Correct protocol for mail being distributed to others.

As the father of two sons, our house became a hangout for all our son’s friends. Now that one son has moved away, and the other is moving away to college, a lot of thier friends are moving away to college, and don’t know what their addresses will be. A few of these persons come from less than fully functional households, and fear that the various items they have ordered catalog sales, internet or telephone will not be forwarded to them if sent to thier legal address. They trust us, and with my wife’s permission are having things shipped here. I have no reason to believe any contraband is involved. The packages are from places like Land’s End (clothing), Tigerdirect and Newegg (Computer equipment). The items are shipped to the person’s name at this address. I believe they should be shipped to that person’s name, C/O (Care of) our name and address. Otherwise the post office is likely to come to the conclusion 17 people live here, and other mail for that person may start arriving as this is identified as their address, causing a snowball scenario resulting in the dreaded Hindenburg effect. My wife says I am paranoid. I just remember that at a time I was homeless I had mail sent to a friend, and it was C/O him. Any thoughts?

I wouldn’t bother with this roundabout way of dealing with it, but yes, if something is being sent to someone at an address other than their own, it is correct to address it:

John Smith
c/o David Jones
123 Main St.
Anytown, ST 12345

Why don’t they just have it shipped to their dorm? That’s what I always did.

in response to KneadToKnow: You are saying I am correct it should be C/O, and you are also saying my wife is correct, I am being a nit-picking paranoid? I can live with that and will just drop the issue. “Bigger fish to fry”, “Not going to die on that hill”, and any other cliche you care to insert. I was just worried about a deluge of mail and did not want to become a mail distribution center. I know this will put me on a ton of mailing lists, but no prob, I got a fireplace, free heat!

Joey P : they have not started school yet. They do not know for sure what dorm or room they will be in. This is a very short term thing, until they know their new addresses. In a week or two this will be a non-issue. The problem was stuff ordered before they leave, but might arrive after they leave. In the future they will do just as you suggest. Some colleges are very good about this, my son who is transfering from UW-Platteville to UW-Osh Kosh has known for weeks his new address, and who his roommate will be. He has been e-mailing his new roommate (who he has never met) to coordinate what items each will bring (stereo, x-box, etc.).Great communication. Some colleges, not so much. Some do not know what dorm or room they will be in until they arrive.

Oh, no. I don’t know you well enough to accuse you of anything like that. :slight_smile:

Actually my first position would be more along the lines of Joey P’s: they shouldn’t be burdening you with this to begin with. College mail rooms know they have this crap to deal with every Fall and (in my 17-years-out experience) they’re amazingly good at figuring out which box addressed to which name goes to which mailbox/dorm room/office/whatever.

A roommate of mine once tested the theory that all modern mail needs to be correctly delivered is the right name and the right zip code. He had a friend send him a letter addressed something like:

David Smith
Box Eleventeen
Beelzebub State University
North Crunchberry, ZU 67890

where “David Smith” and “67890” (well, and the word “University”) were, in fact, the only correct pieces of information and the rest was not merely wrong but like story-made-up-by-a-three-year-old wrong. Letter arrived perfectly.


Upon reading your reply to Joey P, allow me to add, the best thing to do IMHO is to have items delivered to

John Jones
Faraway University
College Town, YS 12345

This gives the mail room folks a heads-up.

The post office won’t forward other mail without a forwarding order being filed by the person. Using the “c/o” method is best if they’re going to continue to have stuff sent to your place.

You may find yourself getting other mail to those people, however, due to the merchants in question putting them on mailing lists and so forth. Friends of mine had that happen after my husband had some cigars shipped directly to their location in advance of our vacation there. Now they get cigar catalogs. Whoops.

To KneadToKnow I worded my response poorly, I did not mean to imply you were accusing me of anything. I worded it as a question, it should have been a statement. My entire family knows I am a nit-picking paranoid. So much so it would probably be admissible in court as common knowledge. While technically correct, I was bringing up an issue of no importance. Thanks for your input. Making a mountain out of a molehill here, I am. Shoot now I am starting to talk like Yoda I am.

No offense taken, seenidog. It was feigned aghastness, hence the smiley.

The Post Office doesn’t keep track of the names on stuff, unless there’s a change-of-address record for a particular name at that address. In that case, they check to see if the name on an article matches the change-of-address record, and they forward it.

Even then, they still don’t keep a big list of names at various addresses.

Thanks Friedo I figured I am going to get some junk mail over this. as pointed out by **Ferret Herder ** Which now brings up a question I had not thought of previously. Do I have a duty to forward junk mail to the intended person, or can I throw it in the fire place. Better yet can I label it Return To Sender thereby ending further mailings? If I return it, does the sender have to pay for the return postage? (I have enough wood for the fireplace this winter.) Am I committing a felony by interfereing with the mail if I toss junk mail addressed to someone else at my address into the fireplace?

It the true tradition of the dope board, let’s go to the extreme. My eldest son is in the Navy Reserves, and due to an unstable employment situation (lots of limited time employment jobs, seasonal work, construction, you know the drill, Moves around a lot. Not like homeless,but renting month to month where the work is at. He uses us as a legal address. We get lots of junk mail for him, but also important stuff from the Navy. My wife calls him on the cell and asks if she should open it, the answer is always yes, but it has to be asked. Really important stuff comes certified and the wife has to sign for it. (So far it has been reimbursement for expenses, I dread the next one that says he is needed in the Gulf). So the question is, where does my duty to forward mail end? Obviously if I (or my wife) sign for an item we must insure it is delivered. But what about the tons of other mail with no return address or indication where it came from? Anyone got a handle on that?

While this does not seem to be the case with the OP, I’d caution anyone having their house being used as a mailing address for someone to consider if it is being used for credit card fraud. Especially if expensive computer equipment and the like is being shipped to you. Particularly if something is fishy with the names.

My thought would be to write “No Longer At This Address” (once you’re sure all their packages have been delivered) and stick it in with the outgoing mail. I have to admit, however, that I have no idea what the post office would do with it then (just return it to the sender? return all further mail with that name to the sender? toss it?).

I know there’s post office employees somewhere on the board, though. Maybe you’ll be lucky and one will wander by.

Incidentally, I often have packages delivered to my mother’s address (since UPS’ll leave them on her enclosed porch, but won’t leave them at my condo complex) and I just send it with my name at her address. The both of us having the same last name, though, might make some kind of difference.

Thanks for the input citybadger,good advice, but I know these people, where to find them and they know I would rat them out in a second if I were to become a “Drop Box”. I was a cop for eight years, wife a police dispacther for fifteen years, eldest son a Master at Arms (the Navy version of a military policeman) in the Navy reserves. We tend to run things by the book around here. First hint of fraud would be dealt with by notifying authorities, with all due haste. I hate being used.

I don’t know about the legality of tossing it in the fireplace, but stopping the junk mail from even being sent to your address would be better for the environment. Try googling the words “stop junk mail.” Lots of good info there.

The thing that would concern me about constantly writing “refused: return to sender” on a certain person’s mail all the time is what will your local post office do? You have a right to refuse and return anything of course, but what if the post office just stops sending anything with that person’s name to your address?

Don’t even waste your time trying to forward junk mail, because it will not be forwarded (unless you want to affix postage to each piece.) Unless the mail has first-class postage or some type of endorsement such as “forwarding service requested” “address service requested” or “change service requested” it will not be forwarded. You can put it in your outgoing mail with “refused”, “return to sender” on it, or whatever. All that will accomplish is the mail carrier will take it from you. But when it gets back to the post office, it goes in the recycling bin. Without the endorsement, the USPS will not provide any forwarded service. So you get rid of the junk, but those who send it don’t know (or care) what happens to it. In fact, they would rather unforwarded mail go to someone (a potential new customer) than get it back.

If you write “no longer at this address” or provide the correct address, the mail carrier should make a note of it & stop delivering the junk mail for that person. Even if the person has filled out a forwarding order, junk mail will not be forwarded. It ether keeps coming to you, or the mail carrier catches it at the post office & knows not to deliver it.

I don’t know the number of students involved here, but I’m guessing you will end up receiving well over 25 catalogs a week, including multiples of the same. What’s worse, if one of the kids once called in an order as “John Smith” and another time used “John A. Smith”, the computers for the catalog mailers will treat that as two distinct addressees.

From levdrakon

This is exactly the kind of unintended things I am worried about. For example Fred (not a real name) is moving away, and has stuff shipped to us. He has in the past been a real friend, has helped us repeatedly in the past with transportation issues (I work thirty miles from home), my wife is not able to drive, and he has provided her transportation many times. So he has a package coming, but not sure where he will be when it arrives. He sends it here knowing it will get to him one way or another. I don’t want his junk mail, but I do want his letters to us (probably saying he will be back in town and have a fresh batch of Scotch-a-roos ( a variation on rice krispie treats) ready). This is need to know information. If I leave it up to my wife we will have scorch-a-roos! As said previously, this is a situation that should last two weeks max, but I fear the repercussions will last much longer.