BOXED IN AT THE ARIZONA CITY POST OFFICE

 (Originally featured in Arizona City Independent Edition, October 11, 2006)

Like many Arizona City residents, I enjoy the letters in the Arizona City Independent Edition and the Casa Grande Dispatch explaining why Arizona City residents should have local mail delivery. The writers all make valid points, and I have even more reasons for wanting to escape the tyranny of the current system. Perhaps some of you have experienced the same problems I have.

It would indeed save energy if one or two mail carriers made the daily round of town, instead of numerous residents having to drive from home to Post Office and back, often only to check the mail. And since I’m confined to home because of chronic illness, I have no idea what I’d do if Jim weren’t able to handle this chore for us. I’m sure there are others in town who also face that dilemma.

Of course, Jim does have to drive past the Post Office each weekday, but if we don’t have mail delivery when he retires, he’ll have to make the eight-mile round trip six days a week, a total of 48 miles per week, so the two of us can receive our mail. Multiply that by all the other retired people in town, and you have an idea how much energy would be saved by neighborhood mail delivery.

I say “neighborhood” rather than “home” delivery because more and more communities are opting for multi-box units centrally located in various neighborhoods. The U.S. Postal Service prefers the multi-box format because the savings in carrier time and fuel mean lower operating costs and higher profits, and residents can benefit from them too.

In these days of rampant identity theft, modern lock-boxes are far more secure than the traditional open boxes that line older suburban streets, and people who walk to their neighborhood mailbox are doing their bit to fight obesity and improve their health. On the other hand, many people with chronic medical conditions still need help if their mailbox is located too far from their homes.

But since everybody here is stuck with a box at the Post Office, I wonder how many other Arizona City residents have encountered the problems I have, especially on the internet. Even if you aren’t “wired,” you might have trouble if you send away for product rebates or use mail-in coupons. The lack of a residential mailing address is the reason many companies won’t fulfill a rebate request. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll find the phrase “no P.O. boxes” printed in tiny letters on many mail-in coupons.

I once called one of these companies to explain our situation and ask about their anti-PO box bias. While the man was sympathetic, he explained that they’re just trying to make sure no one receives more rebates or coupons than they’re entitled to. Companies are especially wary of counterfeit coupons.

On the other hand, it seems to me a company can screen the number of times rebates or coupons are requested for individual Post Office boxes the same way they do for individual street addresses, especially when we use the four-digit zip suffix. Rebate companies don’t want to bother with that though. As a result, we’re discriminated against just because we don’t receive a simple government service that is available to most residents of the country.

I’ve also encountered problems with online fill-in forms. Many require a number as the first entry in the first address line, and the problem is worse when only one line is provided for the address. When there are two, I put our street address in the first field and our Post Office box number in the second.

But when there’s only room for one line and the program requires that it begin with a number, I’ve put our street address, then a number sign and our P.O. box number at the end of the line. I also try to include the four-digit suffix, but many forms don’t allow that option. I just hope our local Post Office staff are in the mood to decipher my coded address when they receive one of those pieces of mail.

Of course, there is another option. We can use the street address of the Post Office, 13354 South Sunland Gin Road, and then the number of our box. Still, I often wonder if that will work every time, or if it will fly at all.

It is a quandary, especially because some businesses actually drop the P.O. box or apartment number and use the street address with no qualifier. When a bank requested our residence address and mailing address in different parts of a loan application form, the loan officer later called and frantically complained that my mail came back marked “undeliverable.” She blamed a computer program for dropping the box number, which is possible. I recently closed our checking account with them because our experience with that account and two loans was an exercise in how not to do business, even though it’s the largest bank in this part of the country. It was so bad that I promise to write an article about it soon.

Another problem often occurs when we order items and try to arrange for the correct shipping address. First, we have to determine exactly how the item will be shipped, which isn’t always easy. Some vendors use terms like “normal delivery” or “regular shipping,” which doesn’t mean a thing. They have to explain whether they use a shipping company or mail. If it is USPS, we have to emphasize the box number, which, as I’ve mentioned, can be difficult with some online forms.

I’ve recently minimized another big problem with mail that never arrives by transferring as much of my business as possible online. In fact, we finally decided to leave the aforementioned bank when I learned they only provide free online bill paying to fat-cats with a minimum of five thousand dollars in their bank. Now we’ve stashed our tiny funds at a friendly national bank that offers truly relaxed personal service, the most secure branch design we’ve ever seen, free online bill paying, free checks for life--and I could go on and on. Heck, I could do one of those TV commercials for them!

The advantage to doing business online is that very little official correspondence ever passes through the Post Office, which makes checking the mail every single day not nearly as important as it used to be. That’s extremely beneficial, especially for retired residents and/or sick folks like me. It’s also great to have information about our money at my fingertips, literally, whenever I need it. Too bad there’s rarely enough to do the things we need to do--money, that is!

Anyway, if some of you have experienced mail delivery problems because our community address system doesn’t happen to satisfy the demands of some spoiled, obstinate computer program, feel free to add your voices to the choir. Maybe if we all continue to sing the same tune, loud and long, someone will actually hear us who can--and will--do something about it!

Keep complaining, folks!

 


Debbie Jordan