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Change my address
April 5, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

$1 fee to change my address with the post office? Ridiculous! Right?

I'm moving in a week and just stopped by the branch post office to pick up the usual change of address form, but they only had a flyer that tells me to go to usps.com/umove. I filled out the form, but now they want to charge me $1.

I've got three names to change, and I'd have to pay $1 for each. It'd be one thing if I knew they weren't going to just turn around and sell my address to every junk-mail list there is, but they will and I hate to pay to be advertised to. Grr.

Do they still do the (free) paper forms? How about the supposedly free changeofaddressform.com? Anyone have a recent experience?
posted by echo target to Law & Government (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Forms are free. Fill it out in the post office and they don't charge a dime.

They charge online because (according to my post office) they have to verify it is you, and not some insane person changing addresses for people.

Allegedly.
posted by caveat at 3:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would just ask yourself if the time spent going to the post office and waiting in line and even posting this question is worth the $3.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Like caveat says I believe you can do it for free at the post office.

To answer your other question, no it is not ridiculous. You are asking a giant organization to reroute mail to a new address and notify some of the senders of the new address for 3 of their ~300 million customers . You are doing this from the comfort of your new home. I think that is worth $3.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:17 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another reason to avoid doing it online if you can: the past two times I've done it online, it didn't go through, so I kept clicking the button, and then it ended up going through twice, so they charged me $2. And by the time I got the bill I was moving and stressed and didn't have the energy to protest.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:20 PM on April 5, 2010


I agree, you're talking about a few bucks... it's worth it.. And, I feel better that just anyone can't change my address online.
posted by HuronBob at 3:23 PM on April 5, 2010


It's not like the USPS is flush with cash these days.

You can always go to the post office and do it for free. What is your time worth? There's also mileage and parking if you need to drive there.

Really, this seems fair. They had to build the web application to handle the transactions. People who use that application pay to use it.
posted by 26.2 at 3:24 PM on April 5, 2010


I just changed my address online and was annoyed by the same thing. The reason given on the website for charging $1 is not to compensate the post office for their hassle of changing your address (as theorized above), but simply to verify that you are who you say you are. By charging your credit card $1, they verify that the billing zip code for your credit card matches with the address you are changing.

On the other hand, I've worked with websites that would do the exact same process and then cancel the charge (either do a charge-back or only authorize and not complete the $1 transaction) to verify identity. The post-office seems to be somewhat disingenuous when claiming that they really have to charge you that $1 to verify who you are. Personally I wouldn't mind paying them $1 for their trouble, but their explanation rings hollow.
posted by vytae at 3:29 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cannot see how this could be considered is ridiculous. You're changing your address, which is creating work for the postal service. They're asking you for 3 measly dollars for this. Seems like you're actually getting the better end of the deal, no?
posted by ORthey at 3:30 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


In Canada it costs us $30.
posted by blue grama at 3:32 PM on April 5, 2010


Okay, yeah, $3 ain't much, but they don't charge me anything to deliver mail to me, so why should it charge anything to change where they deliver it to? What if your bank or magazine subscriptions charged you $1 to update your address?

I'll go to the main post office (which isn't out my way) and fill out the paper form. If I were in the sticks I'd use the webform, but I'd still grumble about it.
posted by echo target at 3:35 PM on April 5, 2010


Sorry for the derail (or not, if this helps you see that $1 is not ridiculous) but only $1 to change your address online? $1? I'm missing something here right? This is how much it cost me in Canada.
posted by meerkatty at 3:36 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I bet the cost of supplying and printing the yellow forwarding labels with my new address over the last 7 months has cost the USPS much more than $1. That's not even considering the hassle or re-routing and the amortized cost of systems required to handle such services.
posted by mullacc at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2010


but they don't charge me anything to deliver mail to me, so why should it charge anything to change where they deliver it to?

Because that cost is borne by the sender.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:38 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


"they don't charge me anything to deliver mail to me"...hmmm... all the mail delivered to me has been paid for by the sender.....
posted by HuronBob at 3:39 PM on April 5, 2010


they don't charge me anything to deliver mail to me, so why should it charge anything to change where they deliver it to?

Dude. It's 1. Fucking. Dollar.

And to answer your question, the postal service will happily continue to deliver the mail to the address that it is addressed to. It's you that wants them to rewrite the address while in transit. And they charge a dollar to do that. Simple as that.
posted by jrockway at 3:41 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


they have to verify it is you, and not some insane person changing addresses for people.

But can't you just fill out the form at the PO, without showing any ID or anything? This has always struck me as the easiest possible form of identity theft, and I'm baffled that it isn't done to people every day: one little form and you can just get all of someone's mail, no questions asked. They do send a confirmation to the old address, eventually, but still.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:53 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lucky you. It's $25 in Australia (for 6 months), $30 in Canada. It's not ridiculous at all, you're getting a good deal.
posted by defcom1 at 5:14 PM on April 5, 2010


Yup, in Canada it's $30 and worth it - they're redirecting mail to your new address for you, a service on their part and thus worth a charge. You're complaining over $1? Really?
posted by Billegible at 5:58 PM on April 5, 2010


But can't you just fill out the form at the PO, without showing any ID or anything? This has always struck me as the easiest possible form of identity theft, and I'm baffled that it isn't done to people every day: one little form and you can just get all of someone's mail, no questions asked. They do send a confirmation to the old address, eventually, but still.

My ex husband's second wife did this to me and I didn't get my mail for months... She had it rerouted to their *old* address in CA right after they moved to NY, I lived in VA, just to be vindictive. She then rerouted all of their mail to my address, I'm assuming to avoid paying her bills. I wish there was a charge to fill out the forms, just so things like that can't happen. I never even thought of identity theft...
posted by patheral at 6:34 PM on April 5, 2010


When you file the form you'll get a notice at the old address with instructions on how to cancel the change (in case it's unauthorized).
posted by alexei at 7:05 PM on April 5, 2010


But can't you just fill out the form at the PO, without showing any ID or anything? This has always struck me as the easiest possible form of identity theft, and I'm baffled that it isn't done to people every day: one little form and you can just get all of someone's mail, no questions asked. They do send a confirmation to the old address, eventually, but still.

You can, but it is considered mail fraud, which is a felony. That kind of deters most people, except for extra fun cases like patheral's.
posted by caveat at 8:21 PM on April 5, 2010


I see you have already gotten your answer but I thought I would offer you a little bit of background on the US Postal system so that you will feel better about that $1.00 charge.

The USP occupies a strange position in the business world; it has to fulfill many obligations that are decided upon by congress, at prices decided by congress, but without being subsidized by congress. It also has to compete with other businesses such as UPS. In other words, it is a non-profit that is supposed to pay for itself yet undertake many jobs (such as delivering personal mail to every home in America, including Alaska) that aren't profitable while facing competition that doesn't have to provide all the same services. Furthermore it is hampered by one of the last strong unions in the USA, the Postal Workers Union. The reason why it is difficult to run the Post Office efficiently is the union makes sure there is no incentive for the workers to do their jobs well-- all jobs are awarded strictly on the basis of seniority and it is very difficult to fire anyone. The Post Office used to give out cash and prizes as incentives for people showing up on time, but those financial incentives have been cut recently.

Along with every other part of America, the USP has been hit hard by the recession. Personal mail was never a big money maker, so personal email was not a devestating blow, but Spam was. The USP makes most of their money from bulk mail (mostly junk mail, catalogs, magazines) and all of that has been drastically reduced first by the home computer, then by the recession.

The response by the USP is limited. Expect to see more charges for things that used to be free. Also, the scuttlebutt is that starting fiscal year 2011 (next October) Saturday delivery will cease. They've been talking about it for years, but at this point it seems to be a done deal.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:37 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Secret Life of Gravy's explanation is dead on; I just wanted to add that the only reason that walk-up / paper-based address changes are free is historical. It's always been free to change your address and get your mail forwarded for some period of time, thus it's difficult for the USPS to suddenly start charging for it — even though there is certainly a cost associated with forwarding mail. But the expectation of forwarding as a free service (along with daily deliveries and service to unprofitable rural areas) lingers from the USPS's subsidized, government-agency days, and thus it's difficult to get rid of now.

If you were starting up the Postal Service without any historical baggage today, under the current regulatory environment (where it has to break even, i.e. no tax dollars go towards it), it would look very different. I suspect they wouldn't offer the current service, where they stick a label on the front of the mailpiece, at all — instead they'd offer something like the Premium Forwarding Service which would rebundle all the misaddressed mail and forward it to your new address at Priority Mail rates.

So anytime they move away from the "traditional" service, where customers (and more importantly, Congress) expects them to be doing something unprofitable, they're going to act like a business and charge you. Hence, no charge if you do a change of address the old way, but there's a charge if you do it online. The online part is new, hence no expectation exists for it to be free, thus they charge. (Plus they have to pay for the web site and additional infrastructure; allowing you to do it online costs them money too.)

Just be glad there's still a way to do it for free if you're that bugged by the $1, and moreover, that you're getting the actual forwarding — a very valuable service — done for free either way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:50 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


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