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  #1  
Old 06-23-2003, 03:03 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is online now
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Postal Service Dopers, or relatives: Wrong city, right zip code.

What'll happen if I try to mail something, and I put down the wrong city, but I have the correct 9-digit zip code? In this particular case it was a telephone bill payment that goes to a nine digit zip code. The address should have been
Verizon California
PO BOX 30001
INGLEWOOD CA
90313-0001


but it went out with the city given as Los Angeles. Everything else is the same.

So, should it get there or not?
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  #2  
Old 06-23-2003, 03:50 PM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Sorry, not a postal worker or relative, but I have made this error now and again. It has always been with a town that was very close to the intended destination, like in your example. The erroneous mail has consistently reached it destination in a timely manner.

I don't know what would happen if you wrote something like:

BOSTON, MA
90313-0001
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  #3  
Old 06-23-2003, 04:00 PM
Elycien Elycien is offline
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You should be fine. Most of the automated equipment at the post office just checks to zip code and sends it there. When it gets to that zip area it may be kicked out and manually checked because the city doesn't match...but Verizone would get many, many pieces of mail daily and they would recognize the address. Heck, it may not even be manually kicked out since you have the right 9 digit zip code...should go straight there.

I have never tried this but if you get the correct 9 digit zip and name it would most likely get to the correct address even if the rest is gibberish. The automated equipment sorts according to the zip and when it gets to the carrier he should recognize the name if he's been on the route for a while.
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  #4  
Old 06-23-2003, 05:15 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Just for the record, the Postal Service unofficially recognizes synonyms, e.g., where a given "official" post office has alternate names, is part of another locality, serves another locality, etc.

For example, Barnes Corners, NY used to have its own post office, but when the postmistress retired, delivery from Copenhagen, NY, a few miles away, was implemented. However, mail addressed to Barnes Corners NY with either old or new zipcodes will still be properly routed to the Rural Delivery from Copenhagen. Addresses "officially" in Brooklyn, Jamaica, etc., are geopolitically within New York City, and mail sent to a street address in Jamaica with New York, NY on the city line will be delivered OK.

We live in the unincorporated and post office-less community of Pilot NC, and get our mail via rural delivery from the post office in Zebulon NC, which isn't even in the same county. But an address of Pilot NC with the right zipcode will get here in equal time.
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  #5  
Old 06-23-2003, 06:02 PM
handy handy is offline
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I know if its a package the postal clerk inspects to see if the zip code is right at the counter before you can mail it.

For letters, they might return to sender.
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  #6  
Old 06-23-2003, 07:08 PM
Morbo Morbo is offline
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Good gravy, Handy, they might return to sender?!! Thanks again for another rock-solid, informative, ignorance-fighting post.

Let me try. For letters, they might open them, remove the contents, replace the contents with a Christmas List, reseal them, and then send them ATTN: Santa at the North Pole.

Allow me to answer the OP factually, as my Grandfather worked for the Post Office his entire life and I've asked him this question.

According to him, there's no chance that a nine-digit Zip code will not be mailed properly. You could have written "Noplace, CA" with that Zip Code and it would have been delivered properly. They sort everything by Zip Code first, then red-flag Street addresses that don't resolve in that Zip Code. If the Street address doesn't resolve, they will return it, regardless of City name. If the Street address does resolve within that Zip Code, they verify the addressee, and if they resolve the addressee properly, they don't even look at the City name. Some post offices don't even bother with resolving the addressee unless there's been a recent change of address notification on that address.

The only chance it might not have been resolved is if you had used a different state. Someone paying attention might have noticed that it read "New York, NY" and sent it to the central NY office. But for an office that handles the kind of volume that CA does, it's unlikely that it wouldn't get delivered even if it had the wrong state.

"They 'might' return to sender." What would motivate someone to post that in a GQ thread? Sigh.
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  #7  
Old 08-03-2011, 09:07 PM
huston3 huston3 is offline
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That may well be the rule, but only today, we received a return mail from a friend who has not moved in 40 years, but the name of her city changed from North Hollywood to Valley Glen, right next to Valley Village (where we addressed the city). The five digit zip was correct, but they obviously didn't follow the rule of matching the name with the zip. Which troubles us, because we live in the uinincorporated city of Bay Point (formerly West Pittsburg, CA) and our zip is the same as Pittsburg.
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  #8  
Old 08-03-2011, 09:33 PM
guestchaz guestchaz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elycien View Post
the automated equipment at the post office just checks to zip code and sends it there. When it gets to that zip area it may be kicked out and manually checked because the city doesn't match
I asked my dad, the retired postmaster about this very thing just last week, according to him this is exactly what would happen when it gets down to the sorting by delivery route
oops sorry morbo, didn't read your entire post

Last edited by guestchaz; 08-03-2011 at 09:36 PM..
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  #9  
Old 08-03-2011, 11:36 PM
postcards postcards is offline
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Mail from zombies, however, regardless of the zip code, takes about eight years.
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  #10  
Old 08-04-2011, 12:09 AM
IAmNotSpartacus IAmNotSpartacus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huston3 View Post
That may well be the rule, but only today, we received a return mail from a friend who has not moved in 40 years, but the name of her city changed from North Hollywood to Valley Glen, right next to Valley Village (where we addressed the city). The five digit zip was correct, but they obviously didn't follow the rule of matching the name with the zip. Which troubles us, because we live in the uinincorporated city of Bay Point (formerly West Pittsburg, CA) and our zip is the same as Pittsburg.
The name of your friend's city is none of the above. He/she lives in Los Angeles and is unquestionably within the city limits. I find this odd because I regularly put Los Angeles on outgoing mail without regard for the named neighborhood and have never had anything returned. Could very well be a mistake on the part of the PO. I've had mail returned from known good addresses where the clerk at my post office simply lined out the bar code indicating undeliverable, put it back in the system and it made it to its destination just fine.
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  #11  
Old 08-04-2011, 12:16 AM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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It's always bothered me that the Postal Service refuses to just come out and say that from now on the ZIP code is mandatory and the city & state are to be left off. And then, eventually, require the replacement of street name & number with the ZIP+4!

All mail should look like this:
Code:
John Q. Jerkwad
12345-0001
Stationary makers should have started making all envelopes with nine OCR boxes on them for the ZIP+4 years ago as well. IMO the only reason they haven't done this is because they'll get complaints that it's too dehumanizing. Given how much money snail mail delivery loses maybe they finally will!
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  #12  
Old 08-04-2011, 12:56 AM
guestchaz guestchaz is offline
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The city, state and the 9-digit zip code and to be fully compliant with postal regs the +four IS mandatory, per USPS Pub. 28 street and building number are for the sake of the carrier who doesn't know who Mr. Jerkwad is or where he lives
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  #13  
Old 08-04-2011, 02:18 AM
Alley Dweller Alley Dweller is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
It's always bothered me that the Postal Service refuses to just come out and say that from now on the ZIP code is mandatory and the city & state are to be left off. And then, eventually, require the replacement of street name & number with the ZIP+4!

All mail should look like this:
Code:
John Q. Jerkwad
12345-0001
Stationary makers should have started making all envelopes with nine OCR boxes on them for the ZIP+4 years ago as well. IMO the only reason they haven't done this is because they'll get complaints that it's too dehumanizing. Given how much money snail mail delivery loses maybe they finally will!
ZIP+4 does not narrow down an address to an individual house. In residential areas, it may narrow it down to a block, in denser areas it may narrow it down to an apartment building (or part of a large apartment building) or an office building (or part of a large building).

If you want an example, copy and paste the following address
10700 S AVENUE A
CHICAGO
IL
into the ZIP Code finder.
Then keep going up by 2 until you hit 10754. Every address on that block will either give you ZIP 60617-6805 or tell you that the address is undeliverable if it does not exist. You can use streetview on google maps to satisfy yourself that the block consists of a long row of houses on one side and not just one big house.

You are probably unaware of this, but the bar code on the bottom of almost any letter you get actually contains more information than just the ZIP+4 code. It also contains what is called the Delivery Point Code. For low-density residential blocks like the example above, the DPC is the last two digits of the house address, but it could be different in other delivery configurations. The automated sorting equipment uses this to line up the letters in walking order for the mail carrier. Yes, the mail carrier does need to read the address, he cannot read the bar code.

Bulk mailers who want to qualify for automation discounts will bar code their own mail including the DPC codes. For low-volume mailers and other who wish to forgo the automation discounts, the USPS will provide the DPC bar coding. The USPS actually uses OCR equipment to read most non-presorted letters. Their OCR system is quite remarkable and can read even most hand-written letters.
First letters are fed into a machine that scans the envelopes. The scanned images are sent to an OCR system that tries to decode the address. If the mailer has not supplied a bar code, the envelope is scanned from the bottom up. Even if a ZIP+4 code is supplied, the OCR system must decode the street address in order to find the DPC (and the +4 part if not supplied). Usually it can stop at the street address, but sometimes it must go up to the addressee if, for example if there are multiple firms in a single building. If the address is so garbled that the OCR system can't decode it, the image is sent to a human operator at a remote encoding center (probably in some distant city) who tries to make sense of it.
After the OCR system is finished, the letters are fed back into another system that sprays the bar code on them. (Newer machines have both functions in the same machine.)

The OCR system uses statistical probabilities to resolve ambiguity. Say if an address looks like "123 Ork Street," if you included a ZIP Code, it would look for streets similar to "Ork" in the ZIP code and decide the most likely match is "Oak."
If you didn't, it would have to search the whole city for matches and might find an Orm Street and an Oak Street. It would check to see if 123 is a valid address on either street. Finally it would choose whichever has the greatest probability score according to their formula. So by providing the right ZIP+4, you have a higher probability that it will choose the right street than if you just provided a ZIP Code, which in turn would provide a higher probability than if you just provided a City and State.

Neither ZIP nor ZIP+4 is required for any single-piece letter. It is required for certain bulk and bulk automation rates. The section of Pub 28 linked to above describes how to format addresses for automation rates.

It's all automated and very sophisticated now. I remember the olden days when you had to sit at cases throwing mail into slots. Full-time postal clerks were required to memorize a "scheme," for example, the zip codes for every street address in a city or the zip code for every city in a state (they were given paid time to study and had to pass a test). Part-time and fill-in clerks could throw mail by ZIP code and any mail without a ZIP code would be thrown into a slot to be reprocessed by a "regular" later thus slowing it down. Now the USPS is automating anything possible. Every letter that can possibly be run through an OCR is. If there is no ZIP code, no problem, the computer will look it up and bar code it appropriately. (If you don't believe me, mail yourself a regular First Class letter without a ZIP code. Compare it to a letter sent to you with the Zip Code, you will see the full DPC bar code sprayed on the bottom when it is delivered regardless.) You do yourself a favor by including ZIP codes because it helps resolve the inevitable ambiguities in the OCR process.

They are even going beyond just letters and automating the address scanning on flats and parcels. A lot of mailers got upset a few years ago when they were trialing automation on parcels and they got their parcels delivered to the return addresses.
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  #14  
Old 08-04-2011, 04:43 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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As long as we have a zombie shambling, let us dispel a couple of points:

1. Redundancy is good. Despite the occasional apparent evidence to the contrary, the USPS wants to deliver your mail, to the right address, within reasonable time. It's what they get paid for, and on the whole, causes far less bitching. The more information they have on where to deliver it, the better. While an accurate ZIP+4 by itself will get them to the right block, if not the precise right building, there's no cross-check built into it to make sure the sender got the rogjt ZIP+4. That's where street address and city+state come in handy.

2. The postal service is not at all interested in whom you pay taxes to, where you vote and for what offices, whom you get phone, electric, gas, and cable TV service from, etc. What they care about, passionately, is what postal delivery route you live on. I mentioned living in Pilot and getting mail from Zebulon up above -- since that post, we've moved eight miles away from Pilot, but still within the Zebulon delivery area, which covers bits of four counties.

3. You may be well aware that the Maple Dale Ave. in your subdivision is different from the Mapledale Ave. in another subdivision in the next township, and both distinct from the Mapledale Lane in yet a third subdivision and township. It's probable that your local postal people are even more aware of that fact. But the guys in the Bulk Mail Sortation Center two states away -- they're clueless. And the bulk mailers themselves, in Harrisburg or Atlanta -- they do not have a clue. This is where name consistency and routing comes into play for them. And name consistency is easy to sell to the public, because that ambiguity may mean that your house on Mapleview Drive, in Suburban Heights, is burning down while the wrong fire company is being sent to the wrong Maple View Drive, the one in Fauxenglish Mews.
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