General Government & Technology mail Start Ups

Digital Nomads and Mail in Silicon Valley

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How important is your mail? Stupid question, right? It’s critical. No matter the digital world we still need mail and a mailing address.  Increasingly, digital nomads are resurrecting mail on the go services. Are they doing their job?

What if you found out your mail person was misdelivering your mail? Or not getting it to you in some way? Or sent you other people’s mail and didn’t respond to you about it? And suppose it cost you $11.00 to get the other customers mail and you had to send it to them certified? And suppose they charge you for what should be free?

That’s the story of The UPS store in Palo Alto. The one on Bryant Street. The one visiting VC’s use. Start ups use it. Digital nomads use it.  And ordinary people. Like me. It doesn’t matter who we are – we deserve a) our mail b) customer service without attitude c) attention to postal regulations in getting us our mail. Not too much to ask when you’ve paid hundreds to receive your mail.

I think the most shocking violation of “my mail is safe” with them came from their not responding to three or four emails about the other person’s mail. They only respond when I purchase the overpriced service of having them send my mail to me: $22 for 2 pieces of mail and that was the least expensive packet over the past months.

Here’s the DNA of this story: (long and boring but I spent a lot of time on postal regs so please..read some of it. TY)

In order to become a UPS Store that offers mailboxes, they have to fulfill requirements from the USPS. (United States Postal Service). Seems logical doesn’t it? However when mentioned to an employee at another UPS Store (not the Palo Alto one) the response was “No, we don’t we’re individually franchised.” Hmm..methinks that’s unclear on the concept (the concept being the USPS is in charge of mail rules).

Mailing stores (of any kind) are called in Postal Service lingo Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies or CMRA’s for short.

I’m going to make this quick: to be a CMRA, the owner must fill out Form 1583a. That’s a US Postal Form which outlines what the store must do to receive and distribute mail. It is named Application to Act as a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency.

I will skip the first 3 requirements and get to number 4:   (4) the CMRA must be in full compliance with Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 508.1.8.1 through 508.1.8.4 and other applicable postal requirements to receive delivery of mail from the Postal Service;

They say: (no, I am not having fun researching postal codes but I didn’t have fun in trigonometry either.)

Let’s skip to 1.8.3 b (Bottom line, it says, when customer/CMRA no longer have a relationship, the CMRA must retain the client’s mail for 6 months, re-mail it to addressee and do so by adding postage and giving to the USPS (mailbox or mail person). Here it is:

b. The CMRA must remail mail intended for the addressee (customer) for at least 6 months after the termination date of the agency relationship between the CMRA and addressee. Mail that is remailed by the CMRA requires new postage. This remailing obligation need not be fulfilled if the CMRA customer provides written instructions to the CMRA that the mail (or specific types of mail) not be remailed upon termination of the relationship. This instruction may be provided in an internal service agreement between the customer and CMRA or by a separate document. Written instructions from the customer regarding the handling of this mail must not stipulate that the CMRA refuse mail or return it to sender, or hold the mail during the 6-month remail period and return it to the Post Office, or redeposit mail in the mails without new postage. At the end of the 6-month remail period the CMRA may return to the Post Office only First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Express Mail, accountable mail, or Standard Post received for the former addressee (customer). The CMRA must return this mail to the Post Office the next business day after receipt with this endorsement: “Undeliverable, Commercial Mail Receiving Agency, No Authorization to Receive Mail for this Addressee.” This mail is returned to the Post Office without new postage. The CMRA must not deposit return mail in a collection box. The CMRA must give the return mail to the letter carrier or return it to the Post Office responsible for delivery to the CMRA. Upon request, the agent must provide to the USPS all addresses to which the CMRA remails mail.

Let’s hear from the Palo Alto store: (to be specific, Peggy) direct quote, original available, email of June 24, 2019

You mailbox will be expiring on July 19th will you like for us to close your mailbox?

We only hold you mail one month after your mail expires before returning to sender. Within the month we can make one more forwarding for you?

Here we see one month, not six. And an offer to sell me my mail because that’s what they do – they send it UPS. That is about $24 – $26 most times for very few pieces of mail.

WHAT DOES ALL THE ABOVE MEAN?

It means after a contract is up the CMRA must keep any mail that comes for the former customer and mail it to them by putting additional postage on it and putting it in a mailbox. It means the USPS wants us to keep getting our mail and the CMRA, for the privilege of redistributing mail, also has a responsibility for the mail to see it get where intended. FOR 6 MONTHS..

The email from the Palo Alto store says it keeps my mail for 30 days (not 6 months) and asks if I want to pay for it to arrive.

This is the same store that hijacked my naivety and one day before my contract was up charged me $22 to send ONE letter to to me and ONE letter that belonged to another customer. (same example as above). They were told numerous times they sent me another customer’s mail and even now, almost a month later, they still have not asked for it back. To these people you trust your mail? I’m an idiot.

I asked for a reversal on my AMEX card for the $22 charged. No response. I sent the other customer his first class mail back, certified. So now I’m up to almost $30 for one piece of mail to be sent to me.

I don’t know why this is so complicated. But it is. On June 29th I received a letter from the USPS and it said to discuss with my CMRA (Commercial Receiving Agency) the following: “It is the sole responsibility of the CMRA to forward your mail for up to 6 months as defined on PS Form 1583.  All mail forwarded must have new postage applied before deposited in a USPS collection box or given to a postal carrier.”

I sent that info to the Palo Alto store (0969) and received the response: “We only keep your mail for a month before returning to Post Office.”

And I wrote again:

please just keep my account open until the 19th…. Form 1583 says you are required to forward my mail for 6 months. (“It is the sole responsibility of the CMRA to forward your mail for another 6 months when your relationship terminates.” )  

I have yet to have my mail forwarded. And no response to my emails. So who here has been sending mail to the right person? Me. I sent the misdirected mail back to one of the Palo Alto store customers, certified, with a letter of explanation why I had it in the first place.

Megan Brennan, US Postmaster General: I am sending this to you. Please find my mail. Clarify your many statements for the CMRA’s that in your words:  “It is the sole responsibility of the CMRA to forward your mail for another 6 months when your relationship terminates.”  Why do I ask you to intervene? Because the CMRA in Palo Alto, (The UPS Store, Bryant St, Store 0969) does not seem to be on the same page as you. 30 days v 6 months. $22 for one piece of mail or they add a first class stamp. I choose your rules:  forward my mail for 6 months by putting it in the mailbox with new postage. No 30 days hostage taking with threats of returning the mail held. 

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