My husband and I recently made a business decision to move our offices from Thornton Park, near downtown Orlando, to Ocoee, where we live. Total distance, door to door: eleven miles.
On November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving 2014, I went online to USPS.com to spend five minutes forwarding our United States Postal Service mail delivery for our company from the old address to the new address. All was well as I filled out the simple online form, until I came to the first glitch in the process. They would need me to pay a small fee of $1.05 to prove that I was who I said I was, not some evil troll trying to forward mail I had no right to forward. No problem.
Then I read the specifics. The credit card would need to be one where the bill was mailed to the business address. Small problem. We had no credit card tied to our business address. Since our business predated the downtown office, even our business debit card statement was mailed to our home address. I tried one of the credit cards anyway, but the online system wasn’t joking – it quickly said no, thanks when the billing address for the card didn’t match up with the business address we were leaving.
Drat. This would mean a quick trip to the post office. I had just enough time to get to the local Post Office on Mills Avenue and grab the mail-forwarding packet from the friendly lady behind the counter who asked if I knew I could handle it online. Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. I scooted back to the office, filled out the form. Requested date to start forwarding: Friday, November 29th. I dropped the change of address into the outgoing mail slot in our office mailbox, no postage required. How nice. All done.
On Thursday, we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at home with our three daughters. On Friday, we went to work packing up the downtown office. On one of the trips to put a box in the trunk of my car, I saw our mailman parked at the corner, enjoying a short cigarette break. Not one to leave things to chance, I walked over.
“Hi. Did you deliver the mail to this building yet? Did you get our forwarding address notice?” I asked.
He gave a warm smile and responded, “No, I’m not delivering mail to that building today. The guy in the office (he pointed to one of many) said y’all were closed today.”
“He’s closed today. We’re open.” I said. “I have a key to the mailroom. Do you want to drop off our mail?”
He shook his head. “I left all the mail for this building at the Post Office, since he said y’all were closed. I’ll get your forwarding notice out of the outgoing mailbox on Monday.”
Somewhat chagrined, because the December retainer checks from our clients were due to arrive, I accepted this small bit of bad news, thanked him, and went back to packing.
We set up shop at the new location (two nice offices at opposite ends of our house) over the weekend, and were busy at work by Monday morning, December 1st.
For the next few days, I cheerfully waited for business mail with a yellow forwarding sticker to arrive with our home (mostly junk) mail, and then, when none did, I’d jump in my car, hop on the 408 and race downtown to check our former mailbox, which was empty. I’d poke my head into the building manager’s office, and speak to the lady behind the desk. “Oh, yes,” she’d say. “He left your mail with me, because he knew you’d moved out, and there might be checks.” I’d grab my stack of mail, thank her, and drive back home.
After a few days of this, I swung by the main post office downtown and asked the nice man behind the counter how long it should take for forwarded mail to start arriving. “Just a few days,” he responded, and asked if I’d like to have the phone number of someone “who could check on it for me.” Of course! I took the slip of paper with the phone number he offered and scurried back to my car, whipping out my cell phone in the parking lot.
The lady who answered the phone said she couldn’t find a forwarding order, nor could she find our mailman, but she’d have him call me back. I thanked her, and sure enough, a couple of hours later, after I was far away from the PO, my phone rang. Our mailman said he’d never seen our forwarding notice; when had we mailed it? I reminded him that it was in the outgoing mail the Friday I’d spoken to him at the curb and tried to let him into our mailroom. He remembered, but said he’d been out sick the following Monday, and his replacement “must not have known what to do with it.” Um – what? Had they replaced him for the day with a qualified, trained postman, or just picked some guy out of the line at the day labor pool? He advised me to go back to the post office, fill out another form, and not put it in the mailbox (as the official government packet instructs) but instead, to hand it to the person behind the counter.
You’ve got to be kidding me. But okay – that beats driving 22 miles a day to pick up the mail at an office we don’t occupy anymore. So back I went to the post office where the nice man behind the counter once again reminded me that I could take care of it online. Yes, sir. No, sir. Thank you, sir.
I stood at the post office counter and filled out the form again. (Third time’s a charm, right?) I tried to hand it to the man behind the counter, and he threw up his hands and literally backed away from me, as if I were trying to hand him a poisonous snake. “We can’t take that from you! You have to mail it!”
“I AM trying to mail it. This is the post office!” I said.
He looked horrified. “That is private information. I can’t look at it. You have to put it through that mail slot in the lobby.” I laughed, and looked around for the hidden camera. I can take a joke.
He was serious.
I dropped the notice – hey, no postage required – how nice—into the slot in the lobby. Then I waited. I swear, if I’m lying; I’m dying, the same guy walked back there a few minutes later. I just know he picked it up and peeked.
Great news a few days after that. When I checked the old mailbox downtown, there was a card in it from the USPS saying they’d been asked to forward my mail effective November 29th. So the original notice must have made its way through the system after all. The next day, in my mailbox at home, there was a notice saying they were going to start forwarding my business mail to the new address. Both ends covered. Now we’re talking!
Except for one thing. It’s December 15th as I write this, and there has been no business mail left at my old address for days and days. There has also been no business mail left at my new address. (Luckily, the junk mail is still coming on schedule.) I spoke to the mail carrier at our new address, a nice lady who gave me a big smile as she explained that it can take 3 or 4 weeks for mail to be forwarded. What? Did I mention it’s eleven miles, door to door?
My husband took pity on me this morning and called our local post office for the new address to see if perhaps they had a nice stack of business mail with shiny yellow forwarding stickers (including the client retainer checks that we need for frivolous things like payroll) that we could swing by and pick up. That’s when they told us THE REST OF THE STORY.
Seems that when you send a letter to our business at what was our prior address until a few weeks ago, it goes to the post office at the old 32801 zip code and gets sorted. They notice that there is a forwarding order, and they send it to TAMPA. That’s right. There is no forwarding station in Orlando, so it whizzes past our new address eleven miles to the west on its way to be given a yellow sticker in Tampa, where it will then be mailed to our new post office at the 32818 zip code where it will be sorted and eventually, perhaps (where there is life, there is HOPE) wind up in our mailbox at our new address, one sweet day. Estimated days from your hand to ours: 21 days. If all goes well.
Someone please tell Santa Claus that all I want for Christmas is my forwarded business mail, preferably before Valentine’s Day. (I’d write him a letter, but I doubt he’d get it in time.)