My idea for saving the U.S. Postal Service: Address for life

business and consumers

As I’ve written previously, I’m in the process of moving from one townhome to another in the city of Mountain View, CA.  What a massive pain!  Transferring all utility bills to my soon-to-be-ex-roommate, starting or getting transferred utilities at my new place, and of course, all the physical moving!

But there’s one other thing I’m majorly dreading:  change of address notifications!

Sure, you can do a Change of Address form online with the USPS for a $1 fee, delightfully ensuring that all your junk mail follows you to your new location.  But this doesn’t relieve you of the oh-so-fun duty of notifying (online or otherwise) your banks, credit card companies, health/car/other insurance companies, student loan and other lenders, DMV, your work, magazines, e-commerce firms (amazon.com, ebay…) etc. etc. etc.  By my latest estimate, this means I have over 50 separate companies to notify, and I’m sure I’m missing some.  Assuming it takes about 5 minutes per address change (and that’s probably conservative), that’s over four wasted hours.

It’s a lot easier in the online world (for geeks)

Those of us who are geeky enough to have our own domain name online can get addresses like [myfirstname]@[mylastname].net.  Not only do these look spiffy (and mean we can actually have our first name as our username — a practically impossible feat in web mail!), but they also offer super-easy forwarding!

For instance, I currently have my domain address instantly forward mail to my @gmail address.  Then, if by chance a cooler webmail comes along, I can instantly redirect all my subsequent incoming mail to that new webmail service.  Or I can even have my mail forwarded to two different services at once, also with fewer than two minutes of work.

How about a snail mail address for life?

Imagine if we could do that for our physical mail.  And, really, why the heck not?

I’ve envisioned a service I’ll call USPS Mail Premier, available for a yearly fee.  Here’s what you get…

At the “Silver” level (perhaps $79/year):

  • The ability to select a vanity address (from amongst a massive preset list, e.g., “Maritime Lane,” “Camino Verde,” etc., and a seven digit prefix (e.g., 805-3211 Maritime Lane), or just a ten digit number.
    • The USPS would automatically forward all mail sent to this vanity address to your physical address; so when you moved to a new location, all you’d have to do is update the pointer with USPS, and instantly all subsequent mail would get sent to your new physical address! 🙂
  • 100 customized return address labels with your name and address pre-printed on it, complete with QR code for easier scanning.
  • Forwarding of mail sent to you at one old address of your choice.

At the “Gold” level (perhaps $99/year)

  • The stuff above, plus…
  • 200 more highly customizable return address labels, complete with clip-art logo of your choice
  • 200 fully customizable “New Address” (business-sized) cards to give to family and friends, also with embedded QR code
  • Forwarding of mail sent to you from up to two old addresses of your choice.

And lastly, the platinum level (perhaps $159/year)

  • The stuff above, plus…
  • Control via an online dashboard of exactly who you’d like to get mail from physically, which mail types or senders you’d like to get mail from electronically (e.g., the USPS would open, scan, and recycle the paper mail, just like some third parties do today), and which senders or sender types you’d like to completely block (their mail would go to dev/null).
    • For instance, you could have the USPS bit-bucket all of those annoying circulars.  Sure, the advertisers would be bummed, but they could likely be mollified by receiving a cut of all Platinum level revenues.

And for a one-time fee of, say, $59, the USPS would send electronic or paper notifications of your new address to all your credit card companies, insurance companies, etc.

Very substantive benefits (but also many challenges)

  • More physical security; you wouldn’t have to disclose your physical address to random people and organizations that need or want to send you snail mail.
  • Environmental benefits, due to a lot of mail being scanned vs shipped and fewer no-such-addressee (less gas for mail vehicle trips).
  • And of course, removal of the need for consumers to notify a zillion companies every time they move!

Of course, there are caveats / downsides / etc.:

  • This would obviously require humongous retooling for not only the USPS, but computers around the world that currently have a set field structure defined for U.S. mail addresses.
  • We consumers would lose the ability to grok likely delivery times, since we wouldn’t inherently know whether that person or business (if businesses could partake in this) were around the block or on the other side of the country.
  • Getting this to work internationally would require some insane amount of coordination.
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Any amazing related opportunities or benefits or caveats I’ve overlooked?

And would you pay for a set of services like this?

4 comments… add one
  • ThatAdamGuy Jul 18, 2010

    This is currently being discussed in Buzz here, and I welcome you to join the discuss either there or in the comments below, your preference 🙂

  • Graham Jul 19, 2010

    This would be great! I don’t think I had quite as many addresses to change the last time I moved, but it’s still a pain. I think I actually had to do it 3 or 4 times for AAA! (They’ve been great when I’ve actually had to deal with insurance stuff, but maybe each department has their own copy of my address data?!?) For the e-commerce stuff, I at least didn’t have to do it all at once. I just gradually took care of them whenever I happened to place actual orders (since I knew they wouldn’t be mailing me things unless I placed an order).

    P.S. The OpenID sign-in for comments doesn’t seem to be working. Nor the Facebook option.

  • ThatAdamGuy Jul 22, 2010

    Alas, my idea has been politely torn to shreds in the above-linked buzz thread :-(.

    Of even greater sadness… eep, I had no idea about the OpenID and Facebook sign-in issue. Am swamped leading up to a move (within MV) this weekend, but will check into the situation as soon as I can. Thank you for the heads-up!

  • ThatAdamGuy Jul 24, 2010

    Okay, I think the FB commenting is now fixed, but alas, the openID is apparently just fussy with some independent providers according to Disqus’ documentation :\

What do you think?