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Problem Solver: Woman moves, but mail doesn't follow

Postal Service mistakes former address as a business, not a residence

Catherine Wirtz, 77, thought she was thorough regarding her change of address when she moved from an assisted living facility in Ottawa, Ill., to a similar facility in Oak Park. The U.S. Postal Service didn’t agree — at first. (Travis Haughton, Chicago Tribune / June 6, 2013)

After her husband died in March, Catherine Wirtz's children wanted her closer.

So in May, the 77-year-old moved from an assisted living facility in Ottawa, Ill., to a similar facility in Oak Park.

To ensure her mail made the move, Wirtz called the companies she does business with and updated her address.

"I'm an old secretary and I used to take care of details like that," she said. "I'm not as fast or speedy as I used to be, but the brain still works. I thought I did a pretty good job of calling everybody."

To be thorough, Wirtz also filled out a change-of-address form with the U.S. Postal Service.

On May 6, she received a letter from the Postal Service saying that wasn't possible.

"This letter is to notify you that the United States Postal Service is unable to fulfill your request to forward your personal mail from the original address provided. The original address you requested we forward your mail from is designated as a business address."

According to Postal Service policy, it said, the agency could not accept a family or individual change of address from a business address.

Wirtz was dumbfounded. She rented a room from the assisted living facility in Ottawa, similar to renting an apartment. She listed her apartment number on the change-of-address form, which the Postal Service acknowledged. The apartment number was also listed on the letter she received denying her request.

She went to the post office in Oak Park and was told there was nothing the Postal Service could do. An employee there told her to go to the Postal Service website to manage her mail, she said.

Her daughter went to the website but could not find any links that would help.

So Wirtz contacted What's Your Problem?

"This is pretty ridiculous, because I'm a renter," she said. "I was in assisted living. I was not a business (in Ottawa). The same is true here. I'm a resident."

She said staff at the assisted living facility in Ottawa has been collecting her mail and sending it to her, but she would rather have it forwarded directly by the Postal Service.

"It's very discouraging," she said.

The Problem Solver called Beverly Howard, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service.

Howard looked into Wirtz's case and discovered the Postal Service made an error.

"I understand that her mailing address in Ottawa, Ill., was not fully coded to include her apartment number, therefore her mailing address only appeared as the business address," Howard said in an email. "I am requesting to have her original change of address request reprocessed so that Ms. Wirtz can receive forwarded mail."

Howard said the new request was filed Thursday.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this matter may have caused," Howard wrote.

When informed that the Postal Service will, in fact, forward her mail, Wirtz was elated.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she said. "I'm just so happy about the whole thing."

She said it should not have taken a call from the Problem Solver to get her mail.

"I don't know how old you are, because I'm 77 and if I would have done my job the way they do now, I would have lost my job," she said.

Wirtz said mistakes happen more quickly now — people simply hit the wrong button on a computer keyboard — but fixing them can be more difficult.

"People don't seem to care," she said.

Twitter @wyp_tribune


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