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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forwarding mail: US Postal Service or private mail box service?

A full-timing couple we know spends the bulk if their time in Arizona. Come summer, the northern climate is a bit more conducive to their needs. They need mail service on "both ends," and for them, mail forwarding is a necessary evil. So which service to rely on? This little story may hold an answer.

Carl and Ann can tell you they've got experience with both. In Arizona they have a mail box at a local US Post Office. In Washington, they've hired a private mail box service. When in Arizona, the Washington facility forwards mail to their post office box; in summer the government boys and girls are supposed to reciprocate. Admittedly, the cost for the private service is a great deal more expensive. Renting a private box and the "service" that goes with it costs them $90 a year; the box rental on a similar sized box from the USPS costs about $40 a year. And "Uncle Sam," offers to forward all of their first-class and priority mail for free. From an economic standpoint, it sounds like the taxpayer funded arrangement should be a winner.

Here's where it can get sticky. Let's call it the case of the real snail mail. On leaving Arizona, Carl filed a "temporary change of address," with the Postal Service, asking for the family mail to be forwarded to their Washington address. That was in mid-July. After several weeks of checking the private service in Washington, finally, a single letter came through -- originally mailed in Southern California on July 25. It took four days shy of a month for a first class letter to make its way from California to the Washington address.

Thinking this a bit odd, Carl called the Postal Service to inquire. A half-hour of frustration and wait time later, Carl was told that the service's toll-free customer service people couldn't even find a forwarding order on file. Carl called back to the local post office in Arizona -- they found the order, and as far as they could tell, everything was A-OK. If you consider waiting A month for your mail, well, OK.

The couple has had the same private mail forwarding service in Washington for years, and with one or two minor exceptions, they've had their mail forwarded to them quickly and reliably. A phone call to the outfit, a minute or two on the phone, and their mail wings to them wherever they need it. Yes, they have to pay postage to have the mail forwarded to them -- that's courtesy of a government directive -- but like they say in the credit card commercial: "Six months mail box rental, $45. Postage for forwarding a week's mail, $3.50. Knowing where your checks and bills are, priceless."


Pops On The Road said...

Appears to be some cost info missing in this article. I understand the USPS has a separate fee for mail forwarding. Right? They also charge more for postage.

walt66 said...

We've been fulltiming for 12 years. When we bought the coach new it came with an advertisement for RVMCA mail service in Green Cove Springs, Fl. . We subscribed to them, $100 per year and a $100 credit card deposit to draw from for postage. You can choose how you want your mail sent, ( 3day, standard, 1 day etc) you can also tell them what not to send, i.e. junk mail. We have been very happy with this type of service, receiving our mail in Alaska, Canada and Mexico.
Walt and Judy Kaiser

Bob said...

At our stix and brix house we have a mail man who would do anything for us. However he is part of a system where the quality of service is unreliable. When we started RVing, we signed up with a local UPS store for mail forwarding and made them our permanent mailing address. We have been using them for three years and their performance has been flawless. We do not change our mail when we are home. We make the short drive to the UPS store and pick up the mail. When we are on the road, a telephone call every week or so lets us go through the mail in the box, get rid of junk mail, and have the rest forwarded to our present location.

Charlotte Lloyd said...

We been fulltiming since 2004. Signed up with Mail Forwarding Service out of Jefferson, OR. They charge a yearly fee plus postage - no other fees to send it. Even when in one place for months, we still use them. When I go to peoples houses I laugh at all the junk mail they get. Ours is thrown away so I have no idea how much or little we actually get. Since most of our business is online and we have no magazines we do bi-monthly mailings. If I am expecting something I change it to weekly or on certain occasions I have asked them to forward something as soon as it comes in.

Dave in Mesa said...

Remember that the USPS will not forward magazines for more than two months so if you subscribe to them you need a private post office. I use Good Sam in Florida and have been happy with it. All my magazine subscriptions go there. I also used to work at an Arizona RV resort post office as a USPS private contractor and in my twice daily visit to my local USPS facility found that forwarding mail was an extra chore for them and they did it 'when they had the time.'

Safe Travels, Chris and Charles said...

Have used Escapees Mail Forwarding since 1992. Impeccable service!

Sunny One said...

I wanted to set up temporary forwarding with USPS a couple of weeks ago and found there is a charge for the service now. There was no charge when I had it forwarded in January and February this year.

Russ and Tiña De Maris said...

@Pops on the Road: Yes, USPS charges for their "premium" service, but you can use their temporary change of address at no charge; they won't forward "junk mail" or magazines unless you specify it; for that forwarding their is a charge, but nothing for first class or priority mail.

@David in Mesa: Temporary mail forwarding can be done for as little as 15 days or as long as a year.

Russ and Tiña De Maris said...

@Sunny One -- If you make a temporary change of address by Internet filing, it costs $1. If you fill out a card and dump it in the mail, there is no charge.