MoneyPet Peeves

What’s in Your Mailbox?

I keep getting someone else’s mail. It is actually a neighbor of mine, according to the address. But it’s not mine, so I’d just as soon not have it making surprise appearances in my mailbox.

This neighbor, named John, seemed nice enough when I handed him past months’ credit card bills and politely suggested that he call the credit card company, Capital One, to get the address corrected. But on the other hand, I don’t know for sure that the person who claimed to be John actually was; I just asked for John, and when he came to the door, I handed him the bill. This has happened twice before.

Prior to that, before taking a close look at the address and realizing the simple mistake they’d made, I just used my trusty “Return to Sender/No Such Addressee” stamp and dropped the bill back in the mailbox. That didn’t seem to work.

The mistake I mentioned, incidentally, is extraordinarily easy to fix. They just don’t seem interested in doing anything about it. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that my address is 523 Charleston Avenue. And let’s suppose that John’s address is 522 Charleston Avenue. The mail coming to John is addressed this way:

522 Charleston Avenue

That second number, unfortunately, is what the letter carrier is using for delivery purposes. But it seems such a simple fix: just make both numbers 522 and all is well. John gets his bill, Capital One gets their message through, and I don’t have to be bothered with this little exercise in credit card commerce.

I called Capital One this afternoon and asked them to look up the account. Surprisingly, I was able to give them the account number without opening the envelope because it was clearly visible right below the address through the envelope’s address window!

I explained before I gave them the number that this was not my account, but that I needed to advise them of an address correction. I read the number, and they immediately asked me for the last four digits of my social security number. (Way to pay attention, operator!) I repeated that it was not my account, and that I therefore had no idea what the social security number might be. I then read the address that they surely had in front of them — which they were hesitant to confirm or deny at first.

I pointed out the fact that the two different numbers were causing the post office to put John’s mail in my box.

The operator said she understood the mistake, but said there’s nothing she could do about it. The conversation then went something like this:

ME: So you’re telling me that after I’ve told you that I’m getting one of your customer’s credit card statements in error, you’re just going to keep sending me his bill with his account information?

HER: Well, could you walk the letter over to [John]?

ME: I’ve been doing that. But that’s not solving the problem. I don’t want to have to keep dealing with this month after month.

HER: Well, if you could ask him to call us, we can change it if he calls us.

ME: I have asked him to do that. He either hasn’t gotten around to it, or you guys haven’t gotten around to fixing it.

HER: Well, sir, the problem is that I don’t know who you are. I can’t confirm that you’re [John].

ME: Right. I told you that to start with. I’m not him. This is not my account. I’m someone else. If I were going to lie about who I was, I’d be claiming to be John, not a neighbor.

HER: Well, we can’t confirm that.

ME: You mean you can’t confirm that I’m someone else?

HER: Yes. Um, I mean no. That you’re not him.

Rocket scientist.

I was waiting, because I just knew this next line was coming. Sure enough…

HER: If you would just ask him to call us again…

ME: I’ll ask the person I give the bill to, for the third time, to call you. There’s just one problem with that: I can’t confirm that the person I’m giving the mail to is actually John.

HER: (Pause) You don’t know him?

ME: No! Do you know all of your neighbors?!? The only thing I know about him is you guys seem to think he lives were I do. When I walk it over to the other address, I don’t ask the guy for his ID. He says he’s John, but I don’t know if he is or not. I just want to stop getting his mail.

HER: Well, there’s really nothing else we can do.

I asked to speak to a supervisor, who told me she wanted to put me on hold long enough to research procedure in such matters. After about thirty seconds on hold, we got cut off.

So I’m left with, “there’s really nothing else we can do.”

Sure there is, Capital One: You call John. You tell him that there is a question about the address on his statement. You then advise him that you are placing a block on his credit card until he calls the number listed on the back of the card itself — so that there’s no question that he’s calling a valid, real Capital One number — to confirm his address. You then advise him that if they do not hear from him in five business days, the account will be closed, thereby changing the interest rate to the default rate, which will probably cost him a hell of a lot more money. (That’s the incentive for him to get this fixed, even if they have no real intention of doing that.)

That way, he calls them, he gives them the information rather than them having to ask him, they get the right address, he gets his statements hereafter, and I don’t get bothered.

Problem solving doesnt have to be that hard.

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  1. Patrick,
    From the land of “Seinfeldian,”
    I would call the government and tell them you think John has stolen your identity because you keep getting his bills. There are stories in the news everyday about stolen identities, especially during May and November.
    I suspect if John gets a visit from a government agent he will correct his address quickly. If not, just get a new stamp that says, “Have you seen your UFO today?” and that will be that.
    Happy Fourth!

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  2. Ah, excellent point, Patrick. I didn’t think it through that far.

    By the way, this situation is “Seinfeldian”! Had you watched the show more often, you might have a solution to this little dilemma, sir. All of life’s answers are in that sitcom. 🙂 (For those who wonder why I’m saying that, it’s in reference to a comment Patrick made on my blog, and I’m just kidding with him.)

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  3. I’d be tempted to throw the bills away, Jeff…but there’s only one problem: if I did that, and if John wasn’t watching his own credit card due dates online closely enough, then Capital One would surely pile a bunch of late fees on to his bill, and then my action would inadvertently end up making them profit. The way they behaved today, I’m not so interested in giving them that kind of helping hand!

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  4. I know this isn’t the right thing to do, but if I were in your situation, and had contacted the neighbor and the CC company and neither wanted to do anything about it, I’d just start throwing away the mail when it came to me.

    Or you could just pay his bills for him. Ha ha ha. No.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.