Mail Service Refactor Proposal

Everyone who’s every moved knows how unreliable mail can be.

In Canada, if you move, you can tell the post office to redirect your mail for a limited time period so that mail addressed to your old place will be redirected to your new place.  During that time, you are expected to contact everyone who will send you mail and tell them your new address so that after the mail redirect runs out, your mail will continue to find you.  All well and good, but a lot of work… you need to tell the government, get a new license, update insurance, bills, clubs, car service, magazines, etc., etc., etc.  And we know that we never quite seem to catch them all.  When you move into a new place, there is a time period (sometimes years) where you continue to get mail for the previous tenant.

But this is the 21st century.  Why is this so hard?  This system worked OK in the past, but surely we can come up with something better.  We don’t have that problem with email.  Wherever I go, I can get my email.

What if we could improve this?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just update our address in one place and everyone who sends mail to us would just get the update?  The truth is, I don’t think that would actually be difficult…

Here’s my proposal:

Imagine that every person just had a number.  Or a unique string of numbers and letters.  When you are old enough to get mail, you sign up online with the postal service, and you are assigned a “Mail ID”.  You are expected to log on to the service and just keep your address up to date.

Every person, company, or entity that can receive mail gets a Mail ID.

If I want to receive mail from someone, I give them my Mail ID.

Let’s say Bob Smith and I are pen pals.  We want to write letters to each other.

I’m going to send the first letter so I ask Bob, “Hey Bob, what’s your Mail ID?”.

He tells me his Mail ID is “123-45678-ABCD”.

That’s all I need to know, and so I start writing my letter.

I put it in an envelope,add the necessary address info (not much), throw a stamp on for good measure, and drop that in the mailbox.

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Now, when the post office receives the letter, it scans the Mail Id, looks up the recipients current address and prints it on the envelope below the Mail ID.  Now the envelope looks like this:

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Whammy.  Address added to the envelope, postman delivers the same way he always did.

Anything sent to Bob always gets sent to his current address so long as he keeps his address updated.

But the beauty is that there is only one place to update.  Log on to the post office site, update once and you get your mail.  No temporary redirect.  No change of address here, there, everywhere.

You would still have an address.  You can still give that out with invitations to your dinner party.  You just now also have a more reliable (and simpler to update) way to get mail sent to you.