Delivering the mail

Kim Gilman, a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, works her route in La Crosse in July 2011.

File photo

It’s just the nature of the beast that most of the problems SOS tries to solve involve getting money from businesses or other organizations to readers who are owed it.

Telecom companies make billing, ahem, mistakes. Manufacturers occasionally produce lemons for which a refund should be a customer’s due. Sometimes the subjects of reader complaints aren’t trying to rip readers off; they just need a little push.

Near West Side Madison resident Joe Heggestad’s problem doesn’t fall into any of those categories. On its face, at least, it’s much simpler.

“I don’t want any money,” he said with a rueful chuckle. “I just want my mail.”

In January of last year, Heggestad took the unusual step of changing his home address without ever actually changing homes.

The apartment building he lives in on Regent Street underwent a major renovation, and as part of the changes the entrance to his apartment went from one street to the nearest cross street — ergo, he suddenly had a new address.

Heggestad did what he was supposed to do in address-change situations. He contacted the phone company, the credit card company and other organizations and people he gets mail from and gave them his new address.

He also filled out a change of address, or COA form, with the U.S. Postal Service.

Heggestad’s mail continued to reach him uninterrupted until this year, and the post office’s policy is to forward mail for 12 months for people who file a COA form.

But then early this year, Madison Gas & Electric and his retirement account broker let Heggestad know that mail they’d sent him — properly addressed to the correct new address — had been returned with those little yellow stickers the post office puts on letters returned to sender. He discovered the same thing was happening with a lot of his other mail, too.

“I’ve talked to three different (USPS) supervisors and I can’t get past any of them,” he said.

“This is unusual and should not be happening,” said Illinois-based USPS corporate communications specialist Sean Hargadon.

“Initial conclusions suggest that this is because he did not actually move, but rather, the addresses were merely changed in the database where the old one was virtually deleted and merged into the new address,” he said.

To fix it, he said the post office has cancelled Heggestad’s COA request, “and all mail properly addressed to Mr. Heggestad should arrive without any further issues.”

Haggestad will believe it when he sees it, and let SOS know if he doesn’t.

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Chris Rickert is the metro columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, where he's got his laser-like perspective trained (mostly) on all things Madison.