Your Pain Is Our Pleasure
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January 31, 2012
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Reading all of this, I just realized how lucky I am. I happen to live in Germany, where DPAG has to serve ALL street addresses nationwide. If they chose just to discontinue service for a single address, they would no longer operate a "Universal Service" and then they'd have to pay 19% VAT on all postage. The result of this is that mail gets even delievered to people who live on small islands and to people who live somewhere in the alps. We even got a post office on the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in this country. I have even seen appartment houses which have their mailboxes on the individual floors, so people don't even have to get out of the building to get their mail.One effect of this is that everybody whom I know receives mail at their street address. PO box service in our country is also great. DPAG doesn't charge rent for their PO boxes, you just have to pay a one-off setup fee. And private mail companies (DPAG doesn't have a monopoly on postal service) are even allowed to deliever to PO boxes (which is a quite good thing), although this option is not available with all carriers. However, our PO boxes have also some drawbacks: 1) you cannot receive parcels through your PO box. DHL (a subsidy of DPAG) offers a service called "PackStation" which is some kind of a PO box for parcels - but this service is seperate from the PO box service of DPAG, so you would have to subscribe to both services seperately and then, you would end up with three different addresses - A PO box address which accepts letters which were send through DPAG, foreign state-owned post companies and some private post operaters, A Packstation address which looks terrible (it includes some horrifying long number) and accepts only parcels and packages that were sent through DHL or DHL partners but NO letters and your normal street address. I don't understand why DHL can't just put PO-box addressed parcels into a packstation and put a notification card into your PO box. An additional drawback of PO boxes is that you have to give DPAG your street address when you rent a PO box. This prevents those who are really in need of a PO box from getting one. (Think of those few people who don't have a street address because they live on a boat or in their car or something like that.)
For those who live at a street address that isn't served by USPS, I got an idea: I have heard of a case where someone managed to create a virtual street address by filing a mail forwarding order for a fictional address. The result was that mail which was addressed to that fictional address was actually delievered to the guy who had made up that address. Now, I think that the same might work for street addresses that aren't served by USPS. (Sure, the idea of street-addressed PO boxes is even better than what I suggest here because that way, your home and your PO box would be known under the same address and all items would either go to your home or to your PO box, depending on the carrier. But I think that implementing this using mail forwarding may actually be feasible.)
I think that this residential development which has its mail boxes several km from the homes is actually an attempt to create street-addressed PO boxes. I'm afraid that if these letter boxes hadn't been placed that far from the homes, USPS might have refused to deliever to those addresses.
However, I've also encountered issues with the postal system in my country.Story #1: I moved to a new house. By new, I mean that the house had just been built that year. As our property has never ever had a building on it before we built the house, it didn't have an address at first. So we had to go to some office in the city hall and ask them to assign our house an address. They did so. We got something like "Example Street 45a" as our house was between "Example Street 45" and "Example Street 47". ("Example Street 46" was on the other side of the street.) Unfortunately, the other houses in our street were all 25 years old, so it was quite unusual that a new address was added to our street. We knew that mail companies use to keep lists of addresses, so we notified the two mail companies that serve our neighborhood explicitly about our new address, so they would actually deliever our mail. And what happend? The first few letters we got were returned until they realized that we had told them that there was a new address in our street. The first that arrived had a "Return to sender - receipient could not be found under this address" marking on them (although they were delieverd to us just fine). Since then, the post operators did everything just fine. However, we still have issues with geo databases. These databases claim to include EVERY house in our country. However, our house is missing in most of them. For instance, if I type our address into GoogleMaps, it will change it to the address of one of the adjacent houses. For that reason, some companies even "correct" our address that we use to quote correctly as "Example Street 45a" to "Example Street 47" or "Example Street 45" which causes our mail to go to our neighbors.
Story #2: This happend to a relative of mine. He moved back to an appartment house where he had been living before. Now one needs to know that here in Germany, individual letterboxes within appartment houses are only identified by the family name of the person living there. This means that if you move within the same house, your address doesn't change, even though your physical mailbox changes. Now, guess what happend to my relative. DPAG remembered that he no longer lived there and returned all mail as "undelieverable". He had to notify DPAG that he was back, and suddenly his mail got through again.
Story #3: This is something that I read in c't, a really good German computer magazine (btw. there is no English-language equivalent to c't). This story takes place in some small village where a small unnamed street was branching off a bigger, named street. Such scenarios are quite common, and as usual, the small side-street was integrated into the numbering of the named street. So there were houses no. 1, 3, 5, 11, 13 etc. belonging to the named street while houses no. 7 and 9 belonged to the unnamed street that branched off the named street between houses 5 and 11. All was fine. Then, the small unnamed street was extended beneath its end and new houses were built. these houses were numbered 7a, 7b, 7c, 7d, 7e, 7f, 7g, 7h, 7i, 7j, etc. When they had reached 7q, they found it would make sense to give that street a name of its own. They did so, and since then these houses were addressed as "John Doe Street 1", "John Doe Street 2", "John Doe STreet 3" etc. Now some geo databse company heard about this and added these address changes to their database. The result was that many software products would now automatically change the old addresses to the new ones. This was great, as it saved the residents of that street the work of informing everyone of their address change. Unfortunately, there was still a gap between several buildings in the big main street which were later filled with some new houses. And these new houses got house numbers. And ... you get it ... They got those house numbers that had been used for the previously unnamed street. The result of this is that those people who live in those new houses often get their addresses "corrected" to addresses in the other street. They are lost in the parallel universe of address "correction".
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