Mail tales: An expensive rebate and patriots going postal
Sunday, January 12, 2014 12:29 AM
What arrives in the mail can be interesting at times, can it not?
No, Chris Trainor, I'm not getting ready to tell everyone about those magazines you get, the ones that have innocuous looking covers so your neighbors (or family members) don't know what you're really reading.
Anybody who is or was a particular cellphone company's customer recently received mail from the company and no doubt quickly ripped open the envelope because they knew it was a check and they were hoping they were reaping big benefits.
Best I can figure, the company got hit with a class-action lawsuit, probably going back five or more years ago. Enter the company and its entourage of attorneys into a courtroom and before a judge who deals with such corporate matters. Exit some years and some dollars later with a settlement and an admission that customers were charged some fee or other they were not supposed to be charged. Or something like that.
After the attorneys were paid, along with court costs, and a limit placed on what the company had to pay back to its current and former customers, checks were processed and sent out. Perhaps you are among the many recipients of a check in the amount of 26 cents. Not exactly the same as winning the lottery, is it? In fact, you'd have better luck with a scratch-off card just about any day of the week.
More than that, however, consider how much it cost (minus the attorney fees already paid out, mind you) that company to produce all those thousands of checks in the amount of 26 cents. There's the reams of paper, for one thing, and the envelopes. And even at bulk rate, the postage to send those out cost — yep — way more than the amount on the check. It's a little bit like our government's minting of the penny. Each penny costs about 2.5 cents to mint. Ridiculous? Well, standard for a government operation but definitely ridiculous for a private corporation. But of course, it had to be done because they lost the suit.
ANOTHER MAIL INCIDENT to share involves a change of address. As this couple pointed out, changing an address is difficult enough as it is without involving something that is counter to the U.S. Constitution. It's nearly as difficult as changing one's legal name.
Anyway, the couple decided to get a U.S. Post Office box. Yes, they realize that might become a thing of the past, but for now it seemed to be their solution to a concern regarding theft from their mailbox at home. It seems more and more mailboxes are prey to people seeking, in some cases, goods (such as Chris Trainor's plain-paper wrapped magazines), but mostly people seeking others' identity.
They opted to get a post office box and retain their home address. Why? It's easier to pick and choose who you want to have the new address and who you don't. That way the postal box doesn't get crammed full of all that junk mail, too. Anyway, their main focus was on getting business-related mail at the postal box, such as credit card bills and the like.
So, they began the process of notifying those companies of the address change. Some they were able to contact and make the necessary changes online, others required the old-fashioned way: mail.
Most companies were quick to respond. The couple's redirected mail began landing in their postal box with no problem. But one day, they had a piece of mail in their postal box from one of the credit card companies.
What that mail said is what is laughable and mind-boggling:
Why we're writing you
Thank you for your recent inquiry concerning your XXX account.
We completed your request to change the mailing address on your account. In order for us to ensure our records satisfy the USA Patriot Act, please provide your physical address. Print your physical address below and return this letter to ...
So, a couple of things come to mind.
One is all the other businesses and corporations were in violation of the Patriot Act because they simply followed instructions given by the couple and began sending mail to the post office box.
And how could doing what was instructed possibly make any difference? First of all, the company acknowledged receipt of the request and changed the mailing address. Thus, the couple got the next piece of mail from the company in their postal box. And since that company used to mail bills to the street address, doesn't it already have the couple's physical address?
More than that, however, if it were terrorists and not suburbanites the company was responding to, would filling out this paperwork make a bit of difference? Seriously.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email email@example.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.