I met with the US Postal Service (by zoom, of course) today (2/9) to discuss our ZIP code problems. They have proposed a solution that I think will take care of most of the difficulties we have experienced as a result of the discrepancy between our mailing and physical addresses.
To recap: ZIP codes were invented to facilitate mail delivery by the USPS. But in the fifty years since ZIP codes were created, the USPS database known as the Address Management System, has come into use by corporations and governments alike. Some of them, like UPS or FedEx, use the AMS for delivery services. (The USPS charges private corporations a lease fee to use the database.) Others, like the Census Bureau, use it for demographic analysis or, like Google, for GPS mapping, or, like the state, for generating statistics about such things as unemployment or covid infections. As everyone in Scotland knows too well, because we have six different ZIP codes in town, the widespread use of the AMS has created many inaccuracies and inconveniences, almost all of them unintended by USPS.
Last year, I initiated talks with USPS to remedy this situation. Charlene Perry, our former postmaster, helped detail the problem to our congressman, Joe Courtney, who agreed that the problem was substantial and agreed to get us in touch with the people at USPS who could help. After much back and forth, they have finally decided on a solution, which I think is going to work.
The simple version is this: no matter which of the five non-Scotland ZIP codes your mail is delivered from, you will be able to use Scotland as your mailing address. So, for instance, the mailing address of the DPW garage is 42 Pinch St., Hampton CT 06247. With the change, the address would be 42 Pinch St., Scotland CT 06247. The effect of this change will be to align your physical and your mailing addresses. Once the change gets into the AMS, most of the confusion we encounter should clear up. Your address will show up as valid to UPS and FedEx and other lessees, as it will for GPS systems. You will be able to present evidence at DMV that you live in Scotland, and then your identification cards—license, passport, Global Entry, etc.—can reflect that. Auto registration renewals, gun permits, and other official documents will bear your correct address, and be sent to you. The town will get a more accurate account of who owns vehicles here. Real estate listings will reflect the correct town. Because you will list Scotland as your address on official forms, unemployment, public health, and tax statistics will become more accurate. And so on.
Seems like magic, right? Too good to be true? Well, it is promising, but of course there is a catch or two. Most important, this change is not going to happen overnight and will require our patience and vigilance. The USPS wants to go one or two ZIP codes at a time, and provide a 90-day “test period” for each phase to see if there are any unforeseen consequences. The first phase is already under way. In January, the USPS added Scotland as a valid town name for the Hampton ZIP code (06247) If you receive your mail through Hampton, you can now get your correspondence and packages addressed to you at your street address in Scotland, CT 06247. UPS and FedEx should already recognize the address, so Amazon should stop telling you the Scotland address is invalid. If you need your license renewed and have received some first-class mail addressed to Scotland, CT 06247, you should be able to get Scotland on your license. There will no longer be a conflict between your physical and mailing addresses.
To make this happen, you must inform your correspondents, including your bank and your utility suppliers and other creditors if you get paper bills, individually. Do not use a USPS Change of Address form, as it will expire in one year and your mail will then be returned to sender. You don’t have to do change anything if you don’t want. Mail addressed to you in Hampton will still get to you, but your physical and mailing addresses will still not line up. Either way, the problems not related to mail delivery—GPS, UPS/FedEx, state statistics, etc.—should clear up on their own once the AMS indicates that your address is valid. And the more we use the Scotland 06247 address, the more evidence the USPS will have about how this is working, and the more quickly they will take care of the other areas of town.
Still, unforeseen consequences are what made this mess in the first place, and we need to be alert to the possibility that they will arise here as well. Already, I am aware that this change has caused some UPS packages addressed to roads in Scotland that share a name with Hampton roads to go astray. I know this because I live on Station Road, and I’ve lost a couple of packages that way. But USPS fixed that problem, as they will do if others like it are reported. I would in particular advise residents on Station, Pudding Hill, and Cemetery Roads (and any others with a counterpart in Hampton) to pay attention to disruptions in their mail or package delivery service that occur. These may be the result of the change, so please report them to me so I can relay them to my liaison at the postal service.
If this change is successful (and I have no reason to think it will not be), then it will be made for the other ZIP codes. The current plan is to bring Windham and North Windham addresses online next, and then Canterbury and Baltic. The USPS has no particular reason to think this won’t work. They are proceeding slowly primarily because they have only done this in one other instance—a small town in Vermont also served by five ZIP codes. While that operation went well, they still want to be cautious. The USPS is a huge lumbering beast, after all, and a hiccup in one place could have profound effects in others. But the officials I spoke with are optimistic that by the end of the year, the entire town will be able to use Scotland on the last line of its mailing addresses, and therefore match our physical addresses.
USPS has promised to let me know when the next phase will be implemented and I will of course pass this and any other news along right away. I am a pessimistic person in general, but I have a feeling this is going to work out. With patience and good luck, along with the efforts of the postal service, I think we will be able to stop thinking about our addresses by this time next year.