On the Beat: Missed mail persists for Islanders


Misdirected mail continues to be a problem for many Shelter Islanders who are still being told that not only doesn’t their ZIP code exist, but, in some cases, the entire town doesn’t exist.

Despite efforts of postmasters in the Center and Heights post offices to redirect mail between the two sites, there continue to be reports from residents about mail not received.

The family of a local college student usually receives bills for his health insurance premiums in a Heights post office box. But a recertification letter the insurance company sent to enrollees never reached the family and the insurance was cancelled.

The problem in this case was that while the insurance company correctly listed the ZIP code as 11965, a computer gremlin somewhere snatched the word Heights from the address, presumably changing the ZIP code to 11964.

The result was confusion over which post office should get the letter about the recertification and the mail ended up — who knows where?

The ever-increasing use of companies purchasing or sharing  lists of addresses results in increasing the problem of mis-addressed mail.

In the past, Islanders have reported that many companies’ websites not only don’t recognize the distinction between Shelter Island and Shelter Island Heights, but don’t even recognize that this is a municipality separate from both the North and South forks.

People reported being told that they must live in East Hampton or another part of the South Fork, despite providing information on post office box numbers, street addresses and proper ZIP codes.

And promises from the United States Postal Service to rectify the problems have failed, with the USPS blaming the list service companies. The USPS also points the finger at the proliferation of shared/purchased lists, which have become so widespread that it becomes impossible to track them all.

Another Island woman has reported getting a call on her cellphone while at a doctor’s office from an irate woman who said she had paid a cable bill that she subsequently realized was not hers, but instead was meant for the Islander she was phoning.

It seems both women have the same post office box number — but one is in the Center and the other in the Heights. Trying to untangle the mess to avoid the cable company from cashing the check of the woman who inadvertently paid a bill not hers was no easy task.

And it’s not just corporations that get caught up in the problem.

A person trying to get a replacement Medicare card from the government, despite efforts to have it sent to a post office box in the Heights, found that impossible, as somehow, no matter having correctly listed the ZIP code as 11965 in the Heights, it was sent to 11964 in the Center.

Numerous people continue to report difficulties despite following instructions issued by the United States Postal Service: Letters should be addressed listing your name, post office box number and city, state and ZIP code.

In the event a package requires a street address, despite there being no home delivery on the Island through the USPS, the address should list the street first with the post office box on the next line, followed by the city, state and ZIP code.

And if there’s no room on an order form to include Shelter Island Heights, those in the 11965 area are told to abbreviate to “Shelter Is Ht.”

Good luck with that, since many complain it still doesn’t stop that unidentified force in cyberspace from sending your letter or package to 11964 in the Center.

An aide to Congressman Tim Bishop earnestly tried to get a regional United States Postal Service employee involved to rectify problems. The official came, listened, looked like a deer caught in headlights and disappeared, only to have another regional official finally blame the entire problem on the list servers many companies use.

The only sure way Islanders seem to be able to get their packages, it appears, is to have UPS Bobby — he knows where everyone lives and in many cases, where they work — deliver them. In fact, he tells people when they order something, “Just tell them to put it on Bobby’s truck.”

Depend on the United States Postal Service here and “You don’t know what you’re not getting,” said the mother of that student whose insurance mail failed to arrive.