is suspect) — I think I need to just sit tight and hope my mail does arrive, manage my cash carefully, and temporarily dig into savings to pay bills  if needed.

All of which, as I’ve mentioned, really pisses me off.

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12 thoughts on Snail mail blues: Temporary change of address = Almost no mail for a month

  1. Thanks Stephen. Aaron Bailey just recommended (via Twitter) EarthClassMail, an online forwarding service — but I’m wary of the privacy and security of such third-party services. Seems like yet another route for identity theft. But still worth investigating, since the USPS status quo is obviously not working.

  2. Amy,

    Very sorry to hear about your troubles of woe! Though our postal service isn’t perfect (who is?), we love them all the same. It’s an unbelievable logistical challenge, considering the US carries one-half of the entire mail volume on the planet! Change of Address issues are especially troublesome because of all of the complexities of the system.

    I can confirm that when you fill out a temporary change of address form, your mail still gets routed to your “Home” post office. The carrier who delivers your mail does have to print up the yellow forwarding stickers, apply them to your mail and send them back into the USPS routing system. In my experience (and I have quit a lot 😉 I have seen mail take anywhere from 4 to 28 days of extra time to arrive at the final forwarded destination. The easiest way to figure out how long it has taken is to compare the date on the stamp cancellation to the date on the yellow forwarding sticker; that’s your delivery delay. The cancellation date is located near where you might affix the stamp or where a postage machine would have left its indicia.

    Another thing to be aware of is that unlike a permanent change of address, mail of certain classes with certain types of endorsements are not forwarded under a temporary COA. I know that items that are endorsed “DO NOT FORWARD” (credit cards, etc.) are never forwarded, so you might want to keep a close eye out for those 1099’s. Because they have financial info, the sender will sometimes endorse with a DNF or “For Addressee Only”.

    Not sure if you’re still away, but if we can help you tame the issue with a virtual PO box on Earth Class Mail, let us know if we can help!

    Best wishes,

    Nate DiNiro
    Community Manager
    Earth Class Mail
    TW: @earhtclassmail

  3. Hello again Amy!

    I just noticed your comments regarding concerns about identity theft. Earth Class Mail goes to extraordinary lengths to insure that our customers information is safe and secure so that online postal mail can be a truly attractive alternative to ordinary PO boxes or mail forwarding services. Earth Class Mail actually makes it much, much harder for anyone to steal your identity because your mail is locked-away in our secure facilities, as opposed to sitting in your mailbox when you’re not home. Not even locking mailboxes can prevent a determined thief with a crowbar from stealing your mail with those checks and identifying documents.

    While I won’t bore you with all of the details, I will say that we spent the first 2 years designing the service and security protocols before opening the doors to receive one piece of mail. Earth Class Mail also consulted with insurance and financial security industry experts as well as the FBI cyber-crimes division to insure that our security was top-notch. Rest assured that that enterprise companies and governments that we work with would not do so if they were uncomfortable with our security measures.

    I hope this sheds a little light on things for you, and I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have.

    Warmest Regards,

  4. I don’t understand about the us mail. There should not be a delay in the sorting and delivery of the mail system. The US mail Department has been on the automation system long before computers ever came into being in households and a lot of business. Mail is being delivered to the wrong people all the time. The address is printed on the envelope or package very clearly but yet it is delivered to the wrong address or person. As far as the postage always going up,, they say it is because tghey are having to compete with the Email system on the computers. I don’t feel that this is entirely true. If the USPS did not make so many mistakes they would not have to compete with the email system Where I live I can mail a letter to someone in my town and it takes three days for them to get it. But let me mail a letter across the country and and they get it in two days. There are many things that the USPS needs to work on. Sure it is faster to do email and the post office should take this into consideration the amount of time it takes to be able to get a letter deliverred.

  5. ok so im in the same situation. I submitted a change of address over a month ago in thronton co. i have been getting fordwarded mail already BUT my employer didnt make the change and sent my personal check to the previous address. of course now its getting fordwared- i would get my check with no questions asked Thursdays. Now tomorrow is wednesday- almost a week after and no check! i am pissed. my old address is not even 10 min away from my new address.!! why the long long delay. i called and they said it should only take 3 days or so.. of course now im sitting here wondering if i dont get it tomorrow, i will report the check lost/stolen to my employer and wait another week or whatever to get another check sent out to my correct address!! I dont know why they make us go thru all this. Why cant i just drive to the usps office and pick all my mail up with my id?? why the long delay? very upset

  6. I can confirm that when you fill out a temporary change of address form, your mail still gets routed to your “Home” post office. The carrier who delivers your mail does have to print up the yellow forwarding stickers, apply them to your mail and send them back into the USPS routing system. <<<<

    Really? Where can you confirm this? To perfectly honest with you, after the forward order has been processed by the Computerized Forwarding System the mail is no longer routed to the carrier of your old address, but is processed and diverted to the new one. I can confirm this, because I am a carrier.
    Sometimes a little communication with your new carrier is warranted. They don’t know you’re there unless you tell them.

  7. Is it legal to receive mail at a friend’s house? If I am visiting for a few months — for instance — is it okay to put my name on the mailbox there, or to put an extra mailbox on the building so I can receive mail privately?

  8. Another question regarding forwarding within small local Post Offices with no street delivery, just interior P.O. Boxes:

    Is it the local Postmaster who puts on the sticker, and if there are no external carriers, just puts the mail in the mailbox? If so, why does it take up to a week for some of my mail to get into my Post Office mailbox?
    Thanks for any answers given!

  9. I travel for months at at a time in my RV and have had mail forwarded to a virtual mail service. I put in a new temporary forwarding address twice a year. I haven’t looked at the dates to check the delay, but I’ve never noticed anything like you describe. It takes a week or so for things to get going, but after that it seems that the mail is delivered within a week of when I would have received it. When you go back home, things will switch much faster (since the mail is still going there first).

    I don’t think the local mail people are applying the labels, I think they are applied at the city’s central post office. I assumed that they were applied by machine. I’d be very surprised if it’s done manually (although, now that you mention it, they’re often on crooked).

    BTW, I was using Earth Class Mail, but switched when they raised my rate by 400%!. I assume that they are losing massive numbers of customers and I don’t expect them to be around much longer.

    A virtual service only makes sense if, like me, you will be filing multiple temporary forwarding forms over time. The service I use costs about $10 a month, but I pay all year long whether the mail is being forwarded or not because they’re really not set up to have you start and stop.

  10. I’m a freelancer who just moved to CA from GA and the same thing is going on with me right now how long did you have to wait.

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