Ken Jennings


March 31, 2011

Fun fact I learned yesterday about those nine-digit ZIP codes you don’t care about–the Post Office doesn’t care about them either!

Well, not exactly. But pretty much.

I got a package of old magazines back yesterday marked “Insufficient Address.” I’d sent it Media Mail, which, I learned, does not include return postage. I had to pay double the original postage just to get the box back, and triple to get it back and send it again.

Fair enough, I thought. I could see that I’d partially garbled the street address, making it hard to route. But wait, I said to the “postmaster.” (Not general. This was like a Postmaster Corporal or something.) I used a nine-digit ZIP code! Looking that ZIP code up on my phone, I could see that that it uniquely specified one particular building–fifteen units of that building, in fact. Between the ZIP code and the unit number (which I hadn’t screwed up), the package should have been delivered.

She shook her head. “They never even would have looked at the nine-digit ZIP code,” she said. “The machines might, but why would a carrier?” Wow, I don’t know. To get the mail where it’s going in cases like this? I give up.

I tell this story only because, in the past, I have felt guilty for neglecting the last four digits of the ZIP code when addressing something. I had the idea I was making it much, much harder for the Post Office to deliver my letter. I felt like a bad citizen.

Well, I don’t feel that way anymore! Next I’m going to stop putting my Social Security number in the “Notes” line of my income tax check like you’re supposed to. Putting down the man!

Posted by Ken at 10:44 am