Kevin Hunt: Where's My Mail? She Blames USPS For Change-Of-Address Changeup


A change-of-address form at the local post office and missing mail left a Groton woman wondering, "Is It Just Me?" (She must have known that no question is too small for The Bottom Line.)

Q: "I moved from an old house in Old Lyme to a condo in Groton . . . the closing on the house was May 29 and the closing on the condo was the next morning. As of [June 25] I have had only five pieces of mail and none of my magazine subscriptions. Old Lyme lost my first change-of-address application and I wrote another."

Lee White, Groton

A: Some studies suggest moving is the third most stressful event after a death and divorce. So let's pause and drop into the Savasana (relaxation) pose. Exhale. Now we can contemplate what might have happened.

The Postal Service, at The Bottom Line's request, reviewed White's change-of-address filing and found a couple problems. The original form, USPS says, was not completed correctly because the new address included two possible condo unit numbers.

"Unfortunately," says Christine Dugas, a USPS spokeswoman, "a Change of Address must be accurate for the automated equipment to be able to capture the new address."

The form, says Dugas, also was completed the day White moved.

"It takes up to two weeks for the Change of Address to move through the system," says Dugas, "so we advise customers to put the [form] in as soon as they know their new address."

The Postal Service says White subsequently filed a second change-of-address form with the correct information, then a third form to forward mail for her family. (White says the Post Office told her it lost her first completed form, so she filled out a second one in mid-June. She says she did not fill out a third form for her family — she has a daughter in Phoenix.)

"So there could have been a delay since the machine would see the first forward, then would forward it again for the second and so on," says Dugas. "I understand it is corrected now so things should go more smoothly."

The Postal Service forwards magazines and periodicals only for a limited time. Customers are expected to notify the publications directly when they change addresses. And some mail, says Dugas, is endorsed as Do Not Forward when the sender wants to know the new address.

"This is common with government correspondence and bills," says Dugas.

Aside from the familiar change-of-address forms at the local post office, customers also can notify the Postal Service by filling out an online form at moversguide.usps.com or usps.com/umove. (USPS charges a $1 fee for address changes made online.) Mail is forwarded for up to one year.

Do not try to make an address change online by typing "address change" into your browser. You might land at a site like Change-My-Address.com, which agreed in May to pay back consumers $3 million for failing to disclose $19.95 in charges for its change-of-address services.

People who visited the site thought they were at the USPS change-of-address service. After visitors filled out the address-change form, they were led to a payment page that automatically jumped to the section requesting credit card information. The top of the page, obscured, included this notice: To prevent fraudulent address changes and to cover the cost of processing and handling, you authorize us to charge your credit or debit card a one-time $19.95 fee."

That's $1 for USPS, $18.95 for Change-My-Address.com. Only those who scrolled manually to the top of the page would have seen the disclaimer.

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