Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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My Own Postal Code

(No obesity jokes, please.)
  [vote for,

Mail (the paper kind) sorting is now highly automated, but the addressing systems used were intended for human sorters and carriers.

I should be able to request a unique ID from my post office and use it instead of my address to receive domestic mail. When the mail is scanned, it should read the code, do a simple lookup, and stamp it with my current physical address for the benefit of the human carrier. I should have the choice of being assigned an alphanumeric code or of choosing my own (like a license plate). If I thought I'd have an e-mail address for a long time, I could use that.

The old system would continue to work in parallel.

These are the benefits:
1) When I move, I can permanently re-route my mail without contacting everyone who might conceivably try to send me anything. (My post office will forward mail, but only for a short time, and they'll charge a largish fee.)

2) I don't need to give my address out to receive mail. Doing so doesn't worry me, particularly, but it might be nice sometimes.

3) Addressing letters by hands becomes much less work.

Drawbacks include a possibly higher incidence of mis-read or mis-routed mail because the redundancy of traditional addresses is stripped out, and probably also a bunch of things I haven't thought of.

Monkfish, Jan 04 2003

Smokey Bear http://www.smokeybear.com/
05 Jan 03 | The official Web site. No mention of a zip code, though. A horrid Web site. [bristolz, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Smokey Bear Org http://www.smokeybear.org/
Ah, Smokey Bear was given his own zip code in 1964. A much better Web site. [bristolz, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       I'm sure the UK postal service intended to trial something along these very lines a couple of years ago. I'll do some digging when I have some time.
PeterSilly, Jan 04 2003

       It does seem a bit obvious to never have been tried. Awaiting confirmation, then.
Monkfish, Jan 04 2003

       ZIP+4 isn't too far away (ZIP+4 and an apartment/house/box number is usually sufficient), but it isn't portable. (One ZIP+4 often covers a floor of an apartment building or a single block of mailboxes.)   

       There's a minor psychological drawback; street addresses have character and you lose that.
egnor, Jan 04 2003

       Maybe the mail should require name + code, to detect errors and give a more personal feel.   

       Then again, maybe the default code assignment should be full name plus a unique code (like AOL/Hotmail e-mail addresses, but worse -- johnsmith230291). This might address both issues.
Monkfish, Jan 04 2003

       It still doesn't give the feel of place the way an address does.
egnor, Jan 04 2003

       You could always write out the address instead, if you really preferred it.
Monkfish, Jan 04 2003

       You could get a mail forwarding service and you could probably arrange for "Box 342, 10024-6754" to suffice, but then you'd be paying money and the mail would be physically routed through the forwarding location and it just wouldn't be the same.
egnor, Jan 04 2003

       (+) bravo   

       however... I would miss getting to write my swank, just off central park address on things-- I've worked hard for my 212 phone number and 1002X zip code! it's a status symbol, you know?   

       But, being able to get my mail even when I go to cleveland to direct a play for a few months would be WAY worth it!
futurebird, Jan 04 2003

       I read once that Smokey the Bear is the only entity with his own zip code.
ry4an, Jan 05 2003

       Smokey Bear.
bristolz, Jan 05 2003

       The Zip+4 system in the US works just fine, and mail forwarding here is free, simply fill out a card and send it to the local post office. Mail can be forwarded for a limited time, for days or for months, or permanently.   

       Perhaps we'll eventually develop an International Postal System that uses GPS technology for mail delivery: your lattitude and longitude (expressed in degrees, minutes, and fractions of a second) would be your address. (Barcoded, of course.) One could change one's address simply by sending an electronic communication to the postal computers, perhaps as often as every day, thus your mail could always find you.
whlanteigne, Jan 05 2003

       >> One could change one's address simply by sending an electronic communication to the postal computers   

       That's more or less what this idea is intended to do. The problems with GPS/daily-change mail -- apart from being too state-of-the-art to be cheap and sturdy -- are that addresses are a lot easier for carriers (what if I live in a multi-story building?) and that delivery takes time: You can't expect ordinary mail to be constantly redirected to follow you around (and how does the carrier identify you anyway?). You need a base, and most people are used to getting their mail at home.   

       Zip+4 doesn't follow you around. Will the U.S. post office really redirect your mail indefinitely and for free through a chain of many old addresses? Even if they will, wouldn't it be nicer if they didn't have to?   

       These addresses are also human-readable and can be either properly anonymous or fully identifying.
Monkfish, Jan 05 2003

       USA is supposed to be planning an all in one identificiation number. Covers your SS, phone, email, everything. wow, now thats a bad idea.
ironfroggy, Jan 09 2003

       This sounds like the British Forces Post Office system. Every unit has a BFPO number which follows it to its new posting promptly 3 months after they've already left.
General Washington, Jan 09 2003

       Yeah, why not just use your social security number? I already have one.
crawdaddy, Jan 09 2003

       [iron], that idea didn’t pass (Congress) as stated, but check out your new drivers license…   

       [craw], duck – I can feel it coming.
Shz, Jan 09 2003

       The easy way for the ridiculously rich: Buy a small US town, like Bridgeville, California.
RayfordSteele, Jan 10 2003

       Zip + 4 is actually (9) base-10 numbers. If used optimally representing 10^9 unique addresses. That's 1,000,000,000 individuals who would be able to be addressed from 000000000 -> 999999999. More than sufficient (for quite some time to come) to uniquely map to every individual on Earth.   

       I call 000000001. (I’ll let some computer programmer start with all zeros. They count funny.)
stormo, Jan 24 2003

       Just a reminder: ZIP+4 does not do what this idea was intended to do. If you think it does, please have a look at the existing annotations. I don't think anyone's worried about running out of addresses. (Or did I miss a now-deleted annotation?)   

       [UnaScot], the same problem exists with current systems if an error is made on the unit number or street name. The issue of greater error through less redundancy is a potential problem and is noted in the idea text you couldn't quite find the energy to read all the way through.
Monkfish, Jan 24 2003

       I was about to post this exact idea when i found it, so a big bun from me. I love this idea, for all the reasons mentioned, AND because it conceals a physical address, thereby protecting one's privacy.
awesomest, Oct 06 2004

       We have something similar in England (just like in North America) with a PO Box which disguises your physical address and stays with you wherever you move. Plus, you can address the envelope as follows:   

       Anybody you like BM Halfbakery.com London WC1Y 9QQ   

       So you are able to disguise your place of business and also glamorise it at the same time!   

       As far as the unique identifier goes, there are more than 1,000,000,000 individuals on the planet so I think that unless we plan to add another few digits (three should do!) we might want to go alphanumeric.
artboy, Nov 02 2004


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