Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not a Smooth Move: Postal Service Hides Change-of-Address Forms

The U.S. Postal Service has recently made it more difficult for customers to submit a change of address, even though reducing mis-addressed mail is one of the agency’s major strategic objectives.

“USPS no longer displays hardcopy change of address (COA) forms at its retail locations,” the Postal Bulletin stated in an issue released today. The Postal Service publication reminded USPS employees of new rules requiring them “to keep Mover’s Guide copies behind the counter so that they are inaccessible to customers without the help of a retail associate.”

“Customers who request a Mover’s Guide should be reminded of the convenient opportunity to submit their change-of-address request at www.usps.com,” the publication continues, failing to provide the complete Web address (www.usps.com/moversguide). Nowhere does it say to tell the customers that they must have a credit card or debit card and pay a $1 fee to submit an Internet Change of Address (ICOA).

Elsewhere in the publication, ICOA is touted as faster to implement, more accurate, more secure, and greener than using the traditional change-of-address form.

The "greener" claim is based solely on the fact that ICOA "eliminates the use of paper, thus preserving our natural resources" -- without mentioning the coal that is burned to power USPS's web servers or its customers' computers. Come to think of it, if we eliminated the use of paper, we wouldn't need to submit change-of-address forms because we wouldn't have much use for the Postal Service.

The Postal Service expects the policy change to increase ICOA by 25%, “generating about $2 million in incremental revenue.” There’s no mention of the cost of making more people stand in line at post offices or of having more mail not delivered to its intended recipient.

27 comments:

Postal Sanity said...

Good point with the increased customer inconvenience. And it is sad to hear that USPS was not able to supply a web address.

We wonder how USPS calculated the alleged $2 million savings. On any account that's nothing more than a drop on the hot stone.

We doubt this was worth the effort.

Postal Sanity

Anonymous said...

I tend to generally agree, deadtree.

My observation comes from the point that the Change Of Address cards come in an envelope containing (among others) advertisements from potential local businesses and government organizations. (You know, the "welcome to the neighborhood, may I help you?" - mail.

The Postal Service must eventually realize that offsetting costs by any means necessary would have a negative impact on the overall purpose. Since the COA advertising program could alleviate the costs associated with 'making it easily available to the public at large to freely fill out COA FORMS' -

deadtree, this time - I do not disagree.

OG

Anonymous said...

Most companies when you do some sort of transaction on line you get a break financially but not the brilliant Postal Service!

You would think it would be a cheaper transaction on line rather the form at your local postal office??

Anonymous said...

EVERYTHING at the USPS right now is being looked at through revenue-generation-colored-glasses, including trends of over-regulating and over-enforcing nit-picky, limiting rules. MERLIN verifications, Move Update regulations, etc. have all been designed and implemented under the guise of trying to reduce Undeliverable As Addressed mail, while the USPS is really looking at revenue generation from the penalties. Sort of like cops under quota pulling people over for going 68 in a 65. The Postal Service has abandoned everything else, and if they don't get back on track to being a service provider, they will not survive.

Anonymous said...

you all miss the point people dont know how to write anymore as a letter carrier with lots of apts. I have to fix at least 1 of these daily because of spelling errors or sloppyness. when done online it matches address with usps and people can see if they spelled there name right

Anonymous said...

If you go on ebay and type in home repair you will see where thousands of lowes coupons are for sale. People were coming into our office and taking handfuls of these. I even had a local builder come in and hand me about 50 packs he had taken the coupons out of and wanted me to give him some more. Why shouldn't the Post Office charge people when they move. A dollar isn't very much to have your first class mail with an old address sent to you for a year.

Anonymous said...

what about the people who do not have Credit Cards and/or a cumpurter? why do you think they came to the PO in the first place?? Now they have to stand in line and wait for a form that should be available without standing in line thus increasing waiting time for people buying stamps and other services.

Itcomes down to the PO is trying to get out of the morter and brick operation and only use the internet for services.

NOT EVERY ONE HAS COMPUTTERS AND/OR INTERNET SERVICE AT THIER HOME!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I recently moved and was going to just give in and use the online COA system, but ended up not being able to. In order to process the order, the billing address for your credit/debit card must match either your old or new address. But since all my bills go to a PO box, I had to go through a laborious process of entering my information on the website, printing a confirmation page, and mailing it to the USPS.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why, except the obvious reason, there is a dollar charge, but the CC/Debit is needed to verify the correct person is making the change. Sure, you can reverse it, but do you want the hassle of someone changing your address just to screw with you?

Also, the comment about more coal being needed to power the equipment. The equipment is already running and the "extra" power consumption, if any, is small. It is much smaller than all the energy and materials it takes to make and send paper around.

All this comes down to "change". People don't like change and when they get used to something for a little while, it'll be alright.

RH said...

As a postal employee, I have seen forms out in lobbys that have been used for scratch paper more often than it's intended purpose not to mention people stealing pens. All this costs money by which people don't understand. There is so much more to mailing a letter, for a measly forty-four cents, than people understand. The general public has no clue how the entire system runs and therefore can only comment negatively about the post office because it is the trendy thing to do. As for the $1.00 for submitting change of addresses, try comprehending this; it is solely for security purposes to keep joe blow off the street from falsely jacking with your mail. Hey, there's a thought. Think long and hard and speak for yourselves, people, rather than mouthing off without substance.

Anonymous said...

What the article failed to mention is that the $1 charge is not to gain extra revenue but to alleviate identity fraud. The customer can still print the form and make it available to his or her carrier or local postoffice. One of the main benifits of the on line Change of Address is that is eliminates incorrect addressing and zip plus for date which is important for faster delivery of your mail.

Anonymous said...

When folks fill out the paper card that the Post Office Provides many times we can't read what they wrote. Not only that but often the new address is wrong which causes many problems for us and the customer. When they do it on line the new address is checked right away to make sure this is a good address (zip, street, number, etc). When you do it on line it also gets into our system quicker. When you submit a card they are mailed to someone who must manually input each card which leaves even more room for mistakes. I only wish that we charged people to forward their mail...

Anonymous said...

Typical sleazeball USPS doings.

Purple said...

PART 1

I work daily with COA (change of address) cards and with COARS (change of address record system). Here is what I know can happen…

The information on the COA card enters the database through an optical character reader, not by someone looking at the card and typing the information in by hand. The forwarding information (names, addresses, start date, etc.) that is uploaded is only as good as what is entered into the system. Most people don’t realize that when they scribble their name or address on the cards. The first instruction on the card is “Please print legibly,” which is there for a reason is often ignored. Filers occasionally use red ink (the instructions state to use blue or black) which the red laser of the optical character reader cannot read on the card.

For automated mail sorting purposes, an address is like a phone number. If just one digit is mistakenly dialed when making a call, you do not connect with the person you are trying to reach. The same principle applies to a postal mailing address. If part of the address is missing or incorrectly written on the card such as a building or apartment or PO Box number or if a street name is misspelled on the card, the chances are that the mover will have big problems finding their mail. These are the mistakes I deal with daily. People will come to the post office to find out why they haven’t received their mail after they’ve filed a COA card. When I check the database I find that more often than not that the card had incorrect or missing information which was written in by the person who is now asking where their mail is. People love to blame the post office for their mailing problems, but this is just one example of how easy it is for the customer to cause his or her own headache.

The COA cards that are available at post offices are paid for primarily from the advertisers who include information and coupons that are helpful during the moving process. When I moved recently, I found a coupon inside my COA kit for 10% off at Lowe’s. I used the coupon to purchase home improvement items and racked up a savings of nearly $75 off my purchase. Sadly, while I was searching eBay for something, I came across someone who was selling hundreds of the very same 10% off Lowe’s coupons that came from the COA kit. I shook my head to think that someone had been taking the COA kits from post offices just to tear them open to get to the coupons so they could sell them on eBay. It appeared that others know the scheme as there are plenty of these coupons available on eBay which sell for an average of $.50 each and are usually sold in 10 count lots. It doesn’t cost anything for the COA kit so why not take 50-100 off the rack at the post office and sell them for a $25-$50 profit? So, now can you blame the post office for pulling the COA kits off the shelves and only handing them out when requested?

The revenue generated by charging someone’s account $1 for an on-line COA barely covers the cost. Of that dollar, at least 35 cents goes to the financial institution for processing the transaction. The other 65 cents is likely used to maintain the servers that store the information and send notifications to the old post office so their employees are made aware to forward the mail for the people who’ve moved.

Purple said...

PART 2

There are two big benefits for the COA to be filed online. First, a person’s identity can be confirmed by comparing the addresses to the credit/debit card account. This cannot be done with a COA card. Identity thieves know how to use the COA cards to transfer someone’s mail to another address without their knowledge. By the time a postal patron asks why they haven’t received any mail, the thieves already have their victim’s account numbers and personal information delivered to their hands and have vanished without a trace. Secondly, the post office has a database of every delivery address in the country. When a person enters a new or old address into the online form, it is checked against that database to verify if it is a deliverable address. This will, in most cases, prevent an undeliverable address from being entered and removing the risk of forwarding delays or missing mail.

I’m a witness to the havoc that is created by misrouted mail. It is without a doubt the leading cause of over due bills, missed opportunities, missing checks and other life affecting headaches. The changes the USPS have implemented by requesting their customers to submit their COA online or having to ask a postal clerk or their letter carrier for a COA kit may seem inconvenient. In reality, how petty is this argument when the benefits of this new service weigh in? A few of us old farts still remember full service gas stations, but I guess we eventually accepted the fact that we would need to pump our own gas if we wanted it. Learn to live with it because life goes on.

Anonymous said...

it might get in the system faster but it takes up to TWO weeks for the carrier to get their little yellow sticker...and then the mail still comes in the dps...and you've been delivering the mail (if it's a door slot and you don't know they've moved) and holding the mail for order if the box has filled up...meanwhile the residents are saying "where the hell is my mail??? i put in a change of address TWO weeks ago!!!! damn post office!!!" let the REGULAR carriers verify the change of address...sometimes we know the address better than the people moving in or out!!!) notify management to have it held out of dps and enter it!!!! DONE

Anonymous said...

UPS CAN ALSO DELIVER YOUR PACKAGE TO A DIFFERENT ADDRESS IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HOME TO SIGN FOR THE PACKAGE. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT THEY CHARGE YOU $6.00 TO DO IT. DO YOU THINK ONE DOLLAR IS STILL A LOT?

Anonymous said...

BTW, great thread so far!

In regards to coupons stolen from COA envelopes in the post office lobbies and being sold on ebay: I guess the postal inspectors have something they can go after and try to crack.

Most carries always carry a stash in their satchel and provide COAs upon request.

A COA is a simple form that should be easily available in the postal lobbies.

Undelivered As Addressed mail is a major discrepancy and costs the Postal Service quite a bit. COA cards should be easily available.

Cost-cutting measures are sometimes blind. I know one station where they ran out of COA pink cards for the last 60 days and did not order anymore due to budget restrains. The carrier needs to attach the COA sticker on the pink cards in order to initiate a "hold" until the mail flows (without mishaps) to the right mailbox.

If the Postal Service cannot accommodate those who still use a pen, then send'em online and try to charge'em a buck.

OG

Anonymous said...

As a rural carrier, I do not care for the ICOA. The carrier is the last to know that the customer has changed their address. Usually, we are notified several weeks to a month later that the customer has moved. During this time, we are either letting mail build up in the box, or returning it as "unable to forward". Even if we do received a paper COA, we do not have to honor it since we are not compensated during mail count for handling the form. We are to send it up to the Centralized Forwarding system. It's a screwed up system, but postal management has made it that wayl

Bring Back Common Sense said...

I'm a letter carrier and I carry COA's with me at all times. If a customer asks me for one, I give it to them and tell them about the on-line option. It then becomes their choice. Also, if the PO dedicated one line in the larger lobbies to just customers who wanted to pick up a package, certified mail or a COA or to ask a question, it would cut down on congestion.

Anonymous said...

My stash of COAs have been exhausted weeks ago, Nobody told us that it was policy to start withdrawing them. Do we still do this at the 1-800 ASK-USPS?

Anonymous said...

Their savings comes from closing the whole COA departments at each state's main plant..... MY JOB... As of this week I still have a job with the post office but no position.. The COA are being sent to Wichita and they have temp help doing them...By incouraging the public to do it on the net and closing the change of address departments in each state they will save big bucks I guess... Not to mention though slow service.. This will be about 15 to 20 hours to truck the change of address to be worked and a day or two to work and then truck it back out... They are really making the use of SNAIL MAIL.....THEIR NEW SLOGAN ???

Anonymous said...

Since many people lack access to a computer why not use the APC's to submit change of address requests. In many locations this can be done 24/7 365.

Anonymous said...

Oh cry me a river!! Any other complaints?

Anonymous said...

Not only do they charge a dollar for the online process, they charge one for each name. Indeed if you have a home business and anyone of a different last name living in your household, they charge a buck for each. Adding insult to injury, after doing so, they forwarded not one piece of mail. Several months later tons of stuff started popping up on my credit report. Bills of all kinds which I never received went to collections costing me my 800's credit rating.

Professional moving company Camden said...

Charging for each name is too much!Sorry for your credit rang.

Anonymous said...

This policy is garbage. I have several business accounts that I do NOT do online business with and I need to send each of them a simple address card. Now the post office no longer provides change of address cards so I'll have to go buy them somewhere else. Why have a Post Office if they refuse to provide basic services of a Post Office?