Unmoved but newly Addressed: Canada Post Charges to Forward Your Mail!!


My Google Alert for “postal address” articles and blogs on the ‘Net returned to me proof of two things:

1. People care about their addresses no matter where they are, and

2. Postal systems know it’s in their interest not to charge customers for change of address services, but for some reason they can’t help themselves.

The “proof” came in a link to the website of The Clearwater Times‘ home page and an article announcing “Postal System Switching to Street Address”:   http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_thompson_nicola/clearwatertimes/news/115655624.html.

“Goodbye numbered mailboxes. Hello street addresses…’ opens the piece, as it reports local postmistress’ Millie Rempel’s announcement that mailboxes in rural areas around Clearwater will no longer bear a 4-digit number, but the actual street address of the residence.  Canada Post is switching some 1600 mailboxes in this very rural area well  north and east of Vancouver, British Colombia to street addresses. New “cluster” mail boxes will be installed and two rural routes will have their own postal codes.  If you don’t have a current mail box, or if you have moved residence and kept your old 4-digit mailbox, you’ll end up visiting the main post office in downtown Clearwater to get your mail at General Delivery until a new box becomes available.

Postmistress Rempel is having quite a time getting proper street addresses for the residences affected by this change. In prior years she could have used the phone book. She knows the names of her customers, and the rural route.  She could tell from the phone book what their street address was.  And if there were two Bowdens close together on one road, a quick call would straighten out which address belonged with which 4-number box.  The phone book usually listed pretty much everyone in town.

The mobile phone has “put paid” to that resource, however. There is no “phone book” of mobile numbers linked to street addresses.

So, in true small town fashion, Ms. Rempel has been reaching out through the media, including Clearwater Times’ website, to alert her customers.

And there is a come-on!  In the warmth and goodness of its heart, Canada Post is not going to charge the good people of Clearwater, BC for the privilege of having their mail forwarded to their “new addresses”! A savings  in this case of $72.50, the cost of a year’s worth of redirection.  (It’s more if you move Provinces, by the way, $90.)

Yes, that’s right!  Canada Post is changing the number at which residents receive mail, from a 4-digit number on a box, to a street address of the person for whom mail is put in the same box.  The box is NOT moving. But, from CP’s point of view, the whole town has moved! And under CP’s rules, if you want your mail, you have to pay to have it forwarded to your new address!!  And it doesn’t matter that you haven’t moved, but only that CP has changed the name of the place to which they deliver your mail! Even though it’s not a physically different place, but in the same bloody box!!  Your old “address” -four numbers painted on a box- is replaced by a number of a street corresponding to your street address painted on the same box in the same physical place!!

Well, one whole year of “free mail fowarding” is nothing sneeze at in Canada, up to $90 depending on where you move.  And we suppose when Postmistress Rempel starts putting notes that say  “mail on hold until forwarding fee paid” in peoples’ boxes, they’ll tell their friends and families where they live now.

But why do most posts require you to pay to have your mail forwarded?  Why create a disincentive to people to do so in this day and age when customers are fleeing the postal system in favor of digital messaging?   And they don’t need reasons to do so!

The Posts no longer have a monopoly on addressed communications to human beings.  They can no longer charge monopoly rents for the use of a street address, because from the point of view of the individual, the “street address” is free, and so is messaging to and from that address, thanks to Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! and who knows how many others.

The Posts claim that they incur costs in forwarding mail which are imposed on them when people move. But they do so also when people show up at the post office and register their presence in the neighborhood at their new address, and the Posts don’t charge for that.

Indeed, there is a cost incurred when you move.  The system has to capture ‘old address’ mail and redirect it.  But there are many other ways to recoup the cost than by creating a disincentive for people to tell them they are moving. They could charge the general population of users for these operating expenses by pricing it into the standard rates. After all, the health of the addressing system is of concern to the entire user population.  And in mobile nations, like Canada and the US, this is equitable.

And they can charge a reasonable amount to the data industry which builds products around postal data, although the charge should not be a disincentive to its use, as in the Netherlands and other European countries.

(In most of Europe, to clean your file you pay a “set-up” fee (from the days when computer tapes came on rolls and had to be threaded), a “search” or “running” fee (from the days when computers were slow and people add to intervene in the process), and,  most perversely of all, a ‘hit’ fee, a charge for each old/new address match. Yes, the dirtier your file, the more you pay, to the point where the economics require you to mail to bad addresses instead of cleaning the file. That, in today’s world, is telling companies, “Please go use email.”

This business of charging to have your mail forwarded to you is yet one more legacy of the “old monopoly days”.  A sure proof of a Post “getting the message” would be for it to drop the charge and encourage the population to register to have their mail forwarded to their new residence for free.  Even if it’s in the same old place, as in Clearwater, BC.

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