Mail delivery errors occur


December 18, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

The Q:

Clay Seeley of Owings Mills believes he receives his mail based on the whims of his mail carrier, claiming that the "post office is very inconsistent in their delivery practices."

Seeley said he had been living at his home for six years when a friend from Georgia had tickets to a stock car race mailed to Seeley's address.

"If he couldn't make the trip, I would use them," Seeley said. "The arrival date came and went with no tickets. My friend called to tell me that the race track had called to tell him that the tickets had been returned, `No Such Person at this Address.'"

Seeley said he went to the local post office to complain and was told that if the carrier doesn't recognize the name on the envelope, it will not be delivered.

"That's the most absurd thing ever," Seeley said. "I explained to him that I get mail for people that haven't lived in my house for 15 years, for someone named `Resident' or `Occupant' and for neighbors that live three or four blocks away with no interference from the mailman."

Around the same time as his complaint, Seeley said his next- door neighbor was expecting two packages. On the day he received one of them, another neighbor five doors down received the other one.

"One had the correct name and address, the other had the correct name, but the wrong house number," Seeley said. "So which is it? Does the mailman deliver according to the name or the address?"

The A:

It's both, says Yvette Singh, acting district communications coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service's Baltimore district.

"All mail is to be addressed properly and the person's correct name and address on it for us to deliver it properly," Singh said. "Anytime a customer moves from one address to another, a change- of-address card needs to be filled out. That's how we track customers. We check the information on the mail against what's on file for that residence.

"Your carrier also knows who resides at that address," Singh said. "If the person isn't known to reside there, then they won't get mail there."

That would explain how Seeley's neighbor got one package with the right name and address, but it doesn't explain why the other package with the right name and wrong address ended up with a different neighbor. It also doesn't explain why an old girlfriend of Seeley's used to get mail at his home without ever filling out a change-of-address card.

The simple explanation, Singh says, is that mistakes happen. Mail gets delivered to the wrong address all the time. And, of course, we all know that despite policies written in stone, the system is never perfect. Depending on how well your postal carrier knows you, I've known some carriers to ask if you were expecting a certain piece of mail that had an odd name on it.

If the name and address are correct, but the ZIP code is wrong, Singh said that some postal carriers will try to correct the mistake and deliver the mail to the proper address.

"It's always safer, though, to fill everything out correctly," Singh said. "It's also best, if you move, to fill out the change-of-address forms so we have your proper information. In this customer's case, if his friend wanted mail delivered to his address, it might be best to write `c/o,' or `in care of' the individual living at that residence so the mail will be delivered."

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