Chris Baus

Note to developers: not everyone has home mail delivery

I am fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world: Lake Tahoe. While living in Tahoe has significant benefits (while everyone is chained to their desks in the Bay Area on Wednesday morning, locals are are out tracking up the powder which will be gone by the time you get here on Saturday), it isn’t without its drawbacks. One of the most unusual, and often frustrating, is that there is no home mail delivery from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Everyone who lives in my area has a PO BOX that we must periodically check to receive mail.

That is the first drawback — we have to go somewhere just to check our mail. If you don’t check it frequently enough, your box will be locked when it is full, and you have to go to the counter during business hours to get an often not-so-friendly reminder to check your mail more often. This is especially inconvenient if you are a frequent traveler.

UPS is not part of the USPS

While USPS will not deliver to my home address, UPS and FedEx can only deliver to my home address. Not everyone knows the USPS and UPS (United Parcel Service) are two different organizations. I don’t know if UPS did this on purpose to lend credibility to their service, but the one letter difference in acronyms confounds many people including my parents (Happy Birthday Mom. Love you!), but they have figured it out now. Sometimes I will ask a vendor if an item will be shipped USPS or UPS, and the answer will be something to the effect of, “yes we ship with priority mail.” Sometimes they will say they will “mail it” to me, but “mail” is a generic term, and I have to verify if they mean UPS or USPS or something else.

Most of the time online stores will let you know what method will be used to ship an item and you can provide the correct address, but other times, especially when ordering on Ebay, either the shipping method will not be specified or it will be swapped. This also causes problems with PayPal address verification. While I understand the reasoning behind verified addresses, my PO BOX is verified, but my home address is not. That means that anyone that requires a PayPal address verification, must ship to me via USPS. Fortunately UPS and FedEx will reject PO BOXes, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Sometimes I provide my home address and the item is shipped via USPS, and eventually the item is sent back by the local post office — this can take weeks.

Address verification often fails

Companies which use a USPS database to verify your home address will often claim your home address doesn’t exist if you do not have home delivery from the USPS. The most egregious offender of this is AT&T. AT&T requires a physical address when setting up cell service or an Apple device with cellular access. iPad refuses to accept my home address as a valid address. The only workaround I could find was to provide the address of my local post office. AT&T address verification can actually prevent customers from setting up their service. What AT&T gains by verifying that my physical address exists escapes me, but I wish they would stop doing it.

The workaround that doesn’t work

The most common workaround for those who do not have home delivery is to provide both a home address and PO BOX. In that case UPS, FedEx, and USPS all seem to be able to figure it out. Unfortunately that doesn’t work for me because my home address is in a different zip code (differing only by an increment of one number) and officially in a different town, and most address entry forms do not provide for two zip codes.

A request

I have a request for developers who work with deliveries and/or address verification: allow me to provide multiple addresses depending on the method that will be used to ship the item. You will save those of us living in rural areas a lot of headaches.