Island Zip code mix up no laughing matter

JULIE LANE PHOTO | The Center Post Office along with the Heights Post Office continue to receive complaints from residents.

The confusion over Shelter Island Zip codes that block some residents and business owners from being able to receive their mail in a timely manner may seem like an amusing anomaly. But to those affected by a failure of some companies to recognize local Zip codes and others to confuse 11965 — Shelter Island Heights — with 11964 ­for the rest of the Island — the problem means cancelled insurance policies, difficulties with Social Security and Medicare mailings and even failure to get notices of expiring driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations.

Not so funny when the efforts to correct the problems lead to assumptions by others who “think you’re a dead beat,” according to Islander Bob Fredericks.

Nor is it something that should be left to a businessman like contractor Dan Fokine or even the Reporter, he said, but elected officals must get involved. “It is a serious issue,” he said. Two weeks after telling the Reporter of his travails in having to get a new AT&T cellphone delivered to in-laws in Maine because the company didn’t recognize his Zip code, he was still struggling with Lowe’s in an attempt to get building supplies sent to him on the Island.

A Lowe’s spokeswoman told the Reporter two weeks ago she thought the problem was with the company’s information technology and promised to pass the information to an IT specialist who could ensure the two Island Zips are included in the company’s data base. But the best Mr. Fokine could get from Lowe’s this week was a promise to ship his order to its Riverhead store.

And while he continues his battle with Lowe’s, his wife Bri is still fighting with AT&T. Like her husband, she, too got an AT&T phone sent to her parents in Maine who sent it on to her. But when it turned out to have some glitches requiring that she return it for another phone, the fight over where it would be shipped started again.

The company maintains the problem is that it won’t deliver cell phones to a Post Office box while no Islanders have home mail delivery service.

As for Mr. Fredericks, he spent Tuesday morning at the Center Post Office trying to find out why his mail meant to reach him in Shelter Island Heights was being returned to senders because it was incorrectly sent to the Center Zip code. He was assured, as the Reporter was two weeks ago, that postmasters at both Center and Heights Post Offices were constantly shuttling mail back and forth when they recognized that it was intended for residents or businesses in the other part of the Island.

Apparently it’s government mail that agencies wrongly “self correct” when deciding that Mr. Frederickslives in the 11964 Zip code despite his constantly informing them that his zip code is 11965.

To try to counter the problem, he’s constantly calling various people and agencies to try to correct their misconception about his Zip code, he said. And he’s listing both his street address, Post Office box number and correct zip code as return address information on everything he mails and every form he fills, he said.

But despite his campaign, he had his house insurance policy cancelled and had to fight to have it reinstated.

“It’s not for the Reporter or Dan Fokine to do something about this,” Mr. Fokine said. “The town has to get involved.”